Levi Schutz of Martensville started with his first reffing clinic in 2007 and since then, he has been officiating over the past 11 years since 12 years of age. His first games were in Martensville at the Initiation level. From there, he began officiating in the SJHL at only 16 years old, which was one of the youngest at the time.
To take it to the next level, Schutz was selected at Level 4 to attempt to earn his Level 5, which opened the door for him to officiate at the highest level of hockey in Saskatchewan. This includes potentially the WHL level, although not all Level 5 officials are offered a position with the Western Hockey League. Only a few individuals are selected from the Level 4 officials in the province every second year to attempt this. They are chosen by the Referee’s Division Executive Board for the Saskatchewan Hockey Association.
Getting his level five as an official involved many hours of evaluation, testing and getting officiating hours in. It also involved much travelling – four or five games a night from Flin Flon, LaRonge, Estevan and in between. To get to level five designation, you must have above 90 on rule knowledge, pass fitness and skating testing, and pass an on-ice evaluation. Schutz received his Level 5 from Hockey Canada in 2017, and joined the WHL Officiating team, skating in 48 WHL regular season games. This included 14 games during the 2019-20 season.
In the fall of 2019, Schutz was selected to attend the Hockey Canada Level 6 seminar in Brossard, QC. “The Level 6 designation is the highest level an official can receive in Hockey Canada, and I am honored to have been the youngest selected official in Canada,” stated Schutz. The Level 5 designation is awarded to the top officials in their member province, while the Level 6 is awarded to the top referees in the country. “Being a Level 6 allows you to be chosen to represent Canada as a referee at international events such as the Olympics, IIHF World Juniors, World Championships, etc.”
There are very few Level 6 officials in Canada and to achieve this level, you must first be identified as one of the top Level 5 referees in the province. Just like there is scouting of players, there is also scouting for referees. The SHA Referee’s Division prides itself on supervising officials at almost every game in the WHL and SJHL. Both on-ice evaluations and a significantly difficult rule knowledge exam must be passed to attain the Level 6 designation.
“The Level 6 seminar that I was selected to attend in Quebec was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While in Quebec, as part of our on ice evaluation by a qualified national supervisor, we were given the opportunity to referee University and Junior AAA hockey games. It was extremely eye-opening and challenging to referee completely French players, and experience the different culture in the Quebec arenas.”
The seminar consisted of active NHL and alumni guest speakers, off-ice workouts and power skating sessions led by Dave Smith, the NHL Official’s Director of Fitness, and rule knowledge sessions. At this camp, all of the referees were exposed to referee scouting by the American Hockey League, National Hockey League, and the International Ice Hockey Federation (AHL, NHL, IIHF).
“Every year, the officials in every hockey game are the third team on the ice battling for a playoff position. At the elite levels, your on ice performance dictates your post-season opportunities. Throughout the past couple of seasons, I’ve had the opportunity to referee the playoff finals in Midget AAA, SJHL, and Canada West University Championships, as well as being selected to officiate at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer. As a now Level 6 official, I can hopefully continue to officiate at elite national and international events, and perhaps an opportunity at the professional level.”
The group of referees at the elite level in Saskatchewan and the WHL is very closely knit. “Although it’s a treat to be able to officiate every hockey game with my friends, it’s the on-ice competition with one another that continues to drive each other to get better, and this can be seen at even the minor hockey levels in small-town rinks.” Refereeing elite hockey presents great travel opportunities, and Schutz has met many distinguished people in the hockey community. “It’s an honor to step onto the ice in every hockey game, but especially in WHL games where I once dreamed of being involved. It is truly a unique feeling to be able to perform in front of up to 15,000 fans, even when the hometown fans aren’t happy with you. Although I was once a player – I wouldn’t trade the opportunities that officiating has provided me for the world.”
Schutz spent this past winter juggling his hockey officiating with his schooling. He just graduated from the U of S from the Anatomy and Cell Biology program. He is also a big part of the Martensville Community serving as a Fire Fighter/Medical First Responder. When asked how COVID-19 has affected the way the department trains and responds to calls, Schutz said, “We have greatly increased our decontamination procedures at both the fire hall and in the field as well as implemented online training programs for all of our members to stay up to date with our constantly changing protocols and procedures due to COVID-19.” The Saskatchewan Health Authority is consistently providing specific direction for all First Responder agencies in the province to ensure the safety of both the public and emergency responders.
Congratulations on all of your achievements, Levi, and the best of luck to you in the future!