Jerry Kurka has been officiating games in Prince Rupert at all levels for over 30 years. The 2017-2018 season will be his last in Prince Rupert. (Matthew Allen / The Northern View)

Jerry Kurka has been officiating games in Prince Rupert at all levels for over 30 years. The 2017-2018 season will be his last in Prince Rupert. (Matthew Allen / The Northern View)

Kurka keeps thing official

The longtime hockey referee has been on the ice in Prince Rupert for more than 30 years

After more than 40 years of calling the game he loves, 64-year-old veteran hockey referee Jerry Kurka does not see himself quitting any time soon.

The longtime official has overseen thousands of hockey games in that span, calling everything from minor hockey to old-timers to senior men’s games both in the Lower Mainland and in Prince Rupert. He said it’s his love of the game that keeps him going all these years.

“I had good experience growing up playing hockey,” he said. “I had good coaches, and I just want to put back into the game what I received from the game itself.”

Born and raised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Kurka was introduced to hockey when he was eight years old. He played through the minor levels, eventually receiving a scholarship to play at the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. It was during these early playing years that Kurka began to officiate games. He said he called his first game when he was 15, and continued to do so as he moved through the Prairies and to the Northwest.

READ MORE: MVP of the Week – Troy O’Toole

“Most of the stuff I did back then was house league hockey on outdoor rinks,” he said. “The kids were young ranging from age seven and up.”

Kurka said that for the most part, there was not anything particularly memorable about his early years of officiating, although he would have a run in with overzealous fans heckling from time-to-time. He said that once while reffing a game in Saskatoon, a gentleman sitting with a cup of coffee along the boards next to the ice was loudly heckling him.

“He was next to the blue line,” Kurka said. “This was back when there wasn’t any glass.”

The man continued to yell at him, so Kurka said he came across the blue line to wave off an offside “accidentally” knocking the man’s coffee all over him.

“Needless to say he was quiet after that and went up several rows,” Kurka said.

In the early ’70s, Kurka moved to Vancouver, following some Saskatoon friends who had gone before him. He lived there for a year before moving north to Stewart for work. While living in Stewart, he met his wife and moved back to Vancouver to begin an apprenticeship as a power dispatcher. He first moved to Rupert in 1976 to complete a placement for BC Hydro. By the early ‘80s B.C. had officially become home for Kurka.

“I moved up north to work for a bit, met my wife and we just kinda took it from there,” he said.

Kurka played on Prince Rupert’s old Kings’s teams in the city while officiating minor hockey games. After the Kings folded in the early ‘80s, Kurka spent more time officiating, becoming a staple on the ice at all levels of play. He estimates that he has averaged more than 100 games per year during his time in Prince Rupert, and on occasion becoming a casualty to his passion. Once while officiating a Rampage game, Kurka said he was caught between two players who were lining up to hit one another.

“I saw the guy coming out with the puck, I saw the other guy lining him up, and the triangulation was right where I was and I couldn’t get out of the way,” he said with a laugh. “It didn’t matter which way you go, you were going to get it.”

Kurka said it took him a few minutes to get up from the hit, and he was afraid that he may have dislocated his shoulder. However, a trip to the medical clinic after the game revealed that he had only suffered a few bruises.

READ MORE: Rampage start the new year strong

Kurka said this will be his last season officiating games in Prince Rupert. He plans to retire this summer from his position at Saanich Plumbing and will move to the Lower Mainland. While he is looking forward to slowing down, he said he has enjoyed his time on the ice in Prince Rupert, especially watching the development of hockey talent in the town over the years.

“Just watching the kids that you coach as they progress,” he said. “Watching kids in general enjoying the game.”

While his location may change, Kurka said he will continue to do what he has always loved to do. He plans to get whatever qualifications are necessary to referee games in his next home, and will do it until he can’t do it anymore. For now, stopping is not an option.

“I’ll put in my time wherever they need me,” he said. “As long as I’m healthy, I don’t see that happening.”

Rampage start the new year strong

MVP of the Week

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bears are waking up hungry and starting to forage, Conservation Officer Service said on April 9. Prince Residents are advised to keep garbage in sealed containers to lessen bear attraction. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Keep bears wild – they are not teddy bears

Conservation Officer Service warns bears are waking up hungry

Prince Rupert couple Alvin Tait and Loni Martin have postponed their wedding two times due to COVID-19 affecting the marriage rates in Prince Rupert. (Photo: supplied/L.Martin)
No marriages in Prince Rupert in 2021 so far

Weddings down 23.9% in P.R. since COVID-19 with B.C. wedding industry loss at $158 million

Three North Coast organizations are granted funding to promote multiculturalism and support anti-racism, Jennifer Rice MLA announced on April 8. Conrad Elementary School students recognized the first Black Shirt Day on January 15, 2021, to advocate for anti-racism. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
North Coast organizations to benefit from anti-racism funding

$944,000 granted in provincial funding to aid multiculturalism

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Most Read