Officials in any sport have the toughest job of anyone in the game.
They’re the ones who end up on the receiving end of all the complaints, yelling and sometimes abuse that come with the job.
But more often than not, there’s the mutual respect that comes with the position.
That’s how Craig Hockridge is being remembered by someone who knew him better than most.
Hockridge was a fixture of hockey tournaments in Yellowknife – and the North – for many years but he won’t be any longer. He died on June 17 in Edmonton after suffering a massive stroke and never recovering from it.
His death brought out plenty of emotion from the hockey community, including from Darrell Greer, the former referee-in-chief (RIC) of Hockey North.
“I was in disbelief when I found out,” said Greer. “It was a mixture of sadness and anger that once again, someone so good was taken from us much too soon.”
Hockridge took over as the RIC after Greer stepped down in 2016 and Greer said the first thing Hockridge did was tell him that he was going to run for the position.
“He did me the courtesy of telling me beforehand and that was something I always appreciated,” he said.
Greer said the first time he met Hockridge was in 2008 during the Arctic Winter Games in Yellowknife, where Greer was serving as the officials’ supervisor.
That’s when he first saw how good Hockridge was.
“He had a presence out on the ice,” he said. “He was a big guy and if you didn’t know him, he was intimidating but always professional. He would never argue with a player – he would simply point to the penalty box and skate away. He earned a great deal of respect among the players and fans for the way he handled a game.”
Hockridge would make the trip to the Kivalliq region to work tournaments – Greer figures he worked at least in excess of 20 tournaments in both Rankin Inlet and Arviat over the years – and he would always bring one or two people with him to work, Greer added.
“It’s fair to say the sport of hockey in the North is poorer now,” he said. “You always get people who talk the talk but very few who walk the walk. Craig was someone who walked the walk and was always there when he was needed. He was always willing to pass on what he learned and to lose someone like Craig is such a huge loss.”
Kim Knutson, Hockridge’s wife, shared a post on Facebook on June 19 where she told of her late husband’s last days, which included what she called one last act of kindness: organ and tissue donation.
“They were able to find a match for his lungs, liver and kidneys, his heart is going for research,” she said. “Donating his organs and tissues is the only thing good to come of this whole nightmare.”
Knutson also said she was thankful for all the messages she had received, calling them “therapeutic to read” and remarking that everyone lost a great man.
Greer also touched on that sentiment, saying Hockridge’s goodness is what defined him.
“If you couldn’t find anything good to say about him, you weren’t trying,” he said.
Editor’s note: As a matter of full disclosure, Darrell Greer is the editor-in-chief of Kivalliq News, a publication of NNSL Media.