AHL linesman Chris Woodworth will don the stripes in the American Hockey League for the last time. He’ll be joined on the ice tonight by referees Keith Kaval and Tim Mayer, alongside fellow linesman Fraser McIntyre.

“I’m very honored to skate his final game in his hometown,” said referee Keith Kaval. “Chris has done many great things both on and off the ice in his career. I look forward to skating one last time with him and our crew he hand picked.”

Woodworth’s officiating career spans over 20 years.  He has officiated in the NAHL, USHL, NCAA Division I, IHL, UHL, SPHL, ECHL, CHL and AHL, as well as internationally with the IIHF.  Woodworth is currently a Supervisor in the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program.

“I don’t think anybody grows up wanting to be an official, it’s just something that’s in your chemical makeup, I think,” Woodworth said with a smile. “And once you get your foot in the door, it becomes part of you, but I do think you have to have a screw loose in your head in order to want to be an official.”

A Career Begins in Canandaigua

Woodworth got his start officiating at the Greater Canandaigua Civic Center, where he’s remembered for driving the Zamboni, working the snack bar, and refereeing games.”I knew I was better at taking the pucks out of the net than putting the puck in the net,” Woodworth once said of his decision to shift from playing in games to officiating them.

After working a youth national championship event in Rochester, Woodworth was invited to a junior development camp in Vermont.  A strong showing in that camp earned him a job working junior hockey in Dallas.  While there, he received an unexpected call to fill in for a CHL official sidelined due to illness.  He did well enough to earn a job in the league, working 35 games that season. From there, things kept rolling. He added assignments in various leagues across North America, eventually reaching the AHL.

“I came home and knew I was ready to go into the American League and knew it wasn’t going to be handed to me, so I wrote a letter to the director of officiating to introduce myself,” Woodworth told the Democrat and Chronicle. “I told him I’m ready, and I can live in Rochester. I got a tryout, a preseason game between Syracuse and Rochester eight years ago. He came, saw the game, and I ended up getting hired.”

Linesman Chris Woodworth Breaks Up a Scrap

Linesman Chris Woodworth breaks up a scrap (Image: Melissa Hossenfeffer)

That was nine years ago.  Woodworth continued his pursuit of improving his game and reaching the next level – the NHL. He was working as many as 120 games and traveling over 100,000 miles to try to make it there.

“I was chasing the NHL dream pretty hard so I was on the road constantly,” he said. “I missed a lot of funerals, births, weddings, and the lifestyle is very difficult and the travel is very difficult. It burned me out.”

“I couldn’t really justify chasing the dream anymore,” Woodworth said. “I quit doing it at that level and settled down back at home.”

International Experience

While the NHL never came calling, the International Ice Hockey Federation recognized Woodworth’s abilities.

He was invited to an IIHF officiating camp with hopes of working future tournaments. Injuries kept him out of his first two international opportunities.  Woodworth finally had the opportunity to suit up for the 2012 World Juniors in Calgary.

A strong showing there got him an invitation to the 2013 World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden. While working Sweden vs. Canada, Woodworth was the only on-ice official to see Alex Edler’s knee-on-knee hit on Eric Staal. He assessed a major penalty and game misconduct to Edler for the hit. Edler was suspended for the remainder of the tournament.

Woodworth Selected for Sochi

The following year, Woodworth again found himself working a high-level international tournament.  This one, the highest-level possible. He was one of 32 officials selected to work the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

“[Being named to work the Olympics] is nice because it validates that you’re a solid official, you’re world class, and a lot of hard work went into getting to this point, so it’s very special,” Woodworth said.

USA officials in Sochi, from left: Chris Woodworth, Tommy George, Andy McElman, and Ian Walsh

USA officials in Sochi, from left: Chris Woodworth, Tommy George, Andy McElman, and Ian Walsh

“It was very exciting, I never in a million years thought I would get to that level,” Woodworth said. “It’s taken years of hard work, many camps and lots of games under my belt. It’s nice to establish that I’m pretty good at what I do out there. You have to be one of the best to get an assignment like that.”

From his long career to his international assignments, Woodworth has shown he is one of the best.   His fellow officials and students agree:

“‘Woody’, as we called him, is one of the main reasons that I have been able to advance up the officiating ranks. He took me and many others under his wings and allowed us to develop and grow as not only officials but as people as well. Woody’s knowledge is priceless and he is always there for me and others to help us with any questions or situations that come up. It’s sad to see a great mentor of mine retire but he has done a remarkable job! He is a lifetime friend to me now.” – Dan Iulianello, Webster, NY

“Chris has been a mentor to me on and off the ice. Chris helped me reach levels of officiating I didn’t think would be possible.   Not only did he succeed, he also gave a great amount back. Without him giving back, I would not be the official I am today.” – Nick Kolb, Rochester, NY

We at Scouting the Refs thank Chris Woodworth for all his contributions to USA Hockey, both personally and through the development of younger officials.  We wish him well in retirement and with hopes of a terrific send-off out there on the ice in front of his friends and family.

(stick-taps to the Democrat & Chronicle and the Irondequoit Post for their previous articles which have been cited in this story)