© Herald Photo by Dave Leaderhouse
Long-time referee and administrator Ward Howat will be among those being inducted into the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame when the annual induction banquet is held April 26 in the Ches Leach Lounge at the Art Hauser Centre. Howat, who officiated at all levels of hockey including 17 years in the Western Hockey League, is being added to the list of those who have achieved meritorious service to sport.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of profiles on the inductees to be enshrined in the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame next month. Over the next three weeks the remaining seven honourees will be featured leading up to the banquet on April 26 in the Ches Leach Lounge at the Art Hauser Centre.
After more than 30 years of calling infractions in minor hockey games, Ward Howat is being whistled down for his meritorious service to sport.
Howat is being recognized for his 30-plus years of officiating and various administrative roles with the Saskatchewan Hockey Association and he says he is humbled by the acknowledgement for all of his hard work as he gets ready to enter the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame.
“It is an honour for me,” says Howat. “I look around (the hall of fame) and see who is in there and I am glad and happy that people recognize me.”
“After all of the years of commitment it is a nice recognition,” added Howat.
Becoming a referee was kind of an afterthought as Howat was first a coach in the minor hockey system and then while helping with the Midget AA team in 1981 he says he got frustrated and decided to go a different route.
“I’m close friends with Jamie Mays (current referee-in-chief for the Canadian Hockey Association) and he had a hand in getting me into it,” explains Howat. “I went to a clinic, bought a few things, and signed up.”
“At first it was super challenging,” added Howat. “It’s a skill level all of its own.”
Howat quickly picked up on that skill set as he was soon working Midget AAA games, Junior A and Junior B contests and ultimately lining Western Hockey League matches for a 17-year span.
“I liked the aspect of moving up to do better hockey,” noted Howat. “You get the best seat in the house.”
As is the case with most qualified officials, their services are needed for various leagues around the province and Howat says he put on many, many miles working games in every centre from Buffalo Narrows to Flin Flon – and many points in between - but he treasures each and every minute of his time doing the job.
“There is nothing like the atmosphere of hockey and how it was in small-town Saskatchewan,” says Howat. “I remember being at home and Lorne Adams picking me up at my doorstep to take me somewhere to do senior games.”
“You got to experience a different side of hockey so that was really cool,” added Howat.
As time went on, and at the behest of Ralph Court, Howat started getting involved in administrative roles either as an instructor, supervisor, co-ordinator or scheduler. His uninterrupted tenure of 28 years on the SHA board has never been matched and he remains involved in the game as a video judge at Prince Albert Raider home games.
“It was time to step back from everything and give others an opportunity,” says Howat of his reduced involvement in officiating. “It’s amazing that your family lets you do that for 30 years and when it comes to an end you don’t have to juggle things.”
Howat, who remains busy with his business R&W Collision along with being deputy fire chief for the Buckland Volunteer Fire Department, says he had so many highlights during his career, but he is very proud of his time in the WHL.
“I felt I did an awesome job for 17 years in the WHL,” says Howat. “I put my heart and soul working in that league.”
Howat also lists working at the 1999 Air Canada Cup national midget tournament and some pre-Olympic games in Saskatoon in 1988 as other highlights, but losing close friend Vince Pilon in a car accident was a major low point.
“The referring community puts thousands of miles on, night in and night out, and when you lose someone like that it hits home,” reflected Howat on the loss of Pilon, who was returning home from working a game in Big River. “There is great camaraderie among referees.”
In addition to his lengthy involvement in officiating, Howat is also being recognized for his participation in body building where he was a finalist at both the provincial and Western Canadian levels for power lifting along with his time on the ball diamond as a slo-pitch player. Howat has also been a long-time sponsor and coach and part-time player for a team in the Sportsman Softball League.
Howat will receive his much-deserved place in the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame on April 26 along with Josef Tesar Jr., Ryan Roznowsky, Amanda Dunn, Pat Regel, Bob Coffin, the 1972 West Hill Flyers bantam hockey team and the Prince Albert Sports Council.
Tickets for the event cost $40 each and can be purchased at the Community Services Department in City Hall or from any Hall of Fame board member. For more information on the banquet, contact Ellen Grewcock at 980-6242 or Derek Smith at 980-6116.