The NHL Exposure Combine recently took place in Buffalo, New York. Hockey officials – as well as players with no officiating experience – from across North America were invited to attend the camp and dive into the world of hockey officiating. For many, it was a shot to leverage their previous years in stripes to try to get their break at the NHL level. Camp attendees included scouts and managers from the NHL, OHL, and ECHL.
One such referee was Cody Lang of Bowling Green, Ohio.
Writer Ryan Satkowiak over at the Sentinel-Tribune (Bowling Green, Ohio) had a great write-up on prospective NHL official Lang:
Like most kids who grew up around the sport, [Lang’s] dream was to get to the NHL. Having also officiated hockey games since he was 11, he decided that [refereeing] was the way he would live his NHL dream.
“I want to say [attending the Combine] was a bit of a surprise, but more so a huge accomplishment, something I’ve worked for ever since I was 10 or 11,” said Lang, who officiates games in the Federal Hockey League, an American professional hockey league that is the equivalent of Single-A baseball leagues. “I’ve been working my way up.”
Lang, who is in his ninth year of officiating, said his goal heading into the combine was to impress those in attendance enough to land a contract from one of the leagues that sent scouts to observe the event.
While his goal is to one day reach the NHL, he got into officiating simply because of his love for the game.
“It’s one way to stay around the game. You can stay around the game officiating, even youth hockey, until you’re in your fifties,” he said. “I know a lot of guys who do it for the money, because it pays well. But I would ref hockey if I didn’t get paid.”
Lang also hit on what’s required to make a career in stripes.
“You have to be physically and mentally fit because you have to know all of the rules and you have to know what to do in certain situations,” Lang said. “You have to keep working at it in all parts of officiating, so working out, reading the rule book, going over stuff in your head. It’s never ending.”
“You can call the most perfect game and someone is still going to be upset with something you call,” Lang said. “But as you do it longer you find a way to handle situations under pressure in a calm fashion. As you grow as an official, you almost tend to not even hear it anymore.”
The NHL Combine gives officials a chance to get in front of officiating managers and hopefully get noticed. The league has started monitoring referees earlier in their careers to try to promote development of high-potential officials.
“It’s a really big honor to be able to take part to be able to showcase your skills and your athleticism,” said Scott Zelkin, the manager of officiating development for USA Hockey who attended the combine on behalf of USA Hockey. “It’s truly the first step in opening the door to opening a career. For some officials it could be the first time the NHL has seen them work. It’s the opportunity to fulfill a dream.”
Hopefully, this is a big step towards Lang fulfilling his. Read the full story over at the Sentinel-Tribune.
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