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Katie Guay embraces opportunity to stay in hockey through officiating

Guay NHL All Star

Among the most accomplished in her profession, Katie Guay is a highly admired official whose career is synonymous with both, success and advancing the game forward. Her most recent brush with history involved the privilege of participating in a landmark event, which may signify a paradigm shift in the growth of women’s ice hockey.

Accompanied by Kelly Cooke, whom Guay has frequently worked with during a series of remarkable assignments in 2019, along with Kendall Hanley, who possessed a dozen years of experience, plus newcomer Kirsten Welsh, who graduated from the RMU Colonials women’s ice hockey program in 2019, this commendable quartet represented the first all-female officiating crew on NHL ice.

Officiating the NHL Elite Women’s 3-on-3 Showcase, the first of its kind in the long running ritual of NHL All-Star Weekend, it was highly fitting that every facet of the event was all-female. From the players to the officials and the coaches, which were Hockey Hall of Famers Cammi Granato and Jayna Hefford, it encompassed a perfect synthesis.

Taking into account Granato and Hefford are both Winter Games gold medalists, it was not the first time that Guay participated in a historic event with such esteemed competitors. Back in November 2014, Guay and Erin Blair were the first women to officiate a contest in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL).

Their collective presence gained further prestige as Shannon Szabados, winner of two Winter Games gold medals, backstopped the Columbus Cottonmouths to a 5-4 triumph over the Fayetteville FireAntz. Becoming the first woman to win a regular season game, the presence of Szabados burnished an historic contest, resulting in a shared milestone.

Katie Guay and Kelly Cooke in St. Louis

While the mythos of St. Louis shall also provide a shared milestone, the narrative of Guay’s hockey journey is one where it actually marks the third straight year that she has enjoyed a significant officiating milestone. Starting in 2018, Guay earned the opportunity to officiate in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Games.

Followed by a groundbreaking 2019, Guay not only became the first female official to work at the men’s Beanpot, she worked alongside Cooke, Delaney Harrop and Amanda Tassoni, in both, the ECAC Women’s Championship Game, plus the Frozen Four. Their combined efforts at the Frozen Four made national news, marking the first-ever all-female officiating crew.

Before 2019 expired, Cooke and nine other female officials at the NHL’s Exposure Combine at Buffalo’s Harbor Center would join Guay, comprising a record number 11 women in attendance. Of note, Guay and Cooke, along with Kirsten Welsh and Kendall Hanley earned empowering assignments, working at NHL Prospect Tournaments in the first weekend of September.

Guay working at the 2019 Anaheim Rookie Faceoff in Irvine, California (Image obtained from: https://www.nhl.com/ducks/news/guay-makes-history-at-rookie-faceoff-tournament-in-irvine/c-309001856)

Guay would head out to the Pacific Coast, working at the Anaheim Ducks Rookie Faceoff at Great Park Ice in Irvine, California. On Saturday September 7, 2019, Guay would make her NHL debut, as the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights represented the clubs for this watershed moment. The following day, she worked another Golden Knights match, with the Arizona Coyotes representing the opposition.

Undeniably, the NHL experience comprised an essential component in a triptych of officiating milestones that have extended over three straight years. Integral in the formation of a distinct era, Guay has gained a remarkable sense of both momentum and confidence, which only grows with more exciting events.

“Certainly any time you have the chance to work a big game in front of a large crowd, the experience instills more confidence in us as officials.”

(L-R): Kirsten Welsh, Kelly Cooke, Katie Guay and Kendall Hanley. Image obtained from: https://www.durhamregion.com/news-story/9833514-scugog-woman-part-of-hockey-history-at-nhl-all-star-game/

Early in 2020, Guay would find herself back on NHL ice. With Cooke, Hanley and Welsh on-hand, their presence would signify the first-ever all-female officiating crew in the league’s history. Certainly rekindling fond memories of the historic feat from the Beanpot, the presence of another female officiating foursome served a highly important role, as the NHL’s All-Star Weekend at Enterprise Center in St. Louis provided the historic backdrop for the Elite Women’s 3-on-3 showcase.

Featuring a gathering of renowned American and Canadian players, 10 on each roster, each possessing international experience, the key feature from this event saw the paraphernalia of the players and officials detailed with the unmistakable NHL logo. Although the occupation of an official can be a solitary one, the common thread of the logo constituted a sense of belonging.

Absorbing the ebbs and flows of the game, watching the strides of the skaters, representing the best of the best, the puck gliding across the ice, and full speed rushes, the referees and linesmen held the singular realization that theirs was the greatest view imaginable at the Enterprise Center.

With the epic greatness throughout the unfolding action, the Elite Women’s 3-on-3 was definitely one of the most important games ever played, capturing the essence of brilliance, destined to hold remarkable effects on the game’s outlook. While the display of sportsmanship on the ice, the compelling performance of superior skill, reached an art form, the overall atmosphere of the game was one that shall be etched in Guay’s memories,

“The atmosphere in St. Louis was incredible. The fans were pretty loud during the 3v3 and it is always fun to be out there in front of a highly engaged crowd. The women’s 3v3 in St. Louis was a huge milestone for the growth of women’s hockey and it was an honor to be part of the event.”

Postgame photo featuring the players, coaches and officials from the NHL Elite Women’s 3-on-3 (Image supplied by Katie Guay)

The feeling of appreciation for the efforts of Guay and her fellow officials adopted a new perspective. With Guay and Cooke joining the likes of Ann-Renee Desbiens, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Blayre Turnbull at the 2020 NHL Fan Fair, their appearance at the Grand Ballroom in the All-Star Skills Zone allowed fans a personal introduction to the likes of a pair of admirably accomplished officials.

Gaining a degree of celebrity status, Guay’s presence was one that combined aspects of enlightenment and inspiration. Presenting new possibilities in the professional game’s evolution, the appearance resulted in a profound human element. Sharing her story with fans, a sense of admiration emanated, adding sheen to a weekend defined by landmark achievements.

For this new generation of officials, of which Guay holds standing as its most celebrated ambassador, their careers have reached an exciting new stratosphere. Although the legacy of the event may be redefining what women can positively mean to the NHL and professional sport, it shall also stand as a compelling, socially relevant and heartwarming human account, one where a group of four fantastic women in the referee’s stripes earned a tremendous moment very well deserved.

“It was great of the NHL to bring us officials out to St. Louis for this event. Eventually everyone’s competitive playing days come to an end and officiating is a fun way to stay involved in the game. My skates have been my passport to the world and there are so many opportunities for officials. As we aim to recruit more officials at all levels of the game, I hope moments like this will encourage people to try officiating.”

”All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”


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More about Mark Staffieri

Raised in the Greater Toronto Area, Mark holds an extensive writing background. A contributor to Wikipedia since 2007, his writing endeavors have included writing for Bleacher Report (2012-13), and the former CWHL (2012-15), and the Canadian division of the Legends Football League (2013-14). Also part of the team of writers for Hockey Canada at the 2013 IIHF Women's World Championships in Ottawa, Mark contributed features on Jenny Harss, Elin Holmlov, Iya Gavrilova, Kathleen Kauth, Lucie Povova, Alex Rigsby, Julia and Stephanie Marty, and Katie Weatherston, among others. In addition to composing more than 700 articles for Women's Hockey Life (since 2012), his current slate of duties includes covering female tackle football for Canada Football Chat, along with pieces for NowVIZ Magazine (digital format) since its inaugural issue. Also the publisher of allowhertoplay, a website devoted to the heroics of sporting heroines, Mark remains focused on raising awareness of the positive impact of women in sport.