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USA Hockey welcomes a new Referee Section director

By Dane Mizutani, 07/26/18, 12:00PM MDT


Q-and-A with Ken Reinhard

After more than 38 years as a registered on-ice official, Fort Worth, Texas, resident Ken Reinhard decided it was time to hang up the skates. 

“As much as I loved the game, I knew the time had come that I could no longer maintain my level of excellence on the ice,” Reinhard said.

But he wasn’t looking to ease his way into retirement. Reinhard was ready for a new challenge.

Little did the 62-year-old know that his retirement from on-ice officiating would eventually manifest itself as the new USA Hockey Referee Section director. He was named to the position last month and has been crash-coursing ever since. 

While it helps that Reinhard had been the Rocky Mountain District referee in chief since 2014, there’s still a lot to learn in his new role.

“I certainly didn’t campaign for my current position,” Reinhard said. “I guess some of my peers thought I’d be good at it, and as much as I love the game, I decided it’d be a good idea. There was an election for (USA Hockey Referee Section director) in June and the vote came and that was that.”

USA Hockey caught up with Reinhard to hear how the job is going.

USA Hockey: What kind of responsibilities does the role entail?

Ken Reinhard: As section director, I perform two roles. First, I represent the Officials Section to the board of directors. That means I’m casting votes representing the desires of the referee in chiefs on particular items that come before the board of directors. Second, I’m part of the leadership team for the Officials Section. 


USAH: What is the biggest responsibility?

Reinhard: That’s a great question because I’m still learning. I haven’t figured it all out yet. So I think my biggest responsibility is to offer direction that helps the Officials Section grow. As of right now we have roughly 25,300 registered, and of that number, only about 22,000 have completed the training to make them fully registered officials. My focus is helping grow that pool and improve the education for the people that participate. 


USAH: That actually seems like a fairly large number. Is it? 

Reinhard: Not really. We have to grow that base with the explosion of the sport throughout the country, including in non-traditional markets. It’s necessary to grow the base because, if we don’t, we certainly can’t successfully service all the games that are being played at every level. We added about 7,000 players this year. While that growth in players is about the same as the growth in officials, the numbers don’t add up when we’re looking at the number of teams that are added from that pool of players. We might’ve added something like 450 teams and looking at those dynamics, it gets pretty scary thinking about finding people to work those games. Plus, regardless of the pool of officials that we have, they aren’t always available to work. That’s pretty much where the challenges lies as far as our numbers are concerned. Even if we had twice as many officials, I dare say we’d still be scrambling a little bit in some markets. 


USAH: You live in a non-traditional market. How much has the game grown from that perspective? 

Reinhard: When I moved to Dallas more than 20 years ago, we had 2 1/2 ice surfaces, only about 35 officials, a few travel programs, and a house league. That was it. As the Stars invested more in themselves and grew their product at the NHL level, it culminating in a Stanley Cup, that was how the sport exploded here. Now if we look at the state of Texas and the number of youth teams, and number of junior teams, and the number of college club teams, we have almost as many registered players in the state of Texas as there are in the state of Colorado. It just shows how much it’s grown over the last 20 years in a market that nobody would’ve ever believed could be that strong. That same thing can happen in other non-traditional markets over time. It’s pretty explosive. We have to make sure we keep up. 


USAH: What is the process of becoming a fully registered official? 

Reinhard: We have a level system — Levels 1, 2, 3, 4. It’s just a guideline of what types of games people can work. If someone was a Level 1 official, they could expert to work a 10U or 12U game with some experienced officials to help get their legs under them. It progresses from there. There’s also some self-development that’s necessary in the sense that we need people to have some initiative to improve on their own. That might mean making mistakes during games and learning from that. It’s important for everyone to realize that some of these officials are learning, too. Your games are our practices. We don’t have practices like players do. There’s only so much you can learn from reading the rulebook. There’s only so much practicing in front of a mirror that we can do. At some point we have to execute and that comes during games.


USAH: How long does the process itself take? 

Reinhard: It’s actually pretty nice because people can work at their own pace. You just have to know the rules. Personally, I only ask five things of our officials: Be professional, know the rules, hustle, respect the participants, and for gosh sakes have some fun. If someone does those five things, they’ll do just fine as an official. We don’t expect them to be perfect. They aren’t even perfect at the NHL level, so for us to expect a 16-year-old kid, or some 35-year-old guy trying to stay close to the game he loves, to be perfect is an unrealistic expectation.