Special to USAHockey.com
When Krissy Langley looked around the Minnesota History Center, she was humbled and awed.
Langley was being honored as a Breaking Barriers award-winner as part of the 2023 National Girls & Women in Sports Day-Minnesota Celebration on Feb. 1.
“It’s overwhelming to be acknowledged for achievements that I know a lot of incredible women have been doing or are doing and have been recognized for in the past,” Langley said.
But looking around at all of the amazing and talented women being honored made USA Hockey’s referee-in-chief of female development motivated to make sure more women in hockey across the country are honored for their contributions throughout the year. What she saw looking around that room was opportunity.
“I saw it as a call to action,” Langley said.
Her mind was immediately racing. She said she thought of all the women in hockey across the country who don’t get nominated for awards or get the same attention that other athletes might. And she also thought of women who live in areas that don’t have celebrations like the one she was honored at.
“How are all of our districts highlighting girls and women in sports? How can I be promoting and recognizing opportunities amongst our districts to honor them?” she said.
It’s exactly that mentality that made Langley a perfect candidate for the award.
A member of the first girls’ hockey team at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, Langley went on to play NCAA hockey for Wayne State before pursuing opportunities in officiating. She is well aware of how far women’s hockey has come, even in just her lifetime, and she is so thankful for the women who came before her that pushed the game forward but didn’t get the opportunities she did.
She also knows how much more work needs to be done.
“There are still barriers out there for women in hockey. People see how many opportunities there are, but there is still a long way to go,” Langley said.
Langley feels proud of what has been accomplished, and also knows that there can be more opportunities to play, more women officials, more women coaches and more women role models so that the next generation sees women role models in every aspect of the game. Langley has seen the game grow as each new group of women build on the work done by those who came before them. It is what motivates her to want to amplify and recognize the work being done in every district.
Receiving an award for breaking barriers had Langley reflecting on what that phrase means.
She has officiated games in both men’s and women’s college hockey, as well as a number of IIHF events, though she fell short of her goal of officiating in the Olympics.
“It has shaped the person I am today,” Langley said.
The barriers Langley broke in her younger days were in part a matter of timing. She grew up playing on boys’ teams, but came of age at a time of massive growth for women’s hockey when it was added to the Olympics in 1998 and became an NCAA sport in 2000.
The difficulties she has faced as a player and an official have driven her to keep forging ahead as an adult. She is driven to help ensure others don’t have to endure the same heartaches and disappointments, and that the path is a little easier for those coming up behind her. She calls her volunteer role with USA Hockey a passion project.
Langley knows better than most that there are some lessons that people have to learn for themselves, but she hopes that she can use what she’s learned to encourage and support others and make things a little easier for them.
“The experiences that I've had, I love being able to share them and help other people through them,” Langley said. “Or at least learn from my mistakes. I can be there to support the next person. I can be there to encourage the next person.”
“And I can help identify a really great mentor to help work through that — that’s the goal, to connect more people so we can offer support and be positive and recognize when somebody's hurting and how to lift them up.”
She feels one of her most important duties in her role is being a connector, using her network of women in hockey across the country to foster relationships that are safe and supportive and help women in the sport.
It is those connections — and how to honor the girls and women who are pushing the sport forward every day, not just once a year — that inspired her to see her Breaking Barriers Award not as a recognition, but as a benchmark for women’s hockey in moving the sport forward.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.