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Q&A with Trailblazing Hockey Referee Katie Guay

Katie Guay is breaking the glass ceiling in hockey. As the first female referee to officiate the Olympics, Division I hockey games, and the NHL Prospect Tournament, she is widening the path for other women to follow and excel in the sport of ice hockey. I got the chance to talk to her about her career.

SI Kids: Tell me about your hockey career.

Katie Guay: I started playing youth hockey when I was six years old. I followed the path of my older brother and older sister. I played for the girl’s hockey team at Deerfield Acadamy in Massachusetts and then Brown University’s Division I team.  

SIK: What first inspired you to become a referee?

KG: I missed being around the rink once I was done playing at 22. The NWHL (National Women’s Hockey League) was not around yet, so there were few chances for opportunities to continue to play after college. I thought I would give officiating a try. I am really happy that I did. I wish I had started earlier. It’s a good way to be a student of the game and to learn the game from a new lens.  

SIK: What have you done as an official?

KG: The game gave me a lot of opportunities as an official. When I first started, I found a mentor who had been to a couple of Olympics. I set my sights on doing an international tournament. I had the chance to go to France to do the World Championship in 2010. After that, I set my goal higher with my ultimate goal to go to the Olympics. I had the chance to officiate the Olympics last year in PyeongChang, South Korea. I refereed a semi-final game between Russia and Canada.  

Another one of my goals was to referee Division I hockey. I was the first female to officiate the men’s NCAA Beanpot Tournament at TD Garden in Boston. I was also part of the team of four women officials to referee the NCAA Women’s final.  

SIK: Who was your mentor?

KG: My mentor was Julie Piacentini. She went to the 2002 and 2006 Olympics. In 2010, she was the first woman to officiate an NCAA Division I Woman’s final.  

SIK: What was it like to referee at the Olympics? 

KG: It was incredible. I was a member of the U.S. under-22 national team, but I didn’t make the senior team. I never imagined that I would still have a chance to get to the Olympics as an official. I officiated the first game at the Olympics. o be able to step on the ice was a surreal feeling. To be part of it was truly amazing.

SIK: What did it take for you to get to this position?

KG: USA Hockey has a development program. There are a few different summer officiating camps similar to player development camps. On the women’s side, there are two camps. It starts with the futures camp, which is the first development opportunity for officials to get licensed through the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation). I went to two camps and was certified as an IIHF official.

SIK: Have you officiated an actual NHL game? 

KG: Not yet. I will keep doing college hockey. If the call ever comes, I am certainly ready. I think having women at the NHL Exposure Combine in Buffalo this past August and now having four women do the Rookie Tournament is a first step in getting a female to referee in the NHL. 

SIK: Who were the three other women who officiated the NHL Prospects Tournament with you?

KG: Kelly Cooke, Kendall Hanley, and Kirsten Welch.

SIK: How did the NHL players treat you at the tournament? 

KG: The treated me comparable to all my peers.  When you are on the ice, that’s the biggest sign of respect I can get when I am treated like everyone else in the stripes.

SIK: How do you hope to inspire other young women through your work as a referee?

KG: I hope my being on the ice opens the eyes of younger officials and hockey players to endless opportunities that exist. The Olympics were always my ultimate goal, and now I think that younger players and officials can realize that their realistic, ultimate goal can be working in the NHL.

SIK: Is referring just as fun as playing hockey?

KG: It is. We have our own team. It’s fun to travel the world and to different cities. As an official, the adrenaline flow is comparable to the players. It’s a front-row seat to all the action.  

SIK: Where do you see yourself going from here?

KG: I am excited to help other younger officials come up through their ranks and reach their goals. I was really fortunate to have an incredible mentor to help me along the way. I find it rewarding now to pay it forward and help other officials fulfill their dreams. 

SIK: Do you have any advice for young hockey players? 

KG: Have fun! It’s a great game. Make sure every time you step on the ice you are having fun. My skates have been my passport to the world. Make the most of every opportunity. Enjoy your time with your teammates. It goes by quickly!

SIK: What advice do you have for future officials?

KG: Start officiating early. Depending on the state, you can start officiating as young as 14. It builds your hockey IQ.  

(Photo credit: Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register/Getty Images)