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Q-and-A with Andrew Bruggeman: Grab a Whistle and Try Officiating

By Steve Mann, 06/14/24, 2:00PM MDT

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Andrew Bruggeman is the new Coordinator of Youth Officiating Development for USA Hockey. He joins USA Hockey as they work to drive home the mission of promoting the development of grassroots officials across the country. A veteran on-ice official who has worked a variety of high-profile events across all levels, including the gold medal game at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Bruggeman shared his thoughts on his new role and why enhancing education and development are so important for the future of our sport. 

USA Hockey: How did you end up at USA Hockey in this role?

Andrew Bruggeman: I made the decision to take a lesser role on the ice and also really wanted to stay involved in the game and in the officiating world. Some colleagues of mine were already working for USA Hockey and made it known to me that there would be a position opening and I thought it would be a great fit.

USA Hockey: What made this position so attractive to you?

Bruggeman: A lot of it is the ability to give back and help grow our grassroots officials. I had great mentors growing up and think it’s really important that we give back and try to help officials the same way we were helped. Now that it’s my day-to-day job, I have the opportunity to do that.

USA Hockey: What is the mission of the Coordinator of Youth Officiating Development? 

Bruggeman: Specifically, we’ll be working with our districts and affiliates and providing support, whether through additional education or simply being present for them and engaging with them. It’s a more boots-on-the-ground approach, as opposed to just sending them info. Our goal is to be onsite with our local people more often and really drive home what we’re trying to accomplish from an education standpoint.

USA Hockey: Why is promoting the development of grassroots officials so important to the overall officiating landscape and hockey in general?

Bruggeman: The big thing is if we support our people, we’re more likely to get them to be long-term officials. It’s no secret that there have been issues retaining people. We want to offer education, additional training opportunities and make officiating feel like less of a task and more accessible to more people. We’re looking into ways we can better serve grassroots officials. I’m someone who refereed at a young age and want to share my passion for it with anyone who has the desire to have a career in officiating, whether it’s at the pro level or working state tournaments. We don’t get to a higher level if we’re not helping officials and keeping them around.

USA Hockey: Who are you trying to impact?

Bruggeman: It’s all of our grassroots officials, the 13-year-old just getting started to the 25-year veteran. We’re looking to make every one of them better. At the end of the day, if we provide better officiating, it’s a better arena for our players to get better and develop their skills as well.

USA Hockey: What can local associations do to encourage more young people to become officialsand to help with retainment?

Bruggeman: A lot of it is simply providing support. Our volunteers are great at trying to do additional education outside of the registration requirements. We recognize that and want to provide support for them to continue doing that. From a local perspective, a big thing is mentorship. Some associations have great mentor programs and we’re looking to build on those nationwide. We can look at the numbers and see that those associations are doing a good job retaining officials. 

USA Hockey: What are local associations doing well?

Bruggeman: Our local people really care. They want to make things better and support their officials. Some go about it in different ways and that’s fine. Moving forward, we want to provide a consistent message across our districts. Having just briefly met everyone, I can definitely tell that they care about the people they’re serving. I know we can go to them with ideas and get honest feedback whether it’s positive or negative. That’s important. 

USA Hockey: What are the main challenges facing the officiating world today?

Bruggeman: Retention is a big one. When you lose first-year officials that a big problem. When I was getting started, being an official was something I wanted to do. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case anymore. It’s a different generation and there are different activities people are involved in. So, us trying to find ways to reach younger people will play a key role in continued recruiting. 

USA Hockey: What is your message to those who are considering officiating?

Bruggeman: I would say just give it a try. Put on the jersey, grab a whistle and let’s see if you have a knack for it. If you don’t try, you won’t know if you like it. I would say if you have even an inkling that you may want to try officiating, give it a shot.

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