With the 2010s having signified a remarkable generation of female hockey heroes emerging
from Saskatchewan, from the likes of Jessica Campbell, Emily Clark and Samantha Shirley, the tremendous impact made has extended beyond the players. Running parallel to this time involved
unprecedented growth in the number of women that have donned the official’s sweater,
expanding the possibilities of a highly exciting future on the ice.
Among Prairie Canada’s most impressive female officials, Cianna Lieffers, raised in Cudworth,
Sask., is admired locally as an official and as a person. Having already attained
numerous achievements, she brings a joie-de-vivre at the rink, happy to be one of the gals. While
the impact of the officials is at times, unintentionally overlooked, their impact is just as
pioneering as players, adding another profound human element in the ongoing journey of sporting equality.
Named to the crew of officials that worked the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championships in
Calgary, Alta., that marked the second time that Lieffers worked such a prestigious event on home soil. With Saskatchewan serving as host of the 2018 4 Nations Cup, Lieffers was among the
officials on hand. That opportunity was made more meaningful by working in her home province.
Influenced by two older brothers that officiated, Lieffers first wore the zebra stripes at the tender
age of 11. Although her career would take an abrupt sabbatical, stopping after her first season
due to the inappropriate behaviour of a verbally abusive hockey coach during a tournament in
her hometown, the support and encouragement of her mother, Zoria, served as the catalyst to
continue her career.
Working in the Prince Albert Minor Hockey Association, an upward progression saw Lieffers capture the province’s Kenneth R. Stiles Memorial Scholarship. Officiating Midget A boys'' games, she would later grace the ice at Midget AAA and Junior B contests, eventually becoming a linesman, and later, a referee, in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
In addition to her hockey experiences, she has also taken on themantle of educator, teaching Grade 6 and 7 students. Before the 2010s would come to a close, Lieffers enjoyed the opportunity to become part of an exclusive sorority. Joined by Michelle Stapleton, Krista Funke, and Alex Clarke, this empowering all-female officiating crew made history in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. With a Feb. 3, 2019 affair between the Moose Jaw Generals and the Yorkton
Maulers, a 4-1 win for the Maulers, the game marked the first time that a league game was officiated by all females.
A monumental milestone since cherished by Lieffers, like Stapleton, is that she also became a Hockey Canada Level 5 Certified Official. Her reflections include paying homage to an officiating mentor, the late Jason Mercer, it marked an admirable display of gratitude. A former police officer in Moose Jaw and long-time official, Mercer was a proud advocate of providing more opportunities for female officials in the Saskatchewan Hockey Association,
“This AAA game held in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, was a game I will never forget. Not only did I get the chance to skate with three close friends (Michelle Stapleton, Krista Funke, and Alex Clarke) but I also got to be a part of the first-ever all-female crew to officiate a AAA game," she said.
"In the last five years, Saskatchewan Referee division has had significant growth and development within its female program. This was our chance to showcase how far we have come in the last five years. The fact that we were able to put 4 qualified females on the ice at a AAA level was an amazing accomplishment."
"However, this game had underlying significance for us four on the ice and our officials' coach. One of our officiating mentors/coaches, who was also the AAA league assignor for officials, had a
dream of having an all-female crew work a game in his league," she explained. "He had passed away before we had the chance to accomplish this goal. Finally making this dream of his come true made this AAA game even more special to us and there is no doubt that he was in the rink that day, proud of what we accomplished.”
Also notable during Lieffers’ experiences as an official in her home province, several
assignments involved working at the Elgar Petersen Arena, home of the Humboldt Broncos, one
of the member teams of the SJHL. Although the club made national news, attributed to an
unfortunate tragedy that resulted in many lives lost far too soon, from such devastating loss came an outpouring of support from beyond local parameters, as the hockey community, unified in an insufferable moment that shocked the sporting realm, embodied the essence of teamwork.
With survivors rebuilding, families displaying a collective strength and solace which inspired an
entire nation, the spirit of resilience made a profound impression on Lieffers. While the
opportunity to grace the ice for SJHL play marked an essential component in sharpening her
skills and increasing her confidence, the tenacity of the Broncos has provided her with
inspiration, bringing a much more profound meaning to future assignments in the league.
“I have been working in the SJHL as a linesman for the past five seasons. This was a great
opportunity to work faster and more skilled hockey," she told OFFSIDE: MakingHerStory.
"This has allowed me to further develop myself as an official for two reasons; the elevated skill
level and the opportunity to work with and learn from other senior officials within the league. I
am fortunate to be one of few females working in this league as I truly believe this league has
made a crucial impact on my development as an official in both male and female hockey.
It truly is amazing how the team has responded and it is inspiring being on the ice working their games. They have full support within the community and it is shown at every single home
All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated.
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