Saturday, February 2 was just another game on the schedule for the Moose Jaw Generals and the Yorkton Maulers of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA league. But it was a monumental occasion for the women in stripes that day.
For the first time ever, all four officials on the ice were females for a boys Midget AAA game. Weyburn's Alex Clarke was a linesman along with Krista Funke, while Cianna Lieffers and Michelle Stapleton wore the orange bands.
"It was special for a variety of reasons. One obviously being we were the first all-female crew to officiate a male Midget AAA game in Saskatchewan," said Clarke. "But the second reason was it was kind of a tribute to the late Jason Mercer. He was a supervisor and member of the Saskatchewan Officials for quite a few years, and he passed away a few years ago. It was always his goal or his dream, to be able to walk into the room after a male AAA or junior game and be able to say, 'great game ladies.' It was a tribute to him and it was in his hometown that we did it, so it was special on that front too."
With there being just a handful of female officials at this level of hockey in the province, Clarke says she always looks forward to sharing the ice with them.
"We don't get to do a lot of games and tournaments together because we're so spread out. When we do get together, it's always a good time," she said. "We're all good friends and we get along really well. It's always special just to be on the ice together for any game with a group of girls, just because we get along so well and we're so close and talk outside of reffing all the time too."
Aside from making history, Clarke is busy officiating in the SJHL and the Midget AAA ranks. She's got some big gigs coming up, including a trip to China for the Division 1 Group B Women's World Championship. Before that, she'll be reffing the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer for 10 days.
A little closer to home as a linesman in the SJHL, she's the one breaking up the boys when the gloves come off and the fists are thrown. She's never one to back down from a challenge, but does admit there are a few players around the league who demand a little extra attention.
"There is always a couple on the ice with every team that you make sure you watch a little more closely. When Estevan plays Weyburn for example, you're on your toes the whole night," Clarke said with a smile. "There's definitely guys on teams, but there are also teams against teams that you tend to watch a little more closely. You never really know what's going to happen — our motto is to never trust a hockey player."