Instead of going on a long-winded spiel about how I learned a lot and grew as an official (which I did), I’ll just give you the bulleted version of the best parts of this past season.
- One of the first games I reffed this season, way back in September, I walked into expecting nothing out of the ordinary, only to find out that Mark Messier was the coach of the visiting team. I made sure to do an excellent job so I could get a picture with him after the game (I did, and he signed my hat).
- Having a coach tell me and my partner that we reffed one of the best games he’s seen all season, despite the number of penalties.
- Getting asked to ref at playoffs and Districts.
- Being invited to the Officiating Development Workshop in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
- Following up on that invitation and getting the chance to ref this weekend at the AAHA Player Tryouts Festival in Voorhees.
- Finally feeling confident and accepting the mistakes that I made instead of letting them hang over my head for weeks.
- Reffing my first Midget game, even though I think I did a pretty awful job.
- Getting Bantam games on the regular, occasionally on the Tier 1 level.
In short, this was the year that everything seemed to settle into place for me. When I go to the rink that I play games at and see other officials, almost all of them stop to say hello and ask how I’m doing. I don’t feel unwelcome or out of place in the locker room. I think I’m learning to trust my instincts a little more.
There’s obviously plenty of room for improvement, but I’m pleased to know that I’m taking steps in the right direction and that I’m not as nervous and anxious as I used to be. And of course, it’s not a proper hockey season if you didn’t have a mom follow you out of the rink, trying to trash talk you the whole way, and I was lucky enough to get that in right at the end.
It also wouldn’t be a season if I didn’t make some mistakes that stuck with me (but that I keep catalogued so I learn from them) and I’m here to tell you what those were too:
- For some reason this one sticks out in my head the most: I called a penalty on a kid for checking from behind, which is a lot stricter now, so he sat for 12 minutes. In retrospect, I should have given him a roughing penalty for just 2, because while he did technically hit the kid in the back, it wasn’t extremely violent and it was away from the boards. I feel absurdly guilty about this one.
- Accepting games that were too advanced for me, like the Midget game that I mentioned above. The skill level was something I wasn’t used to yet, and a lot of the burden fell on my ref partner, which is something I don’t want to do again.
- Breaking up fights. I actually got a lot better at this as time went on, but there was one specific game where I hesitated for a moment too long and left my partner out to dry (in my defense, I thought the players closer to me were about to go at it). I got in there eventually but I felt bad about not being on my toes right away. And in a JV game, I think I acted TOO quickly, because I got punched in the head. It’s a learning experience.
There you have it. It’s been a long season for me, and for once, I am actually enjoying this time off. I’m taking some games here and there, but mostly, I’m leaving my weekends free, sleeping in, and doing things that aren’t hockey-related. It’s a nice change.