The North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) Officiating Development Program began another season of development and exposure at the Blaine (Minn.) Showcase from Sept. 18-21. This event gave 35 officials from the Minnesota, Central, Atlantic, Rocky Mountain, Pacific and New England Districts the opportunity to work Tier I hockey involving some of the nation’s top 18U and 16U teams.
These challenging games tested each participant’s rule knowledge, skating ability and game-management skills over the course of four days. The officials worked 2-3 games per day in the three-official or four-official system and participated both as a referee and as a linesman. In addition to learning from in-game experience, the officials also received performance feedback after each game.
STRIPES Newsletter spoke briefly with BJ Ringrose, USA Hockey’s officiating education coordinator, who leads the NAPHL Officiating program.
STRIPES Newsletter: For what type of official is this development program designed?
BJ: This program was designed for the advanced “grassroots” official with a strong commitment to improving their skills. While most of our participants are younger officials who want to be considered for other development programs, national tournaments, summer development camps and the Junior Officiating Development Program, we always welcome dedicated veterans looking for opportunities outside their local hockey community.
STRIPES: So this is a development opportunity for a 40-year-old official as well?
BJ: Absolutely. This level of hockey will challenge all officials, regardless of age or experience. Furthermore, we appreciate the leadership and mentoring skills a veteran official can bring to the ice and the locker room. We expect the older officials to set the bar high for professionalism. In return, they get the opportunity to travel, see different teams, and break the routine of their usual game schedule. It answers the question, “I’m 39 and I’m too old for summer camps. What development opportunities are there for me?”
STRIPES: Why was this program developed?
BJ: The USA Hockey Officiating Program realizes that the No. 1 reason experienced officials leave officiating is the lack of development and advancement opportunities, whether through politics of local assignors or legitimate lack of high level games in an area. This program was designed to offer officials already possessing a solid foundation in bantam and midget hockey the chance to gain experience in Tier I Hockey, receive constructive feedback, and return home with knowledge and tips to apply. If the official continues to work hard, he will develop into a strong candidate for higher level games in his/her area.
STRIPES: How does an official succeed as a professional in this program?
BJ: The games can be very competitive and challenging. An official will need to execute sound judgment, physical hustle, and use good communication skills to ensure that their games run smoothly. Additionally, there are the off-ice requirements (booking travel, arranging rides, completing game incident reports, etc.) that reflect what officials at the highest levels of hockey are expected to fulfill. The NAPHL Program is designed to develop the individual professional skills required of any official.
STRIPES: So this program is not just a stepping stone to junior hockey?
BJ: This program can be a spring board to bigger opportunities. We’ve seen participants from the first five seasons apply the feedback, attend other development programs and advance to junior, collegiate, and professional hockey. However the fundamental goal is to develop the “grassroots” official. If an official simply wants to be the best bantam and midget hockey referee in his/her community, this program will be the ideal development platform for getting to that level.
STRIPES: What type of assistance does USA Hockey provide to officials who travel from out of the host area?
BJ: USA Hockey offers travel compensation toward airfare and mileage for traveling officials. We don’t compensate the entire amount of a plane ticket, but the participant’s game fees will easily cover the additional costs. The bottom line is, in addition to the experience and skills the officials receive no one should ever lose money during these events.
STRIPES: So it sounds like the weekend is about investing in your skills and development, with a potential benefit of increased performance and assignment opportunities locally.
BJ: That’s a very good description of what the program offers. USA Hockey provides great pre-season education to set our officials up for success each season. However, the officials who embrace continuing education are the ones who develop quicker, earn respect from coaches, and should always be considered for better opportunities.
STRIPES: Are hotel rooms provided?
BJ: Yes, the NAPHL arranges accommodations for all traveling officials. You will get to know your roommates well.
STRIPES: How does an official get consideration for this program?
BJ: All participants for NAPHL events are recommended by the 13 District Referees-in-Chief. We recommend contacting your District RIC with:
Not all officials will be selected to participate; therefore, the officials will have to make their case as to why they are the best candidates to represent their district at these events.
STRIPES: What are the benefits of participating in the NAPHL Development Program?
BJ: The benefits range from short-term to long-term. The immediate reward is the valuable feedback the officials receive during the event. As the season progresses, the top officials during each event are invited to participate at the NAPHL league championship event in February. Additionally, the District RIC’s and Junior Officiating Development Program administrators receive performance feedback on each official, so they can consider the officials for state, district, or national tournaments.
The NAPHL (naphl.com) is a Tier I Midget hockey league that plays league games over weekend events scheduled throughout the season. The 2014-15 Schedule is posted below,
SEPTEMBER 18-21 Blaine, Minn.
OCTOBER 17-20 Romeoville, Ill.
NOVEMBER 14-17 Omaha, Neb.
DECEMBER 5-8 Blaine, Minn.
JANUARY 16-19 Troy, Mich.
Tag(s): Stripes Newsletter