On Friday, June 30 Brian Chrupalo will put down his badge for the stripes to begin officiating another Canadian Football League season. Chrupalo is the league’s first-ever Metis official and has spent much of his life enforcing the rules.
Chrupalo has been a referee in the CFL for the past 13 seasons. He’s also been a Winnipeg police officer in the neighbourhood he grew up in for the past 24 years.
“There are rules for both. That’s the important part for me. And there are consequences on the streets and on the field,” Chrupalo said. “I watch them and monitor situations and if there’s someone operating outside of those rules I have to call a foul.”
Chrupalo sees his policing work on the streets as bridging the gap between police and people. Now he’s bridging the gap between the CFL and NFL after it was recently announced he will be part of the NFL exchange program.
“It’s quite an honour to be selected by the CFL and to go and represent the rest of the officials is quite an accomplishment I think,” he said.
This is just the second year for the program, which has six CFL officials heading south to officiate an NFL pre-season game in August. Chrupalo just got back from a training camp in Green Bay.
Chrupalo has officiated three Grey Cup championships including last year’s game in Toronto.
Growing up in north Winnipeg
Chrupalo said there’s a sign at the beginning of the neighbourhood that welcomes people travelling across a bridge from downtown into north Winnipeg.
“It’s been there for ever and it’s a bit of a welcome to the north end,” he said.
Chrupalo has seen that sign since he was kid. It’s where he grew up.
“I grew up in Manitoba housing. There are some socio-economic problems that come up in that area,” Chrupalo said.
Despite some of the challenges facing the community, there’s no other place Chrupalo would have wanted to have grown up and now police, pointing directly to its diverse range of people to being as its strength.