Former NHL Referee Helping N.B. Company Train New Generation Of Officials

Team Stripes instructors, including former NHL referee Don Koharski in the centre. (Image: Submitted)

MONCTON– A company out of Moncton wants to help educate and inspire the new generation of hockey referees.

Team Stripes is a community of hockey referees that focus on providing training and learning opportunities for officials, something the company’s founder and president Brandon Bourgeois says is greatly needed.

“The crux our of our profession is that 47 per cent of first year-hockey referees won’t come back for their second season,” says Bourgeois,

There are several reasons for this, the two big ones being lack of coaching and training, and verbal abuse.

“Kids are getting yelled at. They’re not really coached a lot. Some of them just can’t deal with it and they just quit,” says Bourgeois. “Forty-seven per cent turn-around is awful. So I’ve tried to step in to solve that.”

Bourgeois has worked as a professional referee for the American Hockey League, which is a step below the NHL. He also has an entrepreneurship degree. He realized there was an opportunity to put both of those skill sets to good use.

Brandon Bourgeois, founder and president of Team Stripes (Image: Submitted)

“I just got really frustrated because I saw a lot of really young kids who looked really promising, they looked like they could be great referees, but they were being driven out by whether it’s lack of access to high-quality information or abuse,” he says.

“I was getting very frustrated personally and I really wanted to start something myself that was going to address that.”

Team Stripes officially launched back in September.

“Essentially we tried to bring together the best coaches in officiating. We brought in Don Koharski, a former NHL referee, to be our program director,” says Bourgeois. “We launched our online academy for officials to be able to learn the art of officiating. Give them the skills they need to succeed on the ice.”

The company’s initial course, the “Don Koharski Master Course,” features 14 different modules put together by Koharski himself. The course includes lots of video and monthly live chats for students from Team Stripes’ other professional instructors.

“They are really the critical need-to-know lessons that are going to give you that foundation for success. It’s no different than when you go to school and you learn English and Social Studies, it’s that base content that’s going to give you the skills to succeed,” says Bourgeois. “The lesson is for everybody, but it’s geared towards those newcomers and the folks that really want to improve their officiating.”

Though the Team Stripes course was originally geared toward individual referees, since launching, the company is finding hockey groups want to train their refs. Group clients so far are Canada and U.S.-based, but Team Stripes’ individual students span from Canada, U.S., England, Australia, and a few other European countries.

“When we first launched, it was really focused towards individuals coming in. But then we started hearing from a lot of association and a lot of groups that were like, ‘we need to get this for all our members and they started reaching out. It’s shifted a little bit into group sales,” says Bourgeois. “We’ve only been at this for a few months but the amount of people who have been reaching out to us and wanting us to do more stuff and really continue to move forward has been pretty cool.”

Team Stripes is part of the current cohort of Propel’s Incite accelerator programs. Bourgeois says the company’s long-term goal is to continue expanding their reach.

“I’d the long-term goal is to have an impact on as many officials as we can to really make a difference and give them the skills they need. Whether that’s working with large groups like Hockey Canada or USA Hockey or leagues, we’re really looking to grow our impact,” he says. “We know we can make a difference, it’s just a matter of getting out there and increasing our reach.”