It was a pleasant surprise and one that will carry into next hockey season.

"When all of sudden the money appears unexpectedly, it's very rewarding," said Greg Happ, referee in chief for the Weyburn Minor Hockey Association (WMHA).

An eight-team novice hockey tournament was recently held in Weyburn which brought in teams from across the province for a end-of-the-season competition. From that, $1,000 was donated by the tournament committee to the WMHA novice reffing program.

The novice program was introduced this past season as a way to get junior referees more ice-time.

"To me, it was a really pleasant shock, like right out of the blue all of a sudden people that we didn't anticipate are jumping on board (with the program) and saying we recognize the value that there is in not just having referees, and more referees, but also being able expand into a division that traditionally hasn't had refs," Happ said.

Through recruitment and direct marketing, the novice reffing program now has around 55 junior referees. The WMHA has also grown it's female officiating pool from two to 16 referees. All this has also helped to spike the entire Weyburn reffing pool from 40 to 80 referees in one season.

"The excitement that we've kind of created has just spawned into something really great," Happ said.

Happ credits it to mentorship and partnership.

Mentorship comes from a handful of senior referees who act as a support system for younger officials.

Partnership is through the officials positioning themselves as allies with coaches and players.

"The goal is to get the best level of hockey we can in our city and we just look at the officiating part of it as partners with the two others team that are out there, with the coaches, with the managers," Happ explained.

"It's really a partnership and things like this where you have people coming forward and giving money, it's just icing on what's already been a really good cake."

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