Dec. 1, 2017 is a day that Jamie Huntley won’t soon forget.
After setting the goal and working extremely hard to be selected as a women’s hockey referee for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, Huntley received word she just missed the cut.
“I was disappointed, but that’s something you’ve got to try to move past and use it more as a push to be better next time,” she said.
The 31-year-old is now shooting for the 2022 Winter Games.
“She’s in a very good position for this next quad moving into 2022 in Beijing but at the same time I think she will tell you and realizes that there’s no guarantees in this business,” said Matt Leaf, who is USA Hockey’s director of the officiating education program. “She’s got to continue to put in the work and do what you can from her end to set herself up for success and we’ll certainly do that from USA Hockey’s end as well.”
Huntley, who played at Elmira College in New York, has been an up-and-coming referee in the United States for quite a while. Nine years ago, she attended a women’s development camp in the hopes of being a referee, and Leaf saw potential from her right away.
Living in San Diego, Huntley doesn’t have the opportunity locally to work many large-scale tournaments to hone her skills. But USA Hockey has sent her to a number of big events over the years. She worked an Olympic qualifier in Japan in February 2017, two women’s world championships in 2015 and ’16 and two Four Nations Cup tournaments in 2013 and ’17.
“Usually throughout the season I’ll get invited to tournaments, whether it’s the elite high school ones in Minnesota or going to ECHL college nationals or girls’ nationals,” said Huntley, who is also the head coach of the San Diego Jr. Gulls 19U girls. “I’m going to Alaska here in two weeks for the Pacific District side of the USA Hockey regionals and then I’m doing boys’ AAA districts in Irvine [California], then I’m going to Finland. USA Hockey provides as much opportunity as it can.”
The Finland event Huntley referred to is the IIHF Women’s World Championships. It’s a big tournament where Huntley will have the chance to show she belongs in the conversation with the best referees in the world.
Away from officiating events, Huntley works hard to stay in shape both physically and mentally.
“A lot of off-ice training, biking, smart lifting — nothing heavy,” Huntley said. “You don’t want to lose your flexibility, but you also need your strength in your legs. But you try to get as much experience as you can in high-level games and learn from other officials who have worked different situations that you may not have experienced.”
When she’s not at the rink, Huntley’s day job is as a police detective for the San Diego Police Department. After being an officer for the first six years of her career, Huntley transition to a detective role last July.
Working in law enforcement certainly has tie-ins to being a hockey referee.
“It was similar to working on the streets, cracking down on the law just like people breaking the rules on the ice,” Huntley said. “As a detective, it’s a little different stress. It’s more of timeline stress in getting your work done and dealing with other peoples’ problems on the phone and trying to die down the tension of putting bad people in jail. And then refereeing is a nice stress relief but you still get yelled at and chirped, but it’s in a different way. Then you’re punishing people by putting them in the box for the actions they commit on the ice.
“It’s fun giving back to the sport, doing what I love and being out there.”
Huntley has a busy stretch coming up with refereeing four to five hockey games per week. But the more the merrier. All the experience she can grasp will only help her as she strives for the 2022 Games.
When Huntley was working toward last year’s Olympics, there was an extremely competitive field of referees she was up against. An officiating committee through the IIHF, of which Leaf is one of six members from six different countries, decided to choose three of the tournament’s eight referees from the United States. Huntley was the fourth referee who was under consideration.
“It didn’t quite work out for Jamie this time around, but it wasn’t because she wasn’t qualified or capable, it’s just a matter of the IIHF wasn’t going to go into the Olympics with half the officials coming from one country,” Leaf said.
With the addition of two more women’s hockey teams to the 2022 Olympic tournament field, Huntley should have a better shot at getting selected.
Leaf knows how hard Huntley will work and won’t stop at anything short of making the next Winter Games.
“From what I’ve experienced from Jamie and worked with her over the years, the compete level is extremely high — which is a good thing and why she has gotten to the point where she has gotten to,” Leaf said. “Of course, she took it hard and I would expect anyone who had a dream and came up just short like that that is a tough pill to swallow. But they always say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I have no doubt in terms of her attitude, her work ethic, her commitment that she’s just going to be better than ever and things are going to work out ultimately down the road. But, again, she realizes there’s no free pass in this deal. She’s still got to put in the work.”
Said Huntley: “I don’t want another disappointing notification about not making it.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.