Port Alberni’s Rob Shick is in Beijing, China for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The National Hockey League’s senior officiating manager—and former Port Alberni resident—has been in Beijing for more than a week now, helping out the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) with some new officiating rules.
Shick is one of two NHL employees sent to Beijing this year. Shick’s role is to help the IIHF oversee the officiating and advise during men’s hockey games. The IIHF, explained Shick, has a new, modified rulebook this year.
“There are lots of things in there like coaches challenges, video challenges that I’m helping out with,” Shick said. “I’m making sure the checks and balances are in place.”
For Shick, who is a former NHL referee, this will be his third time participating in the Olympic games. He also played a role in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. It was “quite an honour” to be asked to take part in the Beijing Olympics, said Shick.
But it’s definitely the most unusual Olympic tournament Shick has taken part in.
“We’re in a bubble here,” explained Shick. “There’s no contact with any of the Chinese people.”
A 34-hour flight from his home in Florida saw Shick land in an airport “totally isolated” from the rest of the public. Shick is currently staying at a hotel in Beijing, but has very few interactions with other people. Workers are dressed in hazmat suits, and some of them have been replaced by talking robots that disinfect the hotel rooms and serve food.
Olympic participants even have their own private lane on the highway for travelling to and from venues.
“They take COVID-19 very seriously here,” said Shick. “It’s been an interesting experience to say the least. I have my room service brought up by a robot,” he added with a laugh.
“We see the architecture from the bus and it’s beautiful. But getting out and doing any site-seeing—that’s not possible.”
This is Shick’s second time inside of a “bubble” for hockey—he also participated in the NHL’s COVID-19 restart in summer 2020.
Shick said he is looking forward to returning to Port Alberni this summer, when the annual Charity Golf Classic returns to the Alberni Golf Club for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared.
“I’ll have lots of stories to share,” he said.