Grewall as a BC Technical Director of the Canadian Ball Hockey Association as well as the Adult Referee-In-Chief for the CBHA.
Growing up in New Westminster, Gurdarshan Singh Grewall, popularly known as Darsh Grewall, played a lot of street hockey with friends and family. One day, his cousin asked Grewall to be a referee for their ball hockey game. He declined three times before accepting the call to action. Since that day, Grewall hasn’t looked back, progressing through the ranks of refereeing in ball hockey ever since. Currently, he serves as a BC Technical Director of the Canadian Ball Hockey Association (CBHA) as well as the Adult Referee-In-Chief for the CBHA.
Grewall started in the Arenex New West Ball Hockey League in 1984 before refereeing for BC Ball Hockey. He moved on to provincial tournaments and then his first national tournament in 1998. He was also one of the original founders of the Metro Minor Ball Hockey Association and served as the President for 10 years. His work continued as he helped set up Tri-City Minor Ball Hockey. Darsh has refereed eight ISBHF World Championships – something that no other Canadian has accomplished. He was the only referee from BC who attended every year. Also, he was the only Indo-Canadian referee in these events. Grewall points out that he didn’t receive any direct racism from his time refereeing. “In Czech Republic, they referred to me as the exotic referee which was fun,” he mentions.
The sport has embraced diversity in BC, especially with Indo-Canadian representation. National teams have multiple South Asian players which is practically unheard of in almost any sport in this country. Grewall has seen this growth through the years and notes how ball hockey is much more accessible to play with no need to skate, you can play if you can run. “It truly is spectacular to see South Asian representation at such a high level in sport and they seem to be getting better every year,” remarks Grewall. He has also coached kids and has seen them move on to senior roles in the sport, including making the national team.
The long-time referee’s shining moment came in 2009 in Pilson, Czech Republic, for the 2009 World Championships. Specifically, the semi-final game between rival countries Czech Republic and Slovakia, which was attended by over 7,000 fans. The magnitude of this game was also highlighted by the fact that Grewall and the other referees were escorted by armed guards to and from the rink. “It was gut-wrenching; I didn’t know what was going to happen. The atmosphere was unlike any other I have been to,” he recalls. For Grewall, the highlight of his career has been making life-long friends across the country.
Referees often face the brunt of verbal abuse from fans, players and coaches. For young referees trying to make their mark and progress in the sport, there needs to be more respect of the officials. This starts from the top with coaches who maintain their composure during games and teaching their players to respect the referees. Parents also need to calm down, and let the officials do their job. Refereeing teaches a lot of important values as outlined by Grewall: “It develops maturity for these kids, as they learn how to stay composed in high pressure situations.” He goes on to mention that several kids he has seen referee go on to successful careers in the police and fire departments.
The Adult Referee-In-Chief for the CBHA points to his family support as being a major key to his success in his career. It is important to note that Grewall is not just a full-time referee or director, he also works in the lighting fixture industry with his family business, S&N Lighting in Burnaby, and juggles that with family life. Grewall states that he gets his drive from his father who came here in 1957. “Growing up, my family has taught me respect and has shown me the level of work ethic that you need to be successful here. My father is my role model who taught me how to be respectful, and I carry this in all facets of my life every day.” Grewall plans to continue his roles with the CBHA, family business, and his family.