While fans are excited about their countries’ respective Olympic training camps, remember that it’s not just the players who will be headed over to Russia in February. The officials are also preparing for the tournament.
The Olympics, as an international competition should, feature referees from leagues all over the world. Seventeen referees and fifteen linesmen participated in the camp, representing twelve different countries. Of those, seven referees and seven linesmen will be selected for the Sochi games. From the IIHF:
“We invited top referees and top linesman. It’s the third year we do this, this time for the selection and preparation of the on-ice officials for the Olympic Games,” said IIHF Officiating Manager Konstantin Komissarov. “They can show us their physical condition and what they did in summer, their ice skating and we can work together on rule interpretation in classroom sessions.”
Don’t think the camps are just whiteboard sessions and video reviews. These guys have to work hard, facing extensive off ice fitness tests, game situations, and strenuous workouts.
“Much is demanded from us here but it’s worth it,” said IIHF referee Daniel Piechaczek. “If you show top performances you may have the chance to officiate at top events. The dream of everybody here is of course to go to Sochi. Just to be here among these participants is an honour and later we will see who gets to call the games.”
While this camp focused on international officials, half of the Sochi officiating crew will come from the National Hockey League. An additional seven referees and seven linesmen will head to the Olympics from the NHL, which has its own selection process. While no NHL officials participated in the IIHF camp, the league sent a crew of former officials Terry Gregson, Bill McCreary, Bob Hall, and Rob Shick to observe and represent the league in meetings.
“I’ve been going to such camps in Europe for many years and they’re well organized, but the last couple of years I noticed a great transformation with the officials they’re bringing to these camps. The fitness levels are where they need to be, they’re athletes. That’s their approach now,” said Gregson. “‘Across the world officiating is getting to a similar standard. We’re having some sort of cross-cultures of hockey now. It’s important that everybody officiated the same way.”
Another potential benefit to the NHL is a chance to see the talent pool of officials. The NHL has used international tournaments to scout potential officials, including former referee Marcus Vinnerborg, the first European to officiate in the league. “When I hired Marcus to the National Hockey League a lot of people were surprised but I had the chance to watch Marcus three years and in the Vancouver Olympics. At the Olympics we can compare them with our officials,” Gregson said, as reported on IIHF.com. “We’ll certainly give some guys who are here a good look and I’m sure some of them would be good officials [in the NHL].”
Much like with young players coming up, training camp is a great opportunity to show off your skills and abilities in hopes of making the big team. For seven referees and seven linesmen in this camp, that dream will be realized at the Sochi Olympics.