A new season has started, which brings many words to mind…excitement, competition, dedication. One word that USA Hockey believes is very important is preparation. Teams have been practicing hard since August to compete, and USA Hockey believes officials owe these players and coaches the same amount of effort to be prepared for every game.
Erin Blair (Elgin, Illinois) is a 15-year veteran with USA Hockey that has used preparation to build an impressive career at both the NCAA and IIHF levels. She not only capped her career with an appearance at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, she is one of very few American female referees who has worked a game at the men’s professional level (see Stripes, January 2015).
Erin took a few minutes from her career as an official and professional teacher to reflect on her preparations for this season.
USA Hockey: What is your favorite part of the hockey season?
Erin Blair: My favorite part about the start of the season is the camaraderie among officials. Seminar season brings everyone together for a common mission. We are all drawn together by the love of hockey, and it’s great to see all the familiar faces of our game.
USAH: What mental and physical steps run through your mind in August as you prepare for a new season?
Blair: My summers are very precious to me, from April through August, I rarely think about hockey. I find that taking the summer off helps me to do my best during the long season. When August rolls around, I am ready to go. Both my body and mind need a slow introduction back into the demand of the season. Physically, I start slow with games and work my way up to my normal workload. Mentally, I get my nose in the rulebook.
USAH: How does your success or missed goals from the prior season factor into your preparations for a new season?
Blair: Every game is a learning experience, and every experience, good or bad, can teach you something about yourself. Everything you do in life helps you develop into a better person. This is the same in officiating as well. The past is the past, you can only learn from it, good or bad. I try to take my past seasons and keep the good and change the bad. I’m a very goal-oriented person and I work hard to create more good experiences.
USAH: Do you have any advice with regard to balancing one’s personal schedule and hockey schedule?
Blair: Everyone leads busy lives; players, coaches and officials. We all have personal lives outside hockey. It’s important to find a good balance between the two sides. The best advice I could give is to plan ahead and put everything on a calendar. Documenting your schedule on a calendar can help eliminate the chance of double booking or missing important events.
USAH: You work multiple levels of the game with multiple rule books. How do you keep them straight?
Blair: This is one of the most difficult issues that I have run into while officiating. The best way I have found to alleviate this issue is to create cheat sheets that compare the different rulebooks. Reviewing these cheat sheets prior to each game helps keep the necessary rules fresh in my mind as I step on the ice.
USAH: How do you continue education through the season to stay sharp
Blair: My two passions in life are hockey and teaching. I love to teach younger officials how to advance their careers and reach their goals. This teaching is how I continue to learn myself. This continued dialogue with officials is a great way to learn from others’ experiences. No one person can experience it all, so learning from others is a great way to stay sharp and gain precious knowledge.
USAH: If you could sum up your mission for each game in one sentence, what would it be?
Blair: My mission, when I step on the ice, is to enforce the rules to the best of my ability while maintaining my integrity and character.
There’s an old adage that states, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” With this in mind, USA Hockey encourages all officials to dedicate a few minutes each day to reviewing the playing rules, checking their equipment, and mentally preparing for the games ahead so they can be the best team on the ice in each game.
Additionally, USA Hockey wishes Erin and all officials the best of luck and success this season.
Tag(s): Stripes Newsletter