Monday, February 09, 2015

Youth Ice Hockey Officiating

Anyone that knows me, knows that I am a huge hockey fan. It definitely rivals my love for football. It may be hard to imagine, but I have trouble deciding which I like more, the Steelers or the Penguins. It's hard to really judge though, because the seasons are so different with 16 games versus 82. Anyway, that's not really what this post is about.

Matt Hillson may not remember this, but not too long after we graduated from GW, probably about 10 years ago, I got this crazy idea that I wanted to be a hockey official. One day when I was out for a bike ride, I happened to ride past Mt. Vernon Rec Center Ice Rink. I decided to stop in and see if they had any information on ice hockey programs and refereeing. At that time, Kettler wasn't even in the picture, and the only other rink that I knew about was Ft. Dupont where GW used to play.

The information that I got led me to the USA Hockey website and I found out that August and September were when the registration and seminars for the next hockey season were held. Of course this was sometime in the spring, probably at the height of the NHL playoffs, so that was a long ways away. By the time the end of the summer rolled around, I was not thinking about hockey yet, as the Steelers were gearing up to play! So several years went by and I always missed the cut-off dates.

Eventually I got involved in some other great organizations and activities, and the USA Hockey seminars just fell off my radar. Until this past August when I was reading an article online about youth hockey and it reminded me about wanting to become a ref. So back to the USA Hockey website I went, and lo and behold, there was a seminar in September that I was able to attend. The seminars are free to take and they are promoted as a way for new officials to gauge interest.

I enjoyed the seminar, despite the fact that my skating was a little rusty, since I hadn't been on ice since probably Feb of last year. I decided to take the plunge and register for Level 1 and take the test. It's an open book, multiple choice, 50 question test, so there should be no reason that anyone fails, and I didn't. After that, it was a matter of getting some equipment, a uniform, and joining the Southeastern Hockey Officials Association. The next step was to reach out to some of the schedulers to introduce myself so that they would begin to schedule me for games.

Whistle, uniform, and crest ready!

By this point it was the beginning of November and the season was in full swing. I was able to get a 10 and under Mite game right before Thanksgiving. The Mite games are played with half the ice surface and no icing or offsides, 4 skaters to a side, and one official. I handled that game pretty well, but definitely learned a few things in the process. In December I was able to get two games, a Mite game and a 12 and under Squirt game. Fortunately, I was working the Squirt game with an experienced official. The wild card, which made me even more nervous, was that my parents and sister were in town and wanted to come watch! It wasn't a terrible start to my reffing career, but I wasn't a star either!

Watching the play from the blue line

To wrap up this longer than anticipated story, I have done about 16 games so far and I am generally getting more comfortable as time goes on. This past weekend, I had four games on my schedule. Unfortunately, it started off pretty badly on Sat night with an upper level Squirt game that I worked with another first year official. It was an ugly game and we let it get a bit too out of hand, but no one really got hurt and it was a learning experience for me. The two games on Sun morning were much better and I had a great partner to work with. Then, on Sunday afternoon I got to experience sled hockey from an officials viewpoint. It was amazing to see those youths out there on the ice giving it their all.

We'll see where this journey takes me, but so far despite some travails, it has been a fun way to spend my weekends this winter! I'll leave you with a parting shot of me looking the part, with my wonderful mustache!

Watching the play with my family behind me

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