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Katie Guay continues to make history as influential hockey official

Among hockey’s renaissance women, Katie Guay continues to attain new pinnacles, propelling herself to a state of reverence that has enlightened a new generation. Demonstrating to them the potential that women can reach in the game, especially after hanging up their skates, Guay is part role model and part pioneer.

Most recently, Guay, a native of Mansfield, Massachusetts, gained celebrated status, enjoying a compelling brush with history. The date of September 6, 2019 shall remain etched in Guay’s career as the heralding of a watershed moment. Along with Kelly Cooke, a former player from the NWHL’s inaugural season, they were selected as referees to work at NHL prospect tournaments throughout the country.

Guay was assigned to work at the Anaheim Ducks prospect camp, based in Irvine, California, while Cooke brought her officiating acumen to Nashville, at the Predators camp. In addition, Kendall Hanley, who once played NCAA DIII hockey with Elmira College, and later SUNY-Oswego, plus Kirsten Welsh, a recent graduate of the Robert Morris Colonials, shared in this landmark moment for sporting equality by serving as linesmen.

Guay near center ice at the Anaheim Ducks prospect tournament (Image obtained from: https://www.nhl.com/ducks/news/guay-makes-history-at-rookie-faceoff-tournament-in-irvine/c-309001856)

All four earned the opportunity as they had previously participated in a summertime NHL officials exposure combine held in Buffalo, New York. As a side note, Guay previously possessed professional experience. On November 21, 2014, Guay worked with Erin Blair (who served as an official at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games) in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), a league that also featured Shannon Szabados between the pipes that season. Both were part of the Columbus Cottonmouths ‘Hockey and Heels Night’, officiating a contest between the host Cottonmouths and the Fayetteville FireAntz.

Worth noting, the calendar year of 2019 allowed Guay and Cooke an opportunity to leave their mark in the game in another unique facet. Serving alongside Cooke, Delaney Harrop and Amanda Tassoni, they comprised a fantastic foursome that is believed to be the first all-female officiating crew at the NCAA Frozen Four.

Adding lustre to this unique achievement is the fact that Guay once appeared in the Frozen Four as a player. Having skated for iconic head coach Digit Murphy with the Ivy League’s Brown Bears, Guay competed in the 2002 edition of the tournament, challenging Shannon Miller’s University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Graduating with a degree in business economics and psychology, accumulating 69 points (29 goals, 40 assists) and 128 career appearances, Brown’s strong leadership was evident as a player, also competing with the USA Under-22 national women’s team.

Gracing the ice a generation later as People’s United Center in Hamden, Connecticut, home of the Quinnipiac Bobcats ice hockey program, served as the host venue for the 2019 Frozen Four, such an empowering presence promises that the succeeding decade of NCAA women’s ice hockey holds the potential for even greater pinnacles.

Actually, the privilege of serving with an historic group at the Frozen Four actually served as epilogue. Earlier in the season, Guay gained a unique occasion to serve as a referee in the Men’s Beanpot. Such an assignment was most fitting as Guay became the first female to officiate an NCAA Division I men’s hockey game back in 2015 at Union College. As a side note, the Northeastern Huskies captured their second consecutive Beanpot, as goaltender Cayden Primeau was named tournament MVP.

Guay in a jersey paying homage to the Boston Red Sox as she prepares for the Red Bull Crashed Ice event at Fenway Park (Image obtained from: https://theathletic.com/806948/2019/02/08/katie-guay-keeps-pushing-skating-boundaries-in-red-bull-crashed-ice-at-fenway-park/)

The city of Boston would allow Guay another monumental milestone in the last few weeks of winter 2019. With Fenway Park serving as host venue during the 2018-19 Red Bull Crashed Ice season, Guay was among the female competitors, gaining an opportunity to add to the growing legacy of wondrous women that have participated in athletic competition at Fenway. Worth noting, Guay participated in the Crashed Ice Athlete Search, earning a Wild Card spot by finishing first in the Qualification Round (held on February 8, 2019). With a time of 18.02 seconds, what may have been the most impressive element was the fact that Guay, at 36 years young, defeated competitors aged between 23 and 29 years.

Complemented by the empowering impact at the Women’s Frozen Four, the unique experience of three significant achievements in one season allowed the hockey community of New England to catch up to the greatness of Guay, “The Beanpot is a prestigious tournament in Boston, and it was certainly an honor to be on the ice at the Boston Garden on a Monday night in early February.”

Guay (left) with fellow official posing alongside PyeongChang Winter Games mascots Soohorang and Sooho (Image obtained from Facebook)

Becoming a referee in the aftermath of her competitive career, it marked the beginning of a revered revitalization in her hockey odyssey. Finding a highly influential mentor in Julie Piacentini, a former player for the Northeastern Huskies from 1986-90 and a member of the Beanpot Hall of Fame, whose own officiating resume included serving at the 2002 and 2006 Winter Games provided Guay with more than someone special to emulate, but the dream of a new goal to attain. As a side note, Piacentini’s niece, Melissa, the all-time scoring leader for the Syracuse Orange, joined the Huskies coaching staff in 2018.

Earning the opportunity to serve in an officiating capacity at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, it allowed the gregarious Guay to follow in the footsteps of such a highly influential person. The first rung in the international ladder for Guay involved serving at the 2011 IIHF Division II World Women’s Championships in Caen, France. Fellow American Kate Connolly served as a linesman at the event, won by the Czech Republic with a sterling 5-0 mark.

Forever grateful at the guidance and friendship supplied by Piacentini, the achievements in Guay’s accomplished officiating career allowed her to mirror her mentor. Becoming an incredible inspiration for a new generation of women looking at officiating as a viable option in the game, her ascension towards the Winter Games offers the feeling of full circle.

As a child, Guay found influence in the United States team that captured the gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, the first women’s ice hockey tournament ever contested. Gaining the chance to officiate in PyeongChang 2018, marking the 20th anniversary of this landmark tournament, it was a unique feeling to sit in the stands for the epic gold medal game between eternal rivals Canada and the US, next to 1984 gold medalist Scott Hamilton no less, and watch the US capture the gold medal once again, winning in a pulse-pounding shootout.

“I was fortunate to have Julie Piacentini as my mentor early in my career. She opened my eyes to many opportunities available to officials. When she told me about the IIHF and her experience at the Olympics, my initial goal was to do an IIHF World Championship.

I reached that goal in 2011 when I was assigned a tournament in France. At that moment I raised my sights and set my goal on the Olympics. I had some incredible experiences and opportunities along the way to PyeongChang in 2018.”

Guay taking a selfie at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung (Image obtained from Facebook)

Over the years, Guay’s commitment to the game has also included adding multiple roles to her portfolio. Having enjoyed nearly a decade spent as a coach at Noble and Greenough School in the community of Dedham, she was at the pulse of elite female youth hockey in Massachusetts, helping to positively shape the competitive careers of numerous players, providing more than just instruction, but encouragement and inspiration to forge their own paths in the game.

In a unique instance of coincidence and destiny colliding, one of Guay’s pupils during those formative years was Kelly Cooke. While she went on to skate collegiately with the Ivy League’s Princeton Tigers, amassing 122 appearances, Cooke had actually been officiating since her teens. Gaining the opportunity to collaborate towards making significant inroads in the social impact and relevance of women in hockey, there is the feeling of the torch being passed from Piacentini to Guay to Cooke.

Running parallel to such a significant impact is an administrative capacity that carries with it tremendous prestige. Serving as the Director of Philanthropy for Team USA Hockey Foundation, it allows Guay a treasured chance to become a hockey humanitarian, working alongside individuals dedicated to bringing betterment in both the game and life in general.

Such a role has certainly proven to be a labor of love for Guay, finding new ways to extend her standing as a role model. While one can argue that she is busier now than when she played, first gracing the rink at six years young playing against boys, becoming interested in officiating as a means of staying connected to the game after missing the camaraderie and the essence of being at the rink, she has created a brand new legacy. Although officiating can, at times, be a thankless and difficult task, the effort exerted, and the summits reached by Guay, have allowed fans a whole newfound respect for the position, appreciating the referee’s cerebral approach and shared love of the game.

“When I started hockey at age six, I had no idea the journey the game would take me on. My skates have been my passport around the globe and I feel so fortunate for the opportunities and people I have met along the way though this great game.

I spent eight years coaching at Noble and Greenough School and working in their Development Office. When the opportunity to work for the USA Hockey Foundation became available, I felt it was my chance to give back to the game and provide opportunities for the next generation of hockey players.

As USA Hockey aims to grow the game at the grassroots level and expand on its programs for girls/women and disabled hockey, financial resources are necessary. The USA Hockey Foundation is a philanthropic platform for people to invest in the future of hockey across the country.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”


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