The National Collegiate Hockey Conference recently named Mike Schmitt its new Director of Officiating, replacing longtime director Don Adam.
Schmitt spent 15 years in stripes in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, 13 of them as a referee. He has officiated seven NCAA Frozen Fours, including two National Championship Games. After he came off the ice, Schmitt worked as an officiating supervisor for the NCHC.
“My priority will be to promote communication between officials, coaches and administrators to enhance and build on the current officiating program,” Schmitt said in a league statement. “The NCHC showcases hockey at the highest level concerning its teams, players and coaches. I want to ensure the officiating program is at the same level.”
To that end, Schmitt is reportedly making some tweaks to operations for 2023-24.
Officiating Roster Changes
There are no big shakeups planned by Schmitt within the NCHC officiating lineup for the new season.
“I’m not going to come in and make drastic changes,” Schmitt told the Grand Forks Herald. “Everybody is on a clean slate this year.”
There will be some minor movement, as there typically is year-to-year.
Referees Tom Sterns and Timm Walsh have both retired; they’ll be replaced by new hired Stan Szczurek (AHL/ECHL) and Anthony Vikhter (CCHA/USHL). Linesman Justin Hills will shift from linesman to referee this season, while linesman Erik Contino will work a handful of games as referee before making the jump next season.
New linesmen this season include Reilly Hickey (AHL/ECHL), Aaron Mostrom (USHL), Daniel Naylor (USHL), Nathan Voll (CCHA), and Chris Williams (ECHL).
Changing Suspension Criteria
The league will review the criteria for supplemental discipline, including no longer factoring in the time of game when an incident took place.
“Supplemental discipline is for egregious acts not in the rulebook,” Schmitt said. “We don’t want to go re-officiate the game. We want to make sure we’re not using certain parameters to suspend people such as time in a game.”
“If an individual gets five-and-a-game with three minutes to go in the game, does that automatically equate to supplemental discipline? Yes? No? We have to look at the situation. I’m not just going to use time left on the clock for that. I want to see the aggression. Was there intent? Was that individual ticked off at a play and out for revenge on an individual?”
Suspension Rulings to be Internal
Schmitt will be also keeping all official decisions on player suspensions in-house, rather than tapping others outside of the league.
“I’m going to ask for input from our [officiating] supervisors,” Schmitt told the Herald. “Once I have input from supervisors, the determination will be made between myself and [the NCHC commissioner. We’re not going to go outside of our league and ask for input.”
Those supervisors include a wealth of experience, some at the National Hockey League level. NCHC officiating supervisors for 2022-23 were retired NHL linesmen Brian Mach and Thor Nelson, as well as Ron Foyt and Brent Rutherford, both of whom have extensive officiating backgrounds in college hockey in on-ice and supervisory roles. The league has reportedly brought on former NHL referee Dave Jackson and NCHC referee Todd Anderson as supervisors for the 2023-24.
The NCHC is an NCAA Division I hockey conference made up of eight teams in the midwestern United States. Member schools include Colorado College, University of Denver, Miami (Ohio) University, University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Nebraska Omaha, University of North Dakota, St. Cloud State University, and Western Michigan University. Arizona State University will join the NCHC for the 2024-25 season.
The conference began play in 2013, made up of six former member clubs from the WCHA and two from the CCHA.