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Young referees receive Wild ride

By Ryan Williamson, 08/25/17, 4:45PM MDT

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New program gives new referees a great first experience

It has been well-documented that the sport of hockey’s participation numbers are rising when it comes to players getting on the ice.

However, the number of officials hasn’t kept pace.

The Minnesota Wild hopes to be a catalyst in improving those officiating participation numbers. Led by Wayne Petersen, director of community relations and hockey partnerships, the Wild has started a number of initiatives and events to promote officiating, including a First-Year Youth Hockey Referee Seminar and Clinic.

This event will take place Sept. 30 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. From 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., officials will have an opportunity to complete the seminar requirement for their USA Hockey Level 1 certification. The event costs $30 and includes lunch and a ticket to that night’s preseason matchup between the Wild and Dallas Stars. These new referees will also get a chance to meet the referees who will officiate that night’s game.

“We really enjoy lending our name to it and having it in our facility,” Petersen said. “We hope we can reach capacity and get some new referees working this season.”

Along with this upcoming event, Minnesota will also spotlight young officials for the second consecutive season. This initiative involves one male and one female official being invited to Xcel Energy Center each month of the season for an inside look at the professional officiating life. These invitee officials, who are selected by Minnesota Hockey, get to meet with NHL officials and are honored during the game and on the team’s social media accounts.

So far, Petersen said this program has been successful.

“The meet-and-greets before the games have been really well received,” Petersen said. “Some of these younger kids are coming in and they’re hearing stories from people who have reached the top of their profession. It’s been a lot of fun to make that introduction.”

While it is exciting for young officials to meet the game’s best referees, Petersen said the mentor officials have also been great at advising their younger colleagues.

“The NHL officials really take the time to get to know these kids,” Petersen said. “They’ve even given them advice on how to handle certain situations while officiating games.”

Across the league, teams are working to get more officials into the game. The Chicago Blackhawks have a program like Minnesota’s first-year training seminar. The Colorado Avalanche are also helping officials by allowing officiating seminars to be held at the Pepsi Center for no charge.

“We’re competitors on the ice, but off the ice, we like to share ideas with each other,” Petersen said.

So far, the Wild has received positive feedback for the first-year seminar. Just a few days after announcing they would be hosting this event for the first time, nearly 50 officials signed up. The hope is that they will hit their cap of 100.

“We’re trying to get more officials into the game and recognize officials who do a good job,” Petersen said. “I’m hoping that with our programs, they will be encouraged to stay in the game and keep up the good work.”

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