GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, N.L. – A longtime basketball official from Grand Falls-Windsor walked away with one of the major awards at this year’s Sport Newfoundland and Labrador’s Stars and Legends Awards Gala.
Scott Critch was presented the Official of the Year award, an achievement that goes nicely with his many accomplishments.
It was one that came as a surprise however, and when the Newfoundland and Labrador Basketball Association asked him to provide information for the nomination form, he thought he was helping nominate someone else.
“When they sent me the information to help with the nomination form, I went, ‘who are you nominating?’ She said, ‘I’m nominating you,’” Critch recalled. “I thought they wanted me to fill it out for somebody else.”
His basketball resume is quite impressive. Critch is the only member of the Newfoundland Association of Basketball Officials in the modern International Basketball Federation (FIBA) era to earn a FIBA card and has worked three FIBA tournaments. He is a member of the MUN University Panel where he is the crew chief, and works games in St. John's (also as crew chief) as a member of the National Basketball League of Canada. He has worked numerous University Sport Men's and Women's Championships, as well as the Canada Games and U15 and U17 national tournaments.
He wasn’t even sure if he was going to attend the gala because of a National Basketball League of Canada game that was happening in St. John’s that same night, April 21.
“The NBL was in town and I thought I might have to do a game that night,” said Critch. “I thought, I really have to do this because it’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to receive an award like that.”
Critch has been officiating at some capacity or another for more than 30 years, and still remembers when he got his start.
He was in Grade 9 at Booth Memorial when the basketball coach approached him, asking if he was interested in helping out.
That was the beginning of a journey that would take Critch to some amazing places in this world, where he got to officiate games that featured some of the household basketball names of today.
“The FIBA America’s tournament…you know, it’s so funny, because I was in that tournament with people like Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Kelly Olynyk (Miami Heat) and guys like that,” said Critch. “The first one I went to was in Argentina in 2008 and I had to travel with Team Canada because I was the Canadian rep on the official’s side. We ended up getting stranded, but I got to spend the day with the team, so it was kind of neat.”
Critch, who also had the opportunity to travel to Uruguay to officiate a tournament, gives a lot of credit to a former colleague at Lakewood Academy in Glenwood for taking his officiating to another level.
Critch walked into the staff room one day and asked aloud, ‘does anybody here know anything about basketball?’
Fortunately for Critch, future Newfoundland and Labrador Basketball Association Hall of Famer Jamey Jennings was sitting in the staff room at the time.
“His head just turned,” said Critch. “He pulled me along with him, and Jamey was a very high level official at the time, and we just talked a lot. It seemed like as the years went on...the men’s league in Gander was going pretty strong, so I started doing men’s league game in my first year, and not a lot of people really do that.”
A few summers after that, Critch went to Montreal for more training. He went there for three summers in a row, and after those three years, he knew he wanted to officiate basketball at higher levels.
Back at home in Grand Falls-Windsor, Critch is heavily involved with mentoring young officials, and he wants to do everything he can to help mold the future generation of officials.
He’s happy to help those who want to give back to the game. There’s a message he would like to send to help make sure those young officials get the chance to learn and improve in a supportive gym environment.
“I just don’t like to see abusive behavior coming into our game. I don’t think there’s a spot for it, but, unfortunately, it’s creeping in there,” said Critch. “Fans have to realize their behavior can really have an impact on how many officials there are in any sport, especially at the amateur level. People have to realize that the player is going to miss a shot, a coach is going to make the wrong decision and the official is going to miss a call. People need to realize that the three of us have to work together…it has to happen.”
Sport NL Stars and Legends Awards Gala
• Junior Female Athlete of the Year: Maggie Connors (hockey)
• Junior Male Athlete of the Year: Campbell Clarke (rugby)
• Executive of the Year: Kevin Higgins (baseball)
• Official of the Year: Scott Critch (basketball)
• Team of the Year: Team Gushue (curling)
• Volunteer of the year: David Coates (baseball)
• Coach of the Year: Peter Densmore (rugby)
• Senior Male Athlete of the Year: Liam Hickey (sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball)
• Senior Female Athlete of the Year: Heather Healey (baseball)
NL Sports Hall of Fame Inductees
• Laura Breen in the Athlete category (soccer)
• Benedict Dunne in the Athlete/Builder category (track and field, soccer)
• John McGrath in the Builder category (soccer)
• John Slaney in the Athlete category (hockey)