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NWHL Officials Reflect on Importance of Inaugural Season

The National Women’s Hockey League created a number of role models in the hockey world for young girls during its inaugural season, with many of them more prominent than others.

During the first season of the NWHL, little girls got to see some of the better hockey players in the world, as well as some female coaches, general managers and even the league’s commissioner. From the highest level to the lowest, the NWHL had many power women for young girls to look up to.

One position that may have been overlooked though, would be the officials. Every NWHL game this past year had a couple of women wearing the black and white stripes. Like in all sports, officiating may be one of the most thankless jobs, and when they are at their best, many fans do not even realize they are out there most nights.

Jodi Price, from Danville, New York, officiated eight regular season games during the inaugural season, even working the lines for both games of the Isobel Cup Finals, said “It was an amazing experience. To be on the ice with girls who are that talented is something you never forget.”

Maine native, Jessica Leclerc spoke similarly about her experience officiating during the league’s first season. Leclerc said, “Similarly to the players, it is a dream come true for us as well. We all strive to work the highest level of hockey, and the NWHL has given us the opportunity to do so all season long.”

That opportunity is something all high level USA Hockey officials crave. Much like the players, the only way to get better is to work the highest level possible.

Michaela Frattarelli, of Bristol, Rhode Island added, “I think officiating in the NWHL has helped me develop as an official, the hockey is very fast and I think there is more at stake for the players. It has definitely helped me be more comfortable in high pressure situations.”

Just like the players in the NWHL, the officials are not full-time employees and work other jobs as well. Frattarelli is a full-time guidance counselor as well as a co-owner of a cross fit center, and Leclerc is the director of recreation therapy at a skilled nursing facility.

The pace and physical demands for NWHL officials are incredibly high, and officials like Price, NWHL games are not the only games they have worked over the course of the season. She said, “There were a lot of weekends that I would be skating college games Friday and Saturday, then an NWHL game on Sunday. If you do not take proper care of yourself, it is tough to come out and perform three days in a row at that level.”

While being a referee may seem like a strange move for many hockey players, these women love what they are doing and even got the inspiration from friends or family. Frattarelli knew an American Hockey League linesman that suggest she take a chance at officiating, Price got the inspiration from a former coach and her friends even lent her some equipment to get started and Leclerc was inspired by her father, who was a USA Hockey official when she was 12 years old.

Officiating in the NWHL has become a stepping stone for some of these women, as they have gone on to work many international tournaments around the globe, since the season ended. All three of them have been all over Canada and Italy at the World Championships and other International Ice Hockey Federation events.

When asked what their ultimate officiating goal would be all three pretty much gave the same answer as Frattarelli, “Ultimately, I would love to officiate at an Olympic event. I think it would just be an unbelievable experience.”

All of the officials are on the right track, and the NWHL has provided that kind of environment which is conducive to the vast improvement they may receive from the experience.

Leclerc said, “The NWHL, along with USA Hockey, has provided female officials with the opportunity to work this league. We have an amazing group of talented women who officiate almost all of the games, and it is wonderful to have this league to showcase its talent.”

She added, “It is nice to highlight the skills and commitment of the women officials in the league, alongside the players, and how we are role models for young girls.”

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