Officiating football is music to Mihilewicz’s ears
He wears many hats, but the one he enjoys this time of the year is that of football official.
Barry Mihilewicz is well known in Prince Albert for his musical skills, but when not singing in a band or providing music at funerals, he can be found on the gridiron and for two months of the year that almost becomes a full-time job in itself.
“I always make time for officiating,” explains Mihilewicz. “When it is September or October, people know I have a football schedule.”
Mihilewicz never played the game when he was growing up as his focus was on being a hockey goalie. But, like all prairie kids, he was a huge Saskatchewan Roughrider fan and long after his school days were done, he got asked to help out officiating high school games. He has been a mainstay ever since.
“The first clinic I went to was in 1982 and Ron Walsh was a presenter,” says Mihilewicz. “He was a guy that was just so enthusiastic about refereeing. He worked games well into his 70s I think; he just loved the game.”
Mihilewicz caught the bug and having officiated in five or six other sports, he says football is his favourite.
“The most disciplined on the field is football,” says Mihilewicz. “We just try and let them play football. I really enjoy it.”
For a number of years Mihilewicz worked just high school games and then when the Kinsmen minor football program was started, there was a greater need for an organization. However, the demise of the St. Mary High School football team in the early 1990s and subsequent lack of interest in minor football reduced the need for officials for about a decade and Mihilewicz backed away.
The resurgence of the sport in the last seven years - with the return of St. Mary, the creation of the River Riders minor football program and the Fort Carleton Six-Man Football League - has brought him back in a far larger role.
“I always wanted to start a Prince Albert Football Officials Association,” says Mihilewicz. “When I was doing it in the 1990s, we got no respect here. Jim McLachlan (former Carlton head coach and current bantam River Rider bench boss) got us some money and we went down to Saskatoon to watch and learn.”
“Prior to last year, Saskatoon always sent down two officials, but they told us last year that that was no longer needed,” added Mihilewicz.
The current officials association now totals 14 members and in the course of the season that group will work 36 games. Some of the younger members will ultimately work towards getting their certification to do Saskatoon Hilltop games and even some University of Saskatchewan Huskies matches.
For Mihilewicz, the workload in Prince Albert keeps him busy enough. As the president of the local association he not only provides leadership and communication to the group, he does the scheduling and he says the advent of night games in the city is a blessing from his perspective.
“From an officials’ point of view it is easier to recruit and schedule,” says Mihilewicz. “Without the night games, how do you get away from work? This changes it substantially. We were able to recruit some people and we have got some great officials.”
From being the owner of Big Drum Media; to performing as an independent musician; to being a member of the band Rewind; to officiating football games: it is hard to believe there is enough time in a day, but Mihilewicz seems to be doing just fine and the football scene in Prince Albert is better because of him.