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Feeding the Pipeline

By Miles McQuinn, 10/22/15, 3:45PM MDT


Growth, mentorship key for young officials

With the turn of each new season, a fresh batch of players, coaches and officials arrive. Wide-eyed and eager to learn the game at a new level, they often look to those who came before them for advice. And as important as it is for these young officials to learn, it’s become equally important for the veterans to teach them.

Ken Reinhard, referee-in-chief of the Rocky Mountain District, spent 38 years as an on-ice official. His emphasis on getting people interested in officiating and developing them is a major factor in producing better officiating across the country.

Training and mentoring, getting these people up to speed as confidently and as early as we can gives us a better chance of success.” Reinhard said.

Every district has their own style of mentoring young officials. Reinhard's district’s style is a well-oiled machine.

Beginning with group work, expectations are communicated for all those interested in officiating. Basics, mechanics, where to be, how to call icings and offsides and covering a rulebook approximately 400 pages long are among the smorgasbord that comes with learning how to be a USA Hockey referee.

Once there's buy-in to want to be an official, then the real work begins. Attending training and seminars are crucial parts of becoming successful, in addition to the most important aspect, on-ice work. Reinhard stressed that officiating is more mental than physical. 

“Your job is not to put gas on the fire,” Reinhard said. “Your job is to put the fire out. You have to maintain control of your emotions 100 percent of the time.”

That “fire” the 60-year-old veteran is referencing is the issues that all officials, rookies through veterans, deal with, which is why his mentoring programs spend time preparing for them.

You teach them to expect the unexpected.” Reinhard said.

And the teaching never stops. Even Reinhard, who is also an off-ice official with the Dallas Stars, is still learning things.

“At the end of two or three years, we just don't say 'Ok, you're done. You've got it all. You've got it figured out,'” Reinhard said. “We constantly are working with officials at all levels to improve their officiating.”

The one certainty is that it takes effort to be a great official.

“It's absolutely work,” Reinhard said. “If you think you're going to jump on the ice and think, because you've been watching it on TV for 100 years you're going to know how to officiate a hockey game, you're sadly mistaken."

However, if a new official is able to find their way and persevere through the years, the benefits and the experience is priceless.

I wouldn’t trade the 38 years I spent on ice,” Reinhard said. “The incredible people I've met and the incredible friends I've developed through officiating.

And it all ties back to mentorship. Molding and sculpting young officials paves the way for future generations.