Tim Kroeker helps maintain the integrity of the game
"Officials help maintain the integrity of the game, keep order in the game, keep things fair and keep the game running smoothly. At the more recreational level, they allow people to enjoy their sporting experience."
Whether refereeing at the high school level or in the Canadian Football League's championship game (the Grey Cup), it's always been about keeping the order for Saskatoon referee Tim Kroeker.
"If there wasn't structured refereeing and officiating, who knows what would happen? " said Kroeker. "Officials help maintain the integrity of the game, keep order in the game, keep things fair and keep the game running smoothly. At the more recreational level, they allow people to enjoy their sporting experience. They're a really important structured part of any game."
Kroeker has always appreciated being able to compete in sports that are structured and fair to all. Growing up in Saskatoon, he was an avid baseball player. Kroeker represented Saskatchewan at the 1989 Canada Summer Games then headed down to the United Sates and played baseball at three different schools (North Carolina, California and Louisiana) between 1989 and 1993. He was also a member of Canada's 1993-95 National Team, which won a bronze medal at the World University Games in Buffalo.
"Sport has taught me so many life lessons. Being able to be a part of a group and figuring out how to form relationships with different types of people and working toward a common goal is the part of sport that's important," he said. "So it's not just a game; it's the life lessons of hard work and determination."
Once his competitive baseball career was over, and he started teaching in Saskatoon, Kroeker discovered refereeing as a great way to stay involved with sports and stay fit. He had been a basketball official in high school at the minor level. Once he started teaching, his first principal - a local official - encouraged him to try his hand at football officiating.
Kroeker never had aspirations to become a CFL referee. But being competitive in nature, he worked his hardest to learn. In 2005, while Kroeker was refereeing at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level, the CFL Director of Officiating George Black did some scouting in Saskatchewan, and Kroeker's name was put forward as an official to watch. In the spring of 2006, Kroeker received a call from Black asking if he'd be interested in becoming a CFL official. Kroeker accepted.
Since then, he has worked 133 games over nine seasons in the CFL, including the 2008, 2012 and 2014 Grey Cups. He is currently a Head Linesman - the official who stands at one end of the scrimmage line looking for possible off sides or other fouls before the snap. During the play, he is responsible for judging the action near his sideline. Kroeker is also starting to work more games as the Head Referee.
"It's been great. I've really enjoyed it," he said. "The camaraderie of the guys is great. It's amazing to be a part of a Canadian game. I set pretty high standards for myself. I really re-focused and did some things differently in 2014, so being in the Grey Cup was like winning the championships as an official. It's the best honour we can get."
When he's not busy refereeing or working full-time, Kroeker also does some work to help the development of young, local referees. Kroeker has received a lot of mentorship himself, from CFL referees such as Brent Buchko, and Jake Ireland, and appreciates the need to help foster the next generation of referees.
"I help out with our local association as much as I can. I'm open to helping guys during the year and sending them resources," said Kroeker. "It's very important to be open to helping anybody that needs your help. I was always the guy that asked a lot of questions. I was lucky enough to have a lot of mentors coming up from our local association that were always willing to help out."
• Officials' Development in Saskatchewan: