Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 27 October 2020

‘A thick skin’ helps referee Joy Johnston keep cool in the UAE’s EHL ice hockey league

The Emirates Hockey League’s chief of games officials has been uncompromising when it comes to following the rules on ice, she tells Amith Passela.
Joy Johnston was attracted to ice hockey at age 10, and two decades later, the 31-year-old Englishwoman is considered one of the most experienced and successful referees in the sport. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Joy Johnston was attracted to ice hockey at age 10, and two decades later, the 31-year-old Englishwoman is considered one of the most experienced and successful referees in the sport. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

ABU DHABI // Teams in the Emirates Hockey League say they have noticed a stricter interpretation of the laws being enforced this season.

While some players initially struggled being penalised for fighting, and receiving more 10-minute misconduct penalties awarded for rough play, they say, overall, the standard of officiating has improved.

That is in no small part down to the appointment of Joy Johnston, who as the league’s new chief of games officials, has not only imposed herself on matches but is also responsible for the recruitment and development of local officials, and raising the standard of refereeing in the country.

Fighting is as much a part of the game as scoring and skating, and after 15 years calling the shots, Johnston says nothing intimidates her.

“I think if you ask most men if they have an argument with their wife, who wins? It’s normally the wife,” Johnston says. “There are fights, yeah. It’s not a problem ... As an official, I know what the limits are and where the boundaries are, so it’s not been an issue.

“As a referee, it’s not my role to separate a scuffle. As a referee, I observe and I write down the penalties and my linesmen would break the fight up.”

Incurring the wrath of disgruntled players is part of the job, Johnston says, and while she understands emotions can get the better of athletes in the heat of the moment, players must not overstep the mark.

“Being a referee, you’re always going to be shouted at. This is part of the job,” she says. “There is a limit, and once players overstep that limit, they will be penalised.

“But you have to understand that it’s a fast game. There’s frustration and sometimes there will be a heat-of-the-moment comment. That’s OK, but when it oversteps the line, it will be punished.

“You have to accept that. There will be comments and as an official, you have to have a thick skin. It’s not personal, it’s just because you’re the referee.”

apassela@thenational.ae

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Updated: March 17, 2015 04:00 AM