As women’s ice hockey continues to rise in importance, amassing small victories, the impact is felt beyond the players themselves. Perhaps the most under-appreciated element in the game’s progress is the fact that many games not only feature all-female officiating crews, but many former players have made the transition, including Amanda Tassoni.
The last two years has seen a tremendous pair of milestones that have accelerated the relevance of women in officiating. The 2020 NHL Elite Women’s 3-on-3 contest during All-Star Weekend in St. Louis featured an all-female group of officials, of which two also worked another landmark event the year prior.
With the 2018-19 NCAA women’s ice hockey season reaching its apex with the Frozen Four championship in Hamden, Connecticut, the event gained greater relevance because it marked the first time that the national championship saw its officiating staff as all-female.
Among the members of that tremendous group included Amanda Tassoni. A former player who once skated in her home state with the Rhode Island Rams, anchoring their defensive unit, the experience of competition established an appreciation for the game. Earning AHCA Second Team recognition in 2011, Tassoni amassed 72 points in 100 games played.
Forging friendships and setting a positive example of leadership through hard work, those values were destined to remain key factors for Tassoni, as her place in the game extended beyond the on-ice clashes.
“I did not go to college (Division 1) to play hockey like many did, but being able to play allowed me to see some really cool places, and meet some of my closest friends. I would say that was the best part for me.”
Certainly, the transition into officiating was made easier by the fact that Tassoni began in her home state, finding many familiarities at the rink. Indubitably, another relevant aspect, as she reveals, involved strong family ties. Finding influence in the fact that her brother donned the zebra stripes following high school, it provided her with the stimulus to believe that she could pursue the profession herself.
While Tassoni’s new chapter in hockey marked a gradual progression, working games throughout the state, she always held a desire to work at higher levels of the game. An encounter with Paul Stewart, a long-time professional referee, who also played during the Quebec Nordiques’ inaugural season in the NHL, became one where she discovered one of the biggest role models in her career, the first of several new mentors who would encourage her to pursue her hockey dream.
“My brother refereed when he graduated high school, and Rhode Island is such a small state that I was close to many of the referees that worked all of my games growing up.
It was an easy transition in, but expanding to the college and international level was much more challenging. Finding the avenues to get to those levels was difficult, but once I met Stewy many of those doors began to open. He allowed me the opportunities to get to the bigger stage, and to meet a lot of amazing females like Katie Guay and Kelly Cooke.
The three were the best mentors that anyone could ask for, especially since I came into that scene so much later than most. I would not have been able to get to the big games like the Frozen Four without them.”
Named to the first-ever all-female officiating crew at the Frozen Four, it marked a long overdue watershed moment in the game’s history. Upon the discovery that Tassoni was part of said crew, it signified a great personal accomplishment, validating a season filled with commuting, while confirming her status as a rising star,
Sharing the ice with fellow officials Kelly Cooke, a former player in both the CWHL and the NWHL, Katie Guay, whose officiating resume has also included the 2018 Winter Games, plus Delaney Harrop, there was an element of familiarity between this foursome.
“I was ecstatic! I could not have asked for a more amazing group of ladies to share this experience with, and was so thankful to be a part of it. The 2018-19 season was a long one with a lot of traveling, and being a part of the Frozen Four made it all worth it.”
Prior to the Frozen Four, Tassoni worked with the aforementioned at the ECAC Championship Game. Contested at Lynah Rink in Ithaca, New York, home of the Cornell Big Red, the contest involved the Ivy League power hosting the defending NCAA champion Clarkson Golden Knights.
With Clarkson prevailing in a 4-1 final, there was a unique tinge of coincidence. Of note, the men’s ECAC championship for that year also consisted of the exact same programs, with Clarkson’s men also winning. Undeniably, the event proved to be an exciting springboard for the milestone to follow for Tassoni.
The familiarity formed between them at the ECAC championship game served as the ideal preparation, allowing them to build on the momentum gained, increasing their confidence for one of the biggest events in women’s ice hockey. Undeniably, the opportunity to serve in an officiating capacity at the Frozen Four, one that saw the Wisconsin Badgers emerge with the national championship, is one that holds tremendous impact for Tassoni. Considering the remarkable efforts in raising awareness about women’s ice hockey, just as relevant is the fact that opportunities can extend beyond competition on the frozen perimeter.
Tassoni finds that the greatest benefit of the Frozen Four may be the potential to be a positive influence for young women to remain in the game after hanging up their skates. Serendipitously, Tassoni and Katie Guay gained the opportunity to return to Hamden, Connecticut to officiate during the 2019-20 ECAC women’s ice hockey season. Hamden, home of the Quinnipiac Bobcats, was the site of a February 7 affair which saw the Bobcats defeat the visiting Union Dutchwomen by a 6-2 mark as both served as referees, while Chad Gouin and Patrick Woodward were the linesmen.
Having demonstrated that a tremendous impact in the game can be made beyond competition, Tassoni has already left a remarkable legacy in NCAA hockey. Possessing a highly commendable work ethic, team-first approach, willingness to learn and overall passion for the game are the cornerstones of a wonderful individual, whose commitment to the game at all levels, are destined to see her attain many other notable highlights,
“Yes, I believe that a lot of attention was drawn to females in officiating this season more so than past seasons overall. The world of officiating is not an easy one, and it certainly is not for everyone, but if girls are up for the challenge then I highly recommend giving it a shot. It is a great way to stay involved in the game, and this was a perfect showcase of how rewarding the road can be!
I take hockey and officiating as an opportunity each time I step on the ice. My goals are always to get to the highest level possible, but I work just as hard in the youth games as I would in the Frozen Four. Being able to say I worked that game is definitely one of my greatest achievements, but I certainly hope it is not the end!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”