Harvey Bolton's 50 years of service as a minor hockey official have been recognized with a pair of recent honours.
Bolton received a pair of honours from the Flin Flon Minor Hockey Association (FFMHA) during their annual awards night April 5. First, Bolton received a lifetime achievement award for his time spent both officiating and training new officials. Second, Bolton’s name was bestowed on one of the FFMHA’s annual awards - from now on, a new award will be given to the FFMHA’s most outstanding official, named the “Harvey Bolton Award”.
Bolton had an inkling the FFMHA might honour his 50th year with the stripes - but he didn’t expect the recognition he received. Both awards were kept hidden from Bolton until the award night itself, leaving him lost for words.
“I thought that minor hockey might do or say something for the fact I’ve been around for 50 years, but I had zero clue they were going to put my name on an award - they didn’t tell me,” he said.
“When they handed me the award and I saw my name on it, I thought that was going to be what they were going to give me after. Then I read it and I kind of lost my focus after that - it was very cool.”
In a sport where officials and referees don’t always receive compliments, Bolton said he was thankful for the praise.
“I really don’t know what to say. I sent minor hockey an email thanking them, but words don’t really seem kind of good enough,” he said.
Following in the skate tracks of his father, a former on-ice official, Bolton first started refereeing hockey games in 1972, first in his hometown of Flin Flon, then later in other communities after moving away. While Bolton has gone off the ice for the past several years, he has led dozens of training sessions and spent countless games as an officiating supervisor, including for international high-level tournaments, junior championships and other major events.
Bolton was notably the referee-in-chief for Thompson’s minor hockey programs in the late 1970s and early 1980s - Thompson’s minor hockey association has told Bolton they have similar plans to Flin Flon’s group, giving him a lifetime achievement award and naming an official of the year award in his honour, he said.
“That award is now going to be called the Harvey Bolton Award.”
“It’s incredible - it really is. When you’re in the officiating program and people come up to you, you’re not used to hearing good things or compliments. Maybe I haven’t responded as well as I should have, because you’re not used to that,” he said.
“It is all about the memories. It makes me feel very, very good.”
Bolton is perhaps most proud of the new crop of on-ice officials coming into their own. COVID-19 prevented a crop of some new talent from stepping forward, he said, but now that hockey has more or less resumed its pre-pandemic form, Bolton is encouraged with the level of involvement and the overall quality of young, new officials.
“Around the region and in NorMan in general, we manage to attract quite a number of good, young kids as officials. Down the road, that’s a positive,” said Bolton.
“The issue we have is after three years of COVID-19, we’ve kind of lost that 18-to-24-year-old group who we need to mentor young officials. That’s a problem, that’s a concern - people being with them on the ice, in the stands, watching, helping out, all that kind of stuff. There are promising young kids there. We definitely have something to build on. We need experienced people to give them a hand, all that kind of stuff. That’s where we’re lacking right now, but we will work on that problem.”
That new crop includes the grandchildren of people he refereed with and the children of former referees he had trained.
“One young official, Cohen Brough, I instructed the clinic that his dad Tanner first attended and reffed some of his first games. Before that, Tanner’s dad and I started out at around the same time 50 years ago - three generations of officials there,” he said.
“Fifty years and all the memories that come along with that is really special. You’re not really, as an official, used to people saying good things, but I will say that the Flin Flon Minor Hockey group and people around the region, for them to do that for me, meaning those memories continue on, it’s a humbling experience.”