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Big and Broad Topics Discussed at this Year’s Advanced Officiating Symposium

By Paul Batterson, 08/07/23, 3:30PM MDT


Multiple officials with NHL experience led sessions at the three-day event in Columbus, Ohio

Whenever he officiates a hockey game in Kalamazoo, Michigan, William Hobbs feels the eyes of his 8-year-old daughter, Makenna, are upon him.

Hobbs left the annual USA Hockey's Advanced Officiating Symposium — held July 28-30 in Columbus, Ohio — encouraged about how the organization is growing the game for female players, coaches and officials.

“As the father of an 8-year-old girl, the panel discussion on women’s officiating was particularly beneficial,” Hobbs said. “My daughter loves to come to my games and watch me officiate. Part of the discussion was trying to give women role models to look up to. You want them to feel like ‘Hey I could do that. I could be that person.’”

The total number of women playing hockey has grown by 75 percent over the last decade, growing from 66,692 players during the 2011-2012 season to 87,971 during the 2021-22 season.

“[The growth of women’s hockey] is outpacing the guys side every year,” said Katie Holmgren, USA Hockey’s director of program services.

Holmgren served as a moderator of the women officiating discussion with Kendall Hanley, Krissy Langley and Joy Johnston. 

Getting more women involved with coaching and officiating was one of a plethora of topics covered at the symposium. 

“We openly admit that this program is not about the nuts and bolts of officiating,” said B.J. Ringrose, USA Hockey’s manager of officiating and education, who helped organize the symposium with Dave LaBuda and Steve Thompson. “We don’t spend much time talking about the fundamentals or positioning or walking through the rules. Things go a little bit bigger and a little bit broader than that.”

The conference attracted 120 participants from as far away as Hawaii and Rhode Island. LaBuda said one of the reasons they chose Columbus as the host site was because of the city’s accessibility. 

“When we select locations, we look at a couple of factors,” LaBuda said. “We looked at the officiating communities around here and most people could drive here in three hours or less.

“One of the biggest challenges of putting on an event like this is logistics. Our first goal is to get people who we feel will be interesting and have a lot of credibility.”

The symposium offered 18 different sessions for participants including three led by former NHL officials.

Tom Chmielewski, who has logged over 500 games at the professional level, led a seminar titled: “The Referee – The Unique Skill Set and Mindset.” 

Andy McElman, who had a 23-year career as a linesman in the NHL, directed a discussion labeled: “Hope vs. Courage.”

Bryan Pancich, who worked more than 800 regular-season games and more than 50 playoff games in the NHL, conducted a session called: “The Linesman – Not as Simple as You Think!”

Additionally, the conference had three panel discussions on the hockey community, officiating and coaching. 

Time was allotted for questions at every session to keep them as interactive for the audience as possible. 

“We wanted to have a lot of breaks to give participants a chance to pick the brains of the presenters and ask them a few questions,” Ringrose said. “We encouraged all presenters to make themselves accessible in case people wanted to ask them questions or bounce ideas off them.

“We want people to learn from the journeys that some of our most successful officials have made and the experiences they have had.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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