“How could you miss that?”
“It was right in front of you!”
“Are you kidding me?!”
Don’t deny it. You, as a player, have probably uttered these phrases before when the villain in the black and white stripes does something you don’t necessarily agree with. After all, if you yell loudly enough, and wave your arms around in your best windmill impersonation, no one will dare to question you, right?
Referees are the perfect scapegoat. If something goes wrong, it’s pretty easy to pick someone to blame. Your team is losing? Well it’s obviously because the ref called a penalty, which led to a power play, which led to a goal being scored, and hey, this wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for that stupid referee who obviously needs to invest in a pair of glasses.
Who would ever want to be a ref? They’re all obviously soulless, mindless, player-hating-machines sent here to ruin your game and miss all the times you got tripped.
Hi. My name is Rachael and I’m a USA Hockey certified official, and no, I can promise you, not all of us are out to get you.
So why refereeing?
The simplest reason is that it seems like a really quick and easy way to make some money. And in some sense, it is—provided that you call the game fairly, correctly, don’t get run over by kids (or adults), and make sure you don’t fall down, because everyone on the bench will be laughing at you.
Besides the money though, it’s a good way to get out on your skates and get a little exercise while you’re working, and it sure beats having to ask a customer if they want help finding something when all they really want is for you to leave them the hell alone.
Most of all, and for me personally, do it because you love the game. Refereeing gives you a completely different perspective than from what you’re used to as a player or a coach. Despite the taunts and the claims from fans that think they could get out there and do better, it is no easy task to don the stripes. Your responsibilities include dropping the puck, monitoring offsides, keeping track of activity near the goal line and in front of the net, calling penalties, negotiating with angry coaches, coaxing angry players into the box, ignoring angry parents shaking the glass because you didn’t call a penalty when their precious superstar fell in the corner, remembering dozens and dozens of rules off the top of your head and at the drop of a hat, and doing all this while skating up and down the ice and keeping up with the game.
Become a referee because you love hockey and want to stay involved in the game. Become a referee because you love to skate. Become a referee for the moments when you’re stepping off the ice after all the players and coaches have gone to the locker room, and a parent comes up to you and says, “You called a good game out there, stripes. Good job.”* Become a referee because nothing beats a little squirt hockey player coming up to you after the handshake line is done, reaching out to shake yours. (Seriously, it’s really adorable.) Become a referee to prove that, no, it’s not easy, but yes, you can do it. And it’s fun.
And yeah, okay, the money doesn’t suck either.
*If a parent tells you that you called a great game, write this moment down and treasure it forever because it probably won’t ever happen again.