The American Hockey League has hired 10 women to officiate games starting this season.
Referees Katie Guay, Kelly Cooke, Samantha Hiller, Jacqueline Zee Howard, Elizabeth Mantha, Amanda Tassoni, and Laura White will take the ice for 2021-22, along with linespersons Alexandra Clarke, Kendall Hanley, and Kirsten Welsh.
“We think that it’s important for the game of hockey to attract like-minded people that are great athletes to pursue officiating,” NHL Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom told ESPN. “It’s great that these women will really be the trailblazers to step into professional men’s hockey. We think that there’s many women out there playing hockey that hopefully, when they stop playing, will consider giving back. Because the majority of great officials in the future are sitting on the bench right now. I hope this inspires people to want to try it and recognize there’s a lot of opportunity out there.”
Cooke, Guay, Hanley, and Welsh were selected to handle the Women’s Elite 3-on-3 Event as part of the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend after working NHL prospect tournaments. All of the officials selected have taken part in the NHL’s Officiating Exposure Combine, typically held in August.
“I just want to make the AHL proud,” said Welsh, who is also working in the OHL and ECHL this season. “I want to deserve this spot. I don’t want to just be put in here because I’m a girl. I want to deserve this spot.”
First up is Katie Guay, who’ll be working an October 16th game between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
“We’re a development league, so it’s time to give these women a chance and let them advance their careers,” AHL President Scott Howson told ESPN. “I think it’s great for our fans to see it. The example that these women are setting for young women all over the world is that sports is wide open for everybody, really at all positions.”
ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reported that they newly-hired officials were also part of the NHL Officiating Mentorship Program.
The NHL and NHL Officiating mentorship program for elite women’s officials began in December 2020. The NHL worked with USA Hockey and Hockey Canada, and together identified 48 women to participate across North America. The weekly Zoom sessions were led by current and retired NHL officials. The group broke down video and covered topics such as communication with coaches and players, pregame prep and dealing with adversity. Those sessions continued informally through the 2020-21 season.
The addition of these ten women to the AHL’s officiating roster sets the stage for their potential move to the NHL in the future.
“All of these women have earned the opportunity to be where they are today,” Walkom said. “And like any official looking to take the next step, the requirement is the same: They need to conquer the American Hockey League first, and do it one game at a time.”
Clarke is also working in the WHL this season. Welsh is covering the lines in the OHL and the ECHL.
Congratulations, and good luck to the AHL’s latest officials on their upcoming debuts!