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Specialized ProfessionIamA female hockey referee who has worked all levels of women's hockey, including professional women's hockey and the Canadian Olympic Team. AMA!

Feb 28th 2018 by frozennie • 20 Questions • 237 Points

Hi! As the title says, I'm a female hockey referee. I am 21 years old and I've been officiating hockey for nearly ten years. In the women's game I regularly work in the college/university leagues and the CWHL, the women's professional hockey league in Canada. I have also officiated for the Canadian Women's Olympic Team during their cross-Canada playoffs.

I also work men's hockey, which is substantially harder to move up in, especially as a female. The highest level of men's hockey I regularly work is Major Midget hockey, which is an elite provincial league for 15-17 year old players. I've also attended international tournaments in Canada for men's hockey at the Bantam (13-14 year old) and Midget level.

I work all levels right down to novice/mites/tykes, especially in my hometown. On average I skate 3-4 games a week and otherwise I'm a full time student.

My proof is here: https://imgur.com/a/acEkl I can submit further proof to the moderators such as photos of me on the ice or footage of games I've worked, but as team's logos/names are easy to google and give away my location with, I'd rather not share it publicly!

Q:

It's got to be asked, Do you know what Goaltender interference is? And can you explain it to us please?

:D

A:

My understanding is this: goaltender interference is when a player of the attacking team deliberately interferes with the goaltender's ability to make the save, OR if the attacking player makes no attempt to stop themselves from making contact with the goalie after being hit/pushed. So if the defending player hits the attacking player into their goalie, the attacking player has to at least make a visible attempt to TRY and not hit the goalie.

That being said, I have NO fucking idea what the NHL review is doing with the goaltender interference at times. I can't predict is any better than you could! Remember that the NHL is a game, but it's also an entertainment industry - they want the games to be exciting and get people talking.


Q:

This doesn’t fill me with hope

A:

Me neither, friend. The NHL need to revamp how the do goaltender interference for sure.


Q:

I like your answer, I just want to remove one word

goaltender interference is when a player of the attacking team deliberately interferes with the goaltender's ability to make the save

Penalties should be called regardless of intent, especially since your second clause considers contact by the other team.

A:

You're right. What I was trying to get at was if there was an attempt to avoid hitting the goalie, it shouldn't be called. Hockey is fast and sometimes you find yourself careening toward the goalie (like if they jump out in front of you or you make a blind turn) and in these situations you should make every effort to avoid hitting the goalie, and if you do and the impact reasonably wasn't entirely your fault, it shouldn't be called.


Q:

Is this a case of "no goal but also not a penalty"?

A:

Hard to say without seeing the play - possibly, but not always. For example, if the defending team pushed the attacking player onto the goalie, and the attacking player tried to avoid hitting the goalie but couldn't and a goal was scored, the goal would be good because it was the defending player's fault that the contact with the goalie occurred.


Q:

I've got so many questions for you.... What do you study? Do you see yourself working as a full-time referee in the future? What was your most memorable game that you participated in? What was the funniest or most embarrassing moment as a referee? How could we make ice hockey more attractive to girls?

Thanks for answering any of these 😊

A:

Hi! I study environmental science in school, which has absolutely nothing to do with refereeing, I just like it! I'm graduating in a year and hoping to do a Master's degree next.

For women there is basically 0 opportunities to work full time as a referee. I already work the women's professional leagues and they pay about 60-100$ per game and there's about 30 games per team per season, so even if somehow I worked every single game I wouldn't be able to live off that. The other option is to pursue a career in men's hockey, which is incredibly difficult for a woman to do. As I said, I work the Major Midget men's league, which is already difficult for women to get into. For context, that league in my area has ten teams and about 350 games all season. Each game requires 3 officials, so there are about 1050 spots open in those games all year. There are three women who work that league in my zone and we each do 1-2 games per month, so say on average about 8 a season each, or 24 of the spots, or about 2% of all of them. In leagues higher than that, female officials basically drop to nothing. It's not impossible to get higher (and I'm part of a small wave of young female officials who are trying to break this hockey "glass ceiling") but its an upwards battle and I don't think within my career there will be any women working full time in any professional or semi-professional men's hockey leagues, but hopefully someday!

I've participated in a lot of memorable games! I would say the most memorable was the provincial gold medal Bantam game I did at the end of last season - it was the first time in many, many years that my town's elite team had been in the gold medal game, and the entire rink was packed to capacity, which is about 2000 people. The energy in the arena was insane and I had the opportunity to work with two of my best friends. Overall that was a great experience and I was honoured to be a part of it.

I've also had a lot of embarrassing moments... I'm nicknamed Bambi Legs because I'm tall and gangly and I fall down a lot. Once I lost my footing and fell in a way that I slid directly into the net and the goalie of a team and he fell on top of me. Oops.

Female enrollment in ice hockey is on the rise, which is awesome! Continuing to have the Olympic team travel around Canada is great for exposure, and just continuing to grow the women's game at the top level and working more to get it out there in the public eye (broadcasting the pro women's games, for example) is a great way to introduce little girls to hockey in my opinion. If they never see grown up women playing the game at the top level, they can't imagine themselves doing it!

Thanks for the questions!


Q:

I fall down a lot

Then you must have to buy your fellow officials a lot of beer ;)

A:

Hahaha you're right, I'm usually buying the beer post game!


Q:

Do you put pineapple on your pizza?

A:

No! Gross!


Q:

You're invited to watch any hockey game at my house with this response

A:

Us proper pizza eaters have to stick together!


Q:

How did you put yourself at a successful position at such a young age?

A:

Not to be cliche, but a lot of hard work and a lot of luck. I never intended to be an elite referee - I actually quit when I was fifteen for a year before coming back because I hated it less than I hated working retail or fast food. Until I was seventeen, I skated around on the weekend for a couple bucks and it ended there.

I happened to take my yearly clinic outside my zone the year I turned eighteen because I was late registering, and during the on-ice portion the instructor liked my hustle and pulled me aside. I'm from a rural community, and he said that there was a program in the city near us that's always looking for dedicated young officials to come referee elite hockey in the city and he thought I fit the bill. I really didn't at the time - I was skating around trying to show up the younger kids at the clinic, honestly. However I was interested in the opportunity to go to the city and try my hand at elite hockey, so I agreed.

From that point on I worked my ass off - I had about a month before someone would be able to come from the city to watch me, so I took as many games as I could and begged my older referee friends to come watch me and give me advice. The supervisor liked what she saw and I was invited to the city to work some lower-level elite games. That was a huge step for me, and I continued to skate as many games as I could and ask my seniors for help to get better, and I hit the ground running once I started skating in the city.

In the past two and a half years I've gone from entering the program to being right at the top with the best female officials in my zone (which includes the city I began officiating in and the entire surrounding area) and that was mostly through watching what the people above me did and copying them. I went to games of my new friends in the senior program and watched what they did. I kept a notebook in my bag of all the tips and advice I've been given and I review it before each game to choose one thing to improve upon for that game. Once your name gets out there, especially as a girl (because you stand out more), things start snowballing and you start getting invited to different events and tournaments, and then other people see you there and invite you to their events and tournaments, and so forth and so on...

Basically, I would say that I am continually reaching for small goals that are within reach. First I wanted to get in the program - then I wanted to skate the mid tier hockey in the program - then I wanted to be ranked in the top half of officials at the end of the season, etc. By setting small, achievable goals and working towards them I've climbed a lot of the ladder very quickly. I've also been lucky enough to be seen by the right people at the right time and to have been invited to the right tournaments and events. As a senior official now I also work to give back to my hometown by mentoring first and second year officials, which helps keep me grounded in the basics of the game!

Edit: I would also like to add that I'm nowhere near the top of my craft/an expert by any means! There are many, many officials, both female and male, that are light years more experienced and talented than I am. I am just a short way into my journey as an official and I'm always eager for new opportunities and experiences to help me grow as an official and a person.


Q:

I like your approach, just from reading your response you are driven yet humble. You hated working in retail? lmao tell me about it, it's soul crushing work.

A:

Thank you very much! Yeah, reffing can be soul crushing at times, but at least I can skate away if I need to. In retail I just had to stand there and let my soul be crushed with a smile on my face.


Q:

lmao I just had my first 9 hours and I collapsed on my couch exhausted, how did you deal with toxic customers?

A:

Mostly I just vented about them later. Obviously I dealt with them pretty poorly since I couldn't handle it anymore and had to leave the industry, haha. Best of luck to you!


Q:

Does anyone ever transition to or from figure skating? I feel like there was a movie at some point

A:

Not any officials that I know of! I played hockey with a girl who was also a competitive figure skater when I was much younger (like 9-10) but since then I personally haven't met any competitive female players that figure skated past the age of 5-6.


Q:

Thanks for your reply, it's great to hear an informed perspective. I like the idea of changing coaching strategies to have college women keep their heads up, other then being ready for contact that could lead to improved play making abilities.

Just a quick follow up question inspired by your reply, how much of a problem are parents at the minor level? Parents seems to be getting more aggressive/involved every year, do you think this is true? Do you have any idea why this is or how we can change it? Thanks again for doing this ama!

A:

Parents are definitely... uh, out of control at times. I can't really say if it's been getting worse over the years, but there are definitely many, many examples I can think of of times that parents have totally lost their cool.

A particular example I always think about is the time I was about an hour early to my game one afternoon. The game before was novice (7-8 year olds) and the referees were two first year, thirteen year old kids I knew. I was sitting in the stands watching the game and the parents were just acting like complete buffoons. They were yelling, screaming, and cursing at the referees the entire time I was there. Finally near the end of the game I turned to the mom beside me and said, "You know, you shouldn't yell at the refs. They're just thirteen year old kids." She replied with, "Well, they deserve it because of the shitty fucking game they're reffing!" I said something about how it actually looked like they were doing a great job, to which she told me to fuck off because I clearly knew nothing about hockey. I just smiled and left and emailed a complaint about that team.

Anyway, I think my biggest problem is that parents want to blame everyone else for everything. They don't seem to want to teach their kids personal responsibility or how to overcome obstacles. Instead of telling their children, "sometimes things are unfair and you have to keep your head up and work through it," they want to teach them, "it's that fucking ref's fault you guys lost the game he's a total fuck head." In my mind, teaching your children to blame and curse the officials for everything that doesn't go that way is setting a poor example for life. In life, people make mistakes and injustices will happen against you and you can't just complain and bitch about it. Successful teams and players are those who work their best through whatever is happening to them.


Q:

What kind of music do you like?

A:

I like all kinds of music! Mostly I listen to pop music, but my gf is always trying to diversify my music tastes by showing me different smaller/alternative artists.


Q:

the most intense game you can recall?

A:

Most of the intense games I officiate are lower level games. Players, parents, and coaches are much more verbally abusive at these levels, whereas at higher levels everybody is professional enough to keep their cool. Recently I did a lower level midget game between two rival teams and every play the players were just trying to run each other over and everyone was yelling the entire game. That was the most intense game that I've done recently.


Q:

what got you into officiating? Can you recall that moment that you were like "Hey, I can be one too?"

A:

I answered this above - my mom wanted me to stop asking her for money to go to the mall when I was 12, so she signed me up for reffing so I could make my own money. The moment where I thought that I maybe could really make it as an official was when I was accepted into the elite program in my city - I also outlined that in an above answer. Thanks for your question!


Q:

What is your relationship with the players? Are you all on an even keel? Or is there a sort of power struggle?

Thanks!

A:

Generally we try to be as friendly as possible with the players! I'm always trying to have healthy and light conversation with the players on the ice. Some players like to chat, some don't. There are times when players get aggressive or rude and unfortunately then we have to step away from being a friend and back into the role of being in charge.


Q:

Started reffing when you were 11? Gtfo

A:

At age 12! In BC, where I started reffing, this is the age you're allowed to begin at (http://www.bchockey.net/Officiating/Levels.aspx). Most kids start around age 12-13.


Q:

That is crazy! How old are the players your reffing at that age?

A:

Generally as a 12-13 year old you ref novice (7-8) and maybe atom (9-10) if you're good by the end of your first season.


Q:

Nice!

A:

Thanks! We definitely do, most refs at elite levels are wearing shin pads, a girdle, a cup/jill, and elbow pads at a minimum.