Our employee profiles provide the perfect opportunity to introduce some of our dedicated professionals and share their unique stories. Recently, we spoke with Tyson Stewart, a Sheet Metal Apprentice at Modern Niagara’s Ottawa shop, who shared his story about entering the trades, the experience of juggling both his apprenticeship and work as a referee, and his incredible experience officiating at the 2021 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship. Tyson first started his journey in the trades through an HVAC program at Algonquin College in Ottawa.
“I started in the trades when I was 21, when I went to Algonquin College and took an HVAC course. It’s usually a two-year program, but they condensed it into 45-48 weeks so you can take your gas license and come out with a diploma,” Tyson said. “I then started doing some residential gas work, furnace insulations and tiny bit of duct work, for a few months after.”
During this early period of gaining experience in his trade, Tyson was also working on getting into the Ottawa Local 47 union, which ultimately led him to find Modern Niagara.
“When I got into the union, one of my friends, who was a foreman at Modern, suggested that I look into the company after hearing that I was able to get into the union,” Tyson said. “He gave me the number for Frank Maisonneuve, a labour manager at Modern for Sheet Metal in Ottawa, and the rest has been history.”
After almost four years working at Modern, Tyson looked back favorably on his experience. He is especially appreciative of how accommodating his supervisors and the whole team have been with his busy schedule as a full-time referee.
“It’s been great, especially with the juggling of the referee schedule, I’ve probably taken off more time than normal people and they often are random days, but Modern’s always been very accommodating!” Tyson said. “I could be flying out on a Thursday to go and ref a game in California on a Friday, so I definitely have a hectic schedule to manage, and Modern’s been really helpful in that regard.”
When asked about his other profession as a referee, Tyson described his background with hockey and how his journey as a ref began as a continuation of his experience as a player.
“I used to play hockey, and I played at the Junior A level for four years in Carleton Place where I attended two national championships with the team, then once I stopped playing I got into reffing and was somewhat fast tracked to where I got thrown into reffing Junior right away, Tyson mentioned. “Now I’m coming into my fifth season and I’ve been reffing in both the AHL (American Hockey League) and the OHL (Ontario Hockey League).”
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on much of his officiating work last year. However, while the pandemic forced everyone to change their holiday plans this past year, the holiday season came with a special surprise for Tyson, who was offered the once in a lifetime opportunity to officiate the World Junior Ice Hockey Tournament in Edmonton.
“I’ve been through the Hockey Canada officiating program, and I ended up getting selected by Hockey Canada and the NHL (National Hockey League) to referee this year’s World Juniors,” Tyson said. “It was pretty amazing!”
With the current circumstances, Tyson and his fellow referees had to follow the strict health and safety protocols set up by both Hockey Canada and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), as well as quarantine for a significant period of time before ever stepping foot in the World Juniors bubble.
“So, I started quarantining for a week on December 6th, which finished on the 13th, and during that time I had to get tested three times for COVID-19, and every test had to come back negative,” Tyson recalled. “On December 13th I flew to Edmonton and when I arrived, I was immediately put into my hotel room, which I couldn’t leave for five days and where I was tested every single day.”
Finally, on December 18th, Tyson was let into the World Juniors bubble, which was limited to the Rogers Place arena and the attached JW Marriot Hotel in downtown Edmonton. During his time in the bubble, which lasted from December 18th to January 6th, Tyson was tested for COVID-19 every single day and rarely stepped foot outside.
The first game Tyson was able to officiate was the Preliminary Round game between Germany and Finland on Christmas Day, and two days later worked on the Canada vs. Slovakia game. On New Year’s Eve, Tyson refereed the match-up between United States and Sweden, before refereeing the Quarter Final game in which Canada took on the Czech Republic, his final game of the tournament. Amongst all the new and unique features of this tournament, some of the most popular amongst fans watching from home were the daily, light–hearted remarks made by the refs who dropped the pucks at the start of each game.
“We were mic’d up by TSN and they asked us at the start of the tournament to turn them on during penalties, then they also said we could turn them on during the puck drop,” Tyson mentioned. “The first time, the ref who dropped the puck said something like, ‘Santa’s watching boys,’ then TSN loved it and he went viral, so then everyone just started doing them and it became a fun thing amongst the refs to do.”
Those who watched the tournament may have heard Tyson shout, “let’s go boys, shake and bake!” right before dropping the puck when Canada played Slovakia game, or “let’s be some good boys today!” when Canada faced off against the Czech Republic. Even with the additional safety measures and strict bubble at this year’s World Juniors, Tyson is proud to have been able to take part in the event and officiate this once in a lifetime tournament.
“It was definitely worth it, especially since my season of refereeing has been a little sidetracked this year with the pandemic, it’s been a taste of normality even when things aren’t so normal.” Tyson mentioned. “It was probably the most unique experience of my refereeing career and probably something that I will never have again, probably no one else will have that experience besides the refs, the players and everyone in both the World Juniors and NHL bubbles, so it was pretty special!”
When asked about his goals for the future, Tyson mentioned that the ultimate goal for his refereeing would be to reach the NHL. However, he nevertheless remains committed to furthering his skills and experience at Modern, as well as completing his apprenticeship.
“I’m on what’s referred to as an NHL prospect list for refs, I have an American work visa so I’m still chasing that dream and the NHL is my end goal, said Tyson. “At the same time, I’m trying to finish my apprenticeship in sheet metal and work on a very viable career at Modern, so it’s great to have that to look forward to as well.”
Tyson also noted that he is glad to be able to continue his work for Modern despite the hectic refereeing schedule and is happy to be working towards a career in the trades, while still pursuing his dream of officiating at the highest possible level.
“I really do enjoy the work I do, as well as working at Modern,” said Tyson. “The lifestyle for referees can be busy and if it ultimately doesn’t work out the way you want it to, then sometimes they have to effectively start over and look for other options, and that’s why I’ve been really thankful that Modern’s allowed me to have the flexibility that I do have.”