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Krissy Langley is Learning From Her Two Roles, Hoping to Grow Women’s Hockey in the Process

By Nicole Haase, 05/20/24, 3:45PM MDT


Langley works with USA Hockey and the NCAA to develop on-ice officials.

Krissy Langley, USA Hockey’s referee-in-chief for female development, has continued to blaze new trails since taking over the volunteer position at the start of 2022. 

Last season, she took on an additional role, this time as the NCAA national coordinator of women's ice hockey officiating. She also welcomed her first child, Zach, in December. 

It was a whirlwind of a first year, holding the complementary positions while juggling new motherhood. While Zach necessitated that Langley limit the amount of travel that she did throughout this first season, her maternity leave gave her a lot of time to watch games, both through live streams and video review after games happened. 

“It was a goal of mine to observe as many games as possible, Langley said.“I spent the whole first year learning — getting to know the supervisors, the leagues, how everything intertwined. It was important to understand the landscape because USA Hockey works very differently than the NCAA. Neither is better or worse, they are just different. I would say it was a really impactful year. I learned a lot. Most importantly, we are all here for the growth of women’s hockey.” 

One of the biggest lessons of her first season has been about connectivity. She never imagined the support she would receive from NCAA colleagues holding similar roles for different sports like baseball and basketball, or how their experience could help shape her own. 

Support for one another — whether that’s a student-athlete or coach confused by the rules, a colleague looking to think outside the box or an official not feeling confident — looks different for each person, Langley said. Therefore, she’s working on herself to be a better listener and communicator so that she’s meeting those experiencing challenges in a place that provides them the help they need. 

A major objective for the NCAA is to increase the pool of women’s ice hockey officials. It is a goal that Langley is perfectly positioned to achieve. Recruiting former collegiate players to become officials has long been a goal for USA Hockey, and Langley is passionate about showing young women that while their World Championship or Olympic dreams as players might be waning, they can recalibrate those goals and officiate in those competitions instead. 

USA Hockey has partnered with the North American Hockey League in an initiative called Next Shift. 

Next Shift targets players who might be exhausting their competitive playing days yet still want to remain part of the game they love by developing them into on-ice officials. Langley believes this framework can extend to NCAA players, and her work between the two groups ensures that new officials are mentored and encouraged. The hope is that a much larger number of former players see officiating as a viable route for their hockey careers. 

“Can USA Hockey help be a feeder into college officiating programs? Can we recruit through USA Hockey? I'm pretty excited about where that can go,” she said. “And if we can grow the numbers of hockey-savvy officials that'd be great.”

When she is most successful in her role with USA Hockey, Langley said she is boosting up female officials at any stage that they're on, from the youth level up to NCAA, PWHL and IIHF games. Her role, she said, is to support them, and she doesn’t ever want that to change. Within USA Hockey, support comes in the form of education, mentoring and observation

Coaching seminars shouldn’t just be for the people leading a team, she said. The philosophy of learning and improving and continuing education that extends to hockey coaches should be no different for hockey officials. At the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Utica, New York, Langley noted that the officials received shirts marking them as the “11th team” participating in the tournament.

“With the IIHF, every game is observed and coached, and the officials have film breakdown and they're trying their best to adjust their positions to get the right call,” she said. “If you ask any NCAA officials, how many times are you observed? How many times have you gotten evaluated this year? That number is too low.”

Langley has worked on fostering collaborations and relationships and — as someone holding these two big roles on top of a full-time job and new motherhood — is learning how to delegate and leverage the network of officials and supervisors across the country to help everyone succeed. Her time in management at her day job with General Mills in Minneapolis taught her that the most successful managers work through others. 

She wants to be involved, but simply cannot do it all, so she’s working on setting up systems for review, evaluation and education throughout the country — something that USA Hockey does well, but has been missing from NCAA officiating. 

Coming out of the April NCAA coaches meetings in Florida, Langley is energized with a number of areas of focus that officials have told her are important — from clarifying body contact and high sticking rules to improved education materials distributed before the first day of practice. 

“As coordinator, I am collectively taking all these insights and trying to pave the path forward,” Langley said. “I have a USA Hockey hat spinning with ideas and an NCAA hat spinning with ideas and then it is figuring out how to put them forward together in an impactful way.

“These roles can work together, even if it ends up being two different people in the future. I am trying to create this way forward to make collaboration and excellence possible in the future. The biggest barrier is people stuck in their old ways. There are people working on this path forward. Whoever is in the role, they must be flexible that there are more ways to do the work. It might shift every year. We must have a growth mindset. I cannot say it enough, we are all here for the growth of women’s hockey.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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