The CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game was held Friday September 22, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The game featured some of USA Hockey’s top prospect players, along with some of their most talented officials.
Referees Lucas Martin and Terrence Murphy and linesmen Riley Bowles and Nick Briganti joined us for a Q&A prior to puck drop.
Scouting the Refs: What does it mean to be selected to work the All-American Prospects Game?
Lucas Martin: Honestly, it’s an honor. I’ve been working for USA Hockey for 18 years now, working higher level hockey for the last ten. I’m just breaking into some minor pro hockey and this is just a great experience and a huge achievement. USA Hockey is showing us that we put our time in and that we deserve to be here. It’s a great experience and I’m thrilled and honored to be working it.
Terrence Martin: It’s something special that we’re not always a part of — being in an all-star atmosphere like this, being on the ice with some of the best players in the world in their age group. It’s really an honor for us, the officials, to have an opportunity to be involved in an event like that.
STR: What is it about your game that helped you get here?
Riley Bowles: I think for us it’s what we do away from the ice. We all give back here, as a group, to the local grassroots associations. We work hard in the summertime on skating, fitness, and rule knowledge and I think that’s what might separate us from the pack .
Nick Briganti: I think it’s a culmination of working day in and day out on and off the ice even throughout the summer. All of us work different leagues so it shows that if you keep doing the right things that you’ve been told and that you’ve been learning, people are going to notice your hard work. Everything builds on that.
STR: Officiating is not an easy job, and it’s not for everyone. What made you decide to become an official?
Lucas Martin: I started when I was 11. It was just a way to stay on the ice and make a little side money when I was a kid. I liked it and just kept at it. Once I started seeing higher level hockey, that’s when I really got intrigued and wanted to go for the goal [of becoming a full-time official].
Terrence Murphy: I started reffing when I was in middle school. I’d do mite and squirt games with my father before I’d have practice with my team as a player. Growing up, it was a good opportunity. I really got into it in college after I stopped played. It was a good transition to stay involved with the game and then obviously make a couple extra bucks on the weekends through the school year.
Riley Bowles: It’s another avenue to stay involved with the game even when you’re done playing. Hockey isn’t for everyone, and you can’t all make it to the top. [Officiating is] another fork in the road you can take to stay involved in the game.
Nick Briganti: I started when I was 12. My dad, he reffed and assigned locally, so — I have a twin brother who refs too – that’s how we got into it. Both of us played up through junior, and then it got to the point where we had to keep playing juniors and put off college or go to school. We decided to go to school and that’s when we started getting into refereeing full time. It kind of went from there.
[Nick’s twin brother Kevin also works in the AHL, ECHL, and NCAA. Kevin officiated the 2015 Frozen Four.]
STR: All four of you came took part in the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program. How has that helped your officiating careers?
Terrence Martin: I had the opportunity to go there out of college. I did three years full time as a referee in the USHL and Southern Pro League. I learned a lot. I got experience from being a part of that program that maybe you don’t see elsewhere. It’s a full-time job out there and it put me in a position to succeed in the league that I work in now.
Lucas Martin: I started when I was 19. I didn’t go the college route. I started officiating when I was younger and it really taught me how to be a man. I learned so much off the ice just about life in general, confidence, communication with people, fitness… There are just so many things that I’ve been able to apply in life, not just necessarily hockey, and the Officiating Development Program definitely guided me and structured where I am now
Riley Bowles: The program for me just got me into work at the different levels. It puts you in different situations and teaches you how to handle the game and how to manage the game. We had a great supervising staff that helped guide us and mold us into where we are now.
Nick Briganti: For me, being on the East Coast, I started out with the program when I was younger. I didn’t do the ODP — the USHL route — I did college. Being a part of the program when I first started, it definitely gave me a base with USA hockey with getting the fundamentals. It’s a foundation for your path.
STR: USA Hockey recently asked for feedback and changes for the rule book. If you could make one change, what would it be?
Nick Briganti: I would do nine dots at the youth level. That’s probably the one I’d change.
[Rule 612 calls for a last play face-off in certain situations, where the face-off would take place “at the nearest end zone or neutral zone face-off spot, or the nearest point along an imaginary line of each side of the ice connecting the end zone face-off spot where the puck was last played.”]
Riley Bowles: I’d change the high stick rule to crossbar and where it makes point of contact with the stick.
[Rule 621 requires goals be disallowed if deflected with a stick above the shoulder.]
Terrence Martin: I think that just hockey in general, the rule books from league to league should have more consistency instead of small changes from one league to another. A lot of people don’t pick up on those differences, but as officials we have to know all the details for every league we work.
Lucas Martin: Especially when you’re in the ODP. One night you’re working one league, one night you’re working another league. You have to know four [rule] books, and they’re definitely not the same.
STR: How hard is that, when you’re switching leagues? How do you handle it?
Lucas Martin: Sometimes you can make yourself a little cheat sheet, especially as a referee, for penalty options. I’ve got a cheat sheet in my riot pad. If I need it, I can pull it out, but it’s also helped because when I’m writing it down, it helps me memorize and learn the differences between each book.
Riley Bowles: It’s just sitting down before the game and doing an overview of the book that you’re going to be working out of for the night. On the mental side, you’ve got to learn to put the previous game — which could be different rules — out and focus on the job in front of you.
STR: Lucas and Riley, you both just finished officiating the Traverse City NHL Prospect Tournament. How was that experience?
Lucas Martin: It was a great experience. It was the best hockey I’ve seen. It was an eye-opener. Very skilled players, very skilled officials there. Great supervision. I really learned a lot.
Riley Bowles: I think the play was awesome. We had a really good group of guys with us. we all learned from each other. As a team, we meshed really well. The players were obviously outstanding; the skill level was outstanding as well. It gave us a little insight as to what the future could hold in leagues to come, so I think it’s a good experience for us.
STR: This summer, we saw the NHL hire seven new officials, including Hockey East referee Cameron Voss, with whom a few of you worked. What’s it like to see your former co-workers moving up?
Nick Briganti: I think it’s awesome. I worked my first junior game with Cam, and I also worked my first American League game with him. He’s one of the guys where every time you get your assignments and you see he’s on the game you’re excited. He’s obviously a good official, he’s a good guy and I’m happy for him, proud of him, and hopefully he does well.
Terrence Murphy: It’s rewarding for us to see our colleagues move on. I worked with Cam in the USHL, same with Ryan Daisy. [Daisy was also recently hired by the NHL.] To kind of be with them on their journey and see where they go — even though all of our careers may go different ways — to see your friends achieve their goals is rewarding for us, too.
STR: How do you approach tonight’s game? Do you do anything different to prepare or is it just another game?
Lucas Martin: Honestly, I like to go into every hockey game thinking it’s just another hockey game. Each game can mean different things for different leagues, depending on where you’re at, what time of the year. This is a game where it’s an achievement. It’s an honor to work and play in this game. These guys are going to play hard. They’re going to be showcasing their talent. We’re going to call it [fair] and let the boys play and let them show their skill off and if we need to step in and call something, we will.
Terrence Martin: For us, it’s part of the experience of being here that’s rewarding. We’re going to treat it like a regular hockey game, but take it all in at the same time and enjoy the moment.