The ECHL’s first female on-ice official – Laura Schmidlein – made her debut Saturday in Worcester.
Schmidlein made history, wearing the stripes as the Worcester Railers hosted the Maine Mariners. She worked the lines for the game with Evan Reddick, alongside referee Sam Heidemann.
The two teams combined for 22 penalty minutes, including a ten-minute misconduct to the Railers’ Zach Malatesta.
Schmidlein was briefly recognized for her debut during the second period, receiving a nice ovation from the crowd.
“I didn’t expect that. It was cool,” she said. “If you’re an official, you don’t want to be in the limelight. The players told me to give the crowd a wave. I didn’t even know it was happening.”
The Waltham, Massachusetts, native was excited to make her league debut.
“I was wildly nervous,” said Schmidlein. “I was more calm than I thought I would be and in a really great way. My crew was awesome and so I kicked into ‘Okay, this is a hockey game and I know how to skate a hockey game’ way sooner than I thought I would.”
ECHL Director of Officiating Stephen Thomson praised Schmidlein’s debut.
“The first impression is courageous, to be honest,” said Thomson. “All of the weight on her shoulders, the pressure she felt. It’s not often that officials get into the media and she handled all professionally and with courage.”
Schmidlein transitioned to officiated after graduating from Amherst College, where she played for four years. She began working youth games before moving up to the collegiate level, and then to the Premier Hockey Federation (formerly the National Women’s Hockey League).
“It’s been a cool path,” she said. “I didn’t realize how quickly I could get to where I am but it’s been a run and rewarding experience to this point.”
Schmidlein is the first woman to officiate an ECHL game in the 34-year history of the league. She’s not the only woman on the league’s roster, though. Linesperson Kristen Welsh, who’s also working in the Ontario Hockey League, will also be taking the ice in the ECHL this season.
The ECHL is the second North American professional league to welcome women into their officiating ranks this year, with the AHL hiring 10 female officials — all of whom have already worked a game this season. Both the WHL and OHL have also seen women make their league debuts as on-ice officials this year.
“Having Laura join the ECHL Officiating Team is a monumental moment in our League’s history as the first on-ice female official assigned to work a regular season game,” said ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin, prior to Schmidlein’s debut. “This assignment to our league is a credit to her growth as a top prospect at her position in all of hockey and we are excited to see her continue to develop through working games at our level in the ECHL.”
Congratulations to linesperson Laura Schmidlein on her ECHL debut!