When Chris Gent officiated a game with his sons Colin, 17, and Conner, 22, in late October, he was the member of the officiating crew with the least amount of experience.
Both of his sons are certified Level 4 officials and have taken part in two Rocky Mountain District advanced officiating camps. Chris, inspired by his sons, took classes to become certified last summer.
According to Chris, his son Colin was jokingly tired of his complaints about officiating during last year’s Stanley Cup Final and encouraged him to go out and do it himself. Chris remembered receiving an email about upcoming clinics and certification in the area, so he agreed. Colin, he said, didn’t believe he’d go through with it.
Half a year later and Chris estimates he’s officiated more than 100 games already. The Gent family resides in the Dallas area and are always able to find games to officiate. Officiating has become a common bond and way to share a love of hockey for the family as the boys have aged out of competitive hockey.
Chris has been part of a crew for several games with each son individually and both Colin and Conner work together frequently. The only game all three Gent men have officiated together though, came on the final day of a large tournament in October 2022. Chris and Conner had each officiated about four games, but Colin had been on the ice for seven games that day. It was an exhausting but fun day made all the better for the unique, multi-generational opportunity it afforded the Gent family.
Officiating has created something of a role reversal in the Gent family hierarchy, with the sons modeling behavior and the father watching and learning. Chris immediately took note of how Colin sets the tone for a game, keeping communication up with players and coaches.
“[Colin] is really good at interacting with the coaches and able to deflect conflict. I have tried to use that same philosophy of communication,” Chris said. “I’ve found that following that pattern of making sure you're staying in communication with the coach — not talking at the coach — is a really good way to diffuse things.”
The respect Chris has for the work Colin and Conner have put in to become well-respected officials in the district is clear. As someone on their crew, he takes their cues and has become a better official by seeing how they manage a game.
Colin, Chris said, is planning to move into USA Hockey’s Junior Officiating Development Program to try and officiate at a higher level.
“There's some responsibility there to go out and do a good job and make sure that I don't go out there and give any bad reputation to the family name,” Chris said.
Being on the ice with his sons has helped Chris see and appreciate how far they have come as officials since they were 14 or 15 years old and needed to be driven to games they were assigned to. He also sees how much officiating has helped Colin and Conner grow.
Conner, he said, is more focused and a better communicator thanks to both playing and officiating hockey. He thinks Colin’s officiating and hockey playing go hand in hand. Knowing both sides of the game makes him better in both areas.
“One of the things I always stressed as a coach was the hockey IQ part of the game,” Chris said. “A player can make up for a lot of flaws that they might have elsewhere. I think that applies just as much to officiating as to playing hockey. You have to understand how the game’s flow is going, where a player has a puck and where he might go with it. I think it’s made Colin a better player, reading the whole ice like you need to do as an official.”
The Gents appreciate that all the years they spent as a hockey family, going from rink to rink, has paid off in this unexpected way.
Chris knew that the respect, and what you have to learn to be a good hockey player and a good teammate, are great life lessons. But he didn’t know that it would bring this new way for him to spend time around and connect with his sons – or that he would enjoy it so much that he’s considering not going back to playing in a rec league himself so that he can spend more time officiating.
“The work that my wife and I put into both of them playing hockey, it’s not going to end when they’re done with high school.” Chris said. “They're both going to have things that they can still keep using from all of that hockey.
“Officiating has kept them connected to a sport they love. The biggest part of it for me is it just gives us one more thing as a common bond.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.