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Earn Your Stripes with the Junior Officiating Development Program

By Scott Zelkin, Manager - USAH Junior Officiating Development Program, 09/24/15, 4:00PM MDT


Players and officials alike dream of working the big show; making it to the National Hockey League. But every official must start somewhere. The Junior Officiating Development Program, or ODP, is a USA Hockey program designed specifically to get you there. Intended for top up-and-coming officials, the ODP is an intensive program intended to expose officials to the various levels of junior hockey in the United States, and lower-level professional hockey.

The goal of the program is two-fold. The first objective is to coach, train and develop young officials (between the ages of 18-25) so that they can “graduate” and move up to higher levels of hockey, including collegiate, professional and international. Secondly, the program hopes to inspire officials to return to their grassroots level association and work as mentors, teachers and role models for local officials, both young and old, in order to help develop amateur officiating at the local levels.

Under the guidance of former NHL referee Scott Zelkin, USA Hockey’s manager of the ODP, the program gives officials opportunities to begin officiating at the Tier III Junior level, the Tier II North American Hockey League and eventually the Tier I United States Hockey League and the Southern Professional Hockey League.

During their development, the officials in ODP are exposed to coaching and supervision by a staff that is second to none in North America. The staff of supervisors combined for more than 5,500 games of NHL officiating experience, along with thousands more games worth of experience in minor professional, international and collegiate hockey. Among the supervisors are former professional and collegiate referee Dave Madsen and former NHL officials Mark Faucette, Mark Pare and Jerry Pateman. 

Along with in-person supervision, ODP officials receive education and coaching through video and online tools. At the higher end of the development process, the officials are given the opportunity to live in league-supplied apartments, affording officials to reside within close proximity to the league they are working. This provides for more game experience and leads to better development.

Over the 18-year existence of the ODP, numerous participants have been hired by the NHL and NCAA, and countless officials have been selected for IIHF Tournaments.

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