When Pat Myers began refereeing at 14 years old, his post-game reward was a visit to Tim Hortons.
The trips have gotten a lot better since then.
The Pain Court native worked at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge recently in Victoriaville and Drummondville, Que.
Good reviews during the round-robin landed him a job in the third-place game. He was awarded the same bronze medal given to the winning team.
“You always want to shoot for the gold, but you're happy with the bronze, like anybody,” said Myers, 25, who now lives in Thorold. “You know you worked hard to earn it.”
It was his first international assignment, but maybe not his last. He's now on the radar of Hockey Canada and the International Ice Hockey Federation.
“The fact that he got the bronze game bodes very well in the future,” said Rick Morphew, the Ontario Hockey Federation referee-in-chief.
Myers is a Level 5 official. He's on pace to soon reach the top tier, Level 6, which would make him eligible for the world's biggest tournaments.
He's been a referee for two years in the Ontario Hockey League. He's also called games for six years in the Ontario Hockey Association – four as a linesman and the past two as a referee.
“He has great potential,” Morphew said. “He's being watched by the NHL. He puts a lot back into the program, both as a supervisor of minor hockey and how he develops other officials.”
The offer for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge from Dec. 29 to Jan. 4 surprised Myers.
Like the players, officials are scouted all season.
“It didn't take me long to answer,” Myers said. “For yourself, it's a great honour when you think of how many others would like to be in your shoes.”
He worked six games, including one exhibition.
The tournament is the first step in Hockey Canada's Program of Excellence. It's where 19 of 23 players on this year's national junior team first wore the Maple Leaf.
Myers has always wanted to work at the highest level.
As a teenager doing Silver Stick games in Chatham, he wanted to officiate the championship. Now he wants to do the Sutherland Cup and OHL finals.
He's thinking about the NHL, too, but not getting his hopes up yet.
“You've got to take it one step at a time, obviously,” said Myers, who refereed Game 5 in the 2012 Sutherland Cup. “You learn most things through experience.
“The thing is, there are a lot of other officials shooting for these same goals, too. I'm not the only one thinking of these same aspirations.”
Myers is well-liked in the OHL, Morphew said.
“It's just his confidence that he has both as a young man off the ice and how he treats people,” he said. “He's always been that way. He has a polite nature but also an authoritative nature on the ice.”
Myers worked the Toronto Maple Leafs' Blue and White intrasquad game Wednesday.
He went to the CHL/NHL Development Camp last month in Calgary, attending seminars and working two Western Hockey League games.
“I have to keep trying to better myself,” said the Ecole Secondaire de Pain Court graduate. “If I don't improve, there's no reason for them to take me for future assignments.”
Myers follows in the footsteps of his father, Fern, who officiated minor hockey for 13 years before retiring this season.
His dad said it was a good job he'd enjoy more than flipping burgers. He could make a few bucks, learn the game and get some exercise.
The hardest part may have been getting out of bed at seven on Saturday mornings.
“I was just happy to get a hot chocolate from Tim Hortons out of the deal,” Myers said.
He played travel hockey with the Chatham Cobras through his minor midget season. Several teammates later played with the Maroons and in the OHL.
“Their way of moving up in hockey was to the junior ranks,” Myers said. “I did, too, just wearing stripes instead of a team logo.”
His competitive career ended with two midget seasons in Tilbury where he had a broken collarbone, broken fibula and concussion.
“I don't know if it was God's way of saying, 'Your playing days should be over soon,'” he said.
Myers first got a taste of the OHL while majoring in recreation and leisure at Brock University. He spent four years with the Niagara IceDogs as a video replay technician.
He now works for the City of St. Catharines at their seniors' centres for 20 to 30 hours a week.
The part-time job leaves him available for 12 to 15 OHL and OHA games each month, along with his work as a minor hockey referee and supervisor.
He's at an arena six days a week.
“I feel just as much a part of the game as a referee as I did when I was playing,” Myers said.