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It's Koop's call

Squamish's Corey Koop reffing at the international level

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Though Corey Koop's career making headlines as a hockey player ended in 2016, he has not been a stranger to success on the ice in the years since.

The 27-year-old has moved on to a second career as an on-ice official.

He is a referee for the WHL, BCHL, and various other hockey leagues. Recently, he was chosen as one of five officials in B.C. to ref the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge tournament, which ended Nov. 9.

Hockey Canada holds three regional based camps and Koop was chosen by the national body, based on his performance at the western camp, according to Sean Raphael, Hockey Canada's B.C. referee-in-chief and vice-president of programs.

Koop was chosen in particular for his physical ability on the ice and his communication skills, according to Raphael.

"He's a very good communicator and has a good calm, rapport-type building persona on the ice, which is obviously good in a full-contact sport environment where officials can sometimes be the target of some negativity," he said, adding Koop also shows sound judgment on the ice.

Koop said this tournament was different from the many he has officiated over his 14-plus years wearing the stripes because it was played on an international stage.

Officiating games for teams including Russia, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Finland and the U.S., he said, meant dealing with language barriers, which was a new experience for him.

Many of the young players don't speak English, he said.

"It comes down to your body language, your presence, just non-verbal communication — signals, that kind of thing."

The international games also have a whole new rulebook to learn — the International Ice Hockey Federation rules.

"There are so many different nuances with it — faceoff locations," he said, adding with coincidental penalties, the IIFH plays four-on-four, where most hockey he refs play five-on-five.

Asked what he thinks the players and fans may not understand about officials, Koop said that the refs are going through a similar process of trying to do their best and move up as players are.

"We aren't just a random bunch of officials that have been picked off the street to work this tournament. We are all trying to get our officiating to the next level, just like they are," he said. "There's just as much pressure on us. There are people in the stands watching every game, evaluating everything. Throughout the tournament, just as badly as the players want to make the gold medal game, officials do too. You are putting in your all to try and get there as well."

Officiating has been a boon for him, he said. When he played, he loved the rush and adrenaline of the game, and as a ref, he still gets that.

"I have got the best seat in the house," he said. "I played up until I was 24 and now I get to come back and still love the game, but now I am on the ice, I am in the action. It is a whole other view of the game, but you are right there with it."

Koop also runs an officiating school in the off-season in Whistler called Koop's Call Officiating. He aims to prepare the next generation for what can be a challenging, but rewarding career reffing.

Koop noted many young officials quit after because of the abuse they endure in the role. With his camps — which he puts on with his brother and dad — he wants to show it is fun, too.

"This is our way of combating that [abuse]," he said. "It was showing them how much fun officiating on the ice can be and what you can get from it outside the arena. And showing that me reffing in one of these tournaments, I have 17 buddies spread across the country all following the same path and we have the same interests. A lot of these guys are friends for life."

While Koop now lives in Victoria, he spends the summer in the corridor at the camps and with family and hikes the Stawamus Chief every chance he gets, he said.

Check out the original version of the story here.

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