The start of the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games is just seven days away, the
end goal for so many athletes over the last four years. But as the 17
members of Canada’s Paralympic Hockey Team head off for Beijing, there are
two other Canadians we will see on the ice.
Kevin Webinger and Matt Fergenbaum have been selected to represent Canada
at the Paralympics, but instead of red and white, they’ll be in black and
white. Time to get to know the referee and linesperson.
Kevin Webinger (Referee)
Hometown: Calgary, Alta.
Webinger decided officiating seemed like a better part-time job than
babysitting when he was just 12 years old. Twenty-plus years later, he
still says it’s better than babysitting. He found his way into para hockey
almost by accident, when the World Sledge Hockey Challenge was being hosted
in Calgary in 2011 and qualified referees were needed.
“I was fortunate to get the gold medal game in that event and then got an
email a month later asking if I wanted to go to Norway for a tournament and
I jumped on it,” Webinger recalls. “It’s been 11 years now, being able to
do some awesome events with all these wonderful guys.”
In general terms, Webinger says para hockey is mostly the same as stand-up,
save for the teeing penalty (for running the front of your sled into the
side of an opponent). Where things change are the referee’s ‘rules’ of
where to stand to best observe the play.
“We’re always taught to stay away from the play, to get on the other side
of the ice to get the best angles,” Webinger explains. “But in para hockey,
you have to be on top of the play because they’re jabbing each other and
they’re really good at hiding the puck with their bodies.”
This will be the second Games for Webinger and despite the obvious
challenges this year presents, he is looking forward to being on the ice in
“The first one, you’re just excited to be there, you don’t remember a lot
of things because you’re so focused on the games,” Webinger says. “This one
might be a little bit easier to kind of sit back and enjoy it a little bit
Matt Fergenbaum (Linesperson)
Hometown: Thornhill, Ont.
About six years ago, Fergenbaum faced the difficult decision of having to
either leave his busy work in insurance to pursue officiating full time or
cut back on his time wearing the stripes. He went with work, thinking that
was probably the end for officiating international events, when a
surprising phone call just a few months later led to his first para hockey
“Looking back on it, there were three of us very capable officials with
strong résumés of able-bodied hockey, joining the para ice hockey world and
kind of not knowing what the heck we were doing,” Fergenbaum laughs.
Looking back now, the linesperson says the best game he’s ever been a part
of was at his first Paralympics – the bronze medal matchup between Czechia
and South Korea.
“There were more fans there for that game than the Canada versus U.S. game
which was the gold medal after that,” Fergenbaum says. “And the [gold medal
game] still wasn’t as loud as the bronze medal game when Korea won on home
“It was incredible.”
There is no doubt these Games will be different without fans for more than
just the players, but Fergenbaum says he is excited to see the players and
other officials for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
“We’re such a close-knit community that each of us go down with a bag of
extra souvenirs and presents for our fellow officials and some of their
kids,” Fergenbaum says with a smile. “I think we’re all going to be happy
when we’re there safe and sound.”