Krissy Langley started officiating hockey games at age 11, seeing it as a great way to get more ice time and view hockey from a different perspective. Plus, anything her brother, 18 months older than her, was doing, Langley wanted to do even better.
Langley had officiated hockey at nearly every level, from the WCHA, national and international tournaments, the Minnesota State High School League tournaments and more. This winter, she took on a volunteer role as USA Hockey’s referee-in-chief for female development, tasked with recruiting, developing, retaining and improving the overall experience for female officials.
We caught up with Langley to talk about her experience, goals, new initiatives and more.
Stripes: How did officiating as a youth shape your game as a player? What were some of the benefits you saw early on when you were reffing?
Krissy Langley: The number one benefit is that your skating dramatically improves. There’s power-skating clinics that you can take. Skating without a hockey stick requires more muscles. You’re not leaning over and holding on to your stick, like a crutch. So one, skating improvements, but also there’s added awareness, anticipation of play, knowing where a pass could be going and reading and reacting.
Stripes: What made you excited about your new position?
Langley: The first thoughts were, ‘Wow, that’s exciting. Finally.’ There are 16 referee-in-chiefs already, and they’re all men. Here’s an opportunity for hopefully a woman to be at the table, have a seat at the table. I was excited to get there.
Stripes: What work have you accomplished so far in the position?
Langley: I’d say we’re just at the beginning — it’s infant stages right now. It’s building relationships. It’s identifying who’s doing work already. A lot of people have been patient with me because they are ready to get going. We’re working on so many things. There’s a million wonderful ideas. From the officiating standpoint, if people have ideas, don’t be afraid to reach out.
Stripes: Do you have some main areas of focus going forward? What do you really hope to accomplish?
Langley: I’m really in the learning phase. A lot of listening and a lot of learning about what's going on. The second big component is recruiting. One big ask is, we see these officials in the end of their seasons. Our seasons are winding down here with tournament time. Who are they going to invite to join them as a referee next year?
Stripes: What are some of the biggest needs?
Langley: There’s so much abuse that officials take, and they just want to be done. The new reporting portal developed by Massachusetts Hockey should help curb abuse and more initiatives will follow. Recruiting nationally for USA Hockey, we only have 6% of the officials that are female. In Minnesota, we have 12%. So what’s going on in Minnesota that we have 12% versus the national average? How can we take what Minnesota is doing and amplify that around the country?
Stripes: What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming an official, but not quite sure yet?
Langley: This is a family. I do Sunday dinners with my close friends, and guess what? They’re my referee friends. I’ve got friends for life that I’ve met through refereeing. I’m sure they will feel the same way about their hockey family, their teammates that they’re playing on the same hockey team with. This is the same type of family. It’s the best seat in the house. That’s a key phrase that a lot of people will say. You’re on the ice for some of the best games in the world.
Stripes: Are there good opportunities for females?
Langley: Absolutely. We now have female officials that are inspiring and breaking those glass ceilings. We have female officials that are doing preseason NHL games, working in the American Hockey League. I see a beautiful opportunity if somebody wants it. If they’re turning 16 or 17, they're a phenomenal hockey player, they’re enjoying it, you know what? Get on the ice as a ref. Learn a different perspective of the game. How many kids can say they’re working international hockey? The joy of being a woman is that the opportunities are there.
Krissy’s Call to Arms: 4 Reasons to Register
Best Seat in the House
You get to be up close and personal with the game you love. When you intimately understand the ‘why’ behind the rules, your perspective on the game changes.
The power skating necessary to be a hockey official drastically improves your skills.
Working as an official builds your confidence. You learn about conflict resolution and how to handle difficult situations. Everything you do as an official can be applied to a professional career.
Community and Mentorship
More than anything, reffing offers a whole new sense of community and two-way mentorship. You get mentors when you start out; as you progress, you get to mentor others.
“The opportunities are there,” Langley says.
The best time to sign up is June or July—USAhockey.com has a link to register. Read through the criteria, register, and attend an in-person seminar.
“Many of the girls’ state (and national) tournaments are focused on having women only working those games,” she says. “Look at the Olympics, all women working women’s games. This is a great time to get started and see where it can take you.”