After graduating from the State University of New York at Oswego in 2009 with a zoology degree, Kendall Hanley headed to an internship at the Dallas Zoo. It was a strategic move as her father lived in Allen, Texas, about 40 minutes north of Dallas.
While she was pursuing a career as a veterinarian, hockey was always in her heart. Hanley was playing a pickup game when she struck up a conversation that changed her path in life. That was about becoming a hockey official.
Now, with 14 years of being an on-ice official at nearly every imaginable level — including the women’s gold-medal game at this year’s Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, Hanley has added new responsibilities: manager of officiating for the North American Hockey League and director of officiating for the North American Prospects Hockey League.
The positions were created for her, and she couldn’t be more excited to help generate and educate the next wave of on-ice officials. Hanley gives credit to Keith Kaval, the NAHL’s director of officiating, for thinking of her for these roles.
“The goal is working to ensure that we’re providing coaching development to officials that are within that system and pipeline and creating that pathway, that ladder of development from the NAPHL up through the North American Hockey League family of leagues,” Hanley said. “So that ladder of development, just as much just as you would see on the playing side. Then ultimately, we are a part of the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program. We also have the goal of helping officials achieve their dreams of working junior hockey, at the Tier II and Tier I levels, so the North American Hockey League as well as the USHL.”
Hanley’s resume is diverse and includes many firsts for a female official. In addition to both levels of college hockey, she has worked games in the USHL, AHL, Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, Premier Hockey Federation and for International Ice Hockey Federation events. She also was bestowed the 2021 Ben Allison Award, which goes to a USA Hockey official who best represents the character and dedication to the game.
It is that wealth of experience and diversity that the 38-year-old Raleigh, North Carolina, native who lives in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, will share in order to attract newcomers to officiating.
“Recruiting and retaining officials, helping be a part of recruiting officials,” Hanley said of one of her primary areas of focus. “We have an exciting new initiative coming out [in May]. That’s going to kind of help players who are coming out of their playing career, excite them about the opportunity to hit the ice in a new role that they haven’t thought about taking that next shift in their hockey careers, hopefully on the ice as officials. And then you know, the other thing would be working with local associations in the grassroots levels to ensure how can we partner together to work together for the betterment of officiating and officiating development.”
As a partner of the NAHL and NAPHL, USA Hockey was happy to see someone with Hanley’s roots and commitment take on these roles.
“Kendall has obviously been involved in our programs for a long time, both on the coaching side, on the hockey director side and then certainly, most recently, on the officiating side as she pursued her goal of working an Olympic Games,” said Matt Leaf, USA Hockey’s director of the Officiating Education Program. “She’s put in a tremendous amount of work. She’s extremely dedicated and committed and goal oriented. So, once she established that goal, she was going to make darn sure that she was going to get that.”
Hanley wants to make sure that young people who might be wrapping up their competitive hockey careers know that there is another step they can take in order to build the game.
“I was officiating, coaching and director of hockey [for the city of Allen] all at the same time,” said Hanley, who then moved to Colorado to lead a select girls program. “As I went down the pipeline, I kind of had to take a step back and realize that I really just wanted to pursue my dreams on the officiating side and figured I can always come back to the coaching side of things. But as far as an on-ice career, it’s only going to last so long. That transition to focus solely on the officiating around 2016, ’17. Then kind of went from there.”
Among Hanley’s barrier-breaking firsts as a female on-ice official are working the NAHL’s Robertson Cup Championship, NAHL Top Prospects Tournament (2019, 2021) and NHL Prospect Tournament (2019 as one of four women, then again in 2021). So being a woman named to a new role with the NAHL-NAPHL was another step forward in hockey.
“I’ve had some incredible role models in my life, whether they were current officials, officials that came up before us, supervisors, coaches, other individuals who had incredible careers that stepped away to help give back,” Hanley said. “I think that’s a critical part of what we do, is doors are opened for us by other people that come before us and then be able to push yourself as far as you can with your goals. Then that next generation will come up behind us and continue to open more doors and achieve and break through levels that we haven't to the stage been able to do so.”
It is that type of philosophy that everyone who has come in contact with Hanley knows will make her a success as she transitions into the next phase of her career.
“I think she's a fantastic hire from a USA Hockey perspective because she brings the knowledge, she brings the passion, she brings the expertise to be able to help the entire game get better and grow and provide opportunities,” Leaf said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo from Getty Images