Bill Hagans is not your typical computer technician.
When most people his age (52) would choose to relax, the local resident suits up as a Canadian Football League official during his time off from work.
The married father of three is entering his 20th season as a professional referee, and is living proof that dreams of professional sports can be pursued outside of a career in athletics.
“I was too small to get drafted and go pro,” Hagans says. “But I wanted to stay connected to football in some way.”
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Hagans had been a star quarterback and city champion at Toronto’s oldest high school, Jarvis Collegiate. He would later play amateur ball across the country in the Canadian Junior Football League.
“I had a passion and knowledge for the game, and I had to quit playing, so I signed up for local (referee) training,” Hagans says. “You start by learning the ropes, covering high school and amateur games.”
Taking place every May, the CFL’s annual officiating conference allows for select amateurs to make the jump to the professional level. Hagans made this jump in 1988, and now covers 20 CFL games across the country each season.
He has filled several of the CFL officiating crew positions in the past, but currently serves as an on-field umpire.
Being a veteran of over 330 CFL contests, Hagans also now takes part in the training of new amateurs each May, while continuing to brush-up on his own expertise.
In fact, he recalls training NFL officials who traveled to Canada when the CFL experimented with American expansion in 1993.
“We had about four or five American teams joining and we needed more refs,” Hagans says. “I remember helping the guys who came down, like Tony Michalek, and Bo Cheek, and guess what those two were officiating at the Super Bowl on Sunday!”
Despite Hagans’ success, the seven-time Grey Cup official remains humble, staying true to his roots.
“I did last year’s Grey Cup in Toronto which was cool, but I still do the odd high school game when I have time – some local schools like Cedarbrae, and Mowat,” he says.
Hagans also volunteers as a head coach for the Cedar Hill Rebels, of the Scarborough Hockey Association, and shows no signs of slowing down. He said when he steps on the field, he feels young again.
“Well, I love football, the competition, the crowd, and the players. I love staying active,” Hagans added.
During the off-seasons, he plays hockey, jogs and goes to the gym on a regular basis to stay in shape.
“I want to be ready for the opening kick-off. I’ve got to keep up out there.”