By: Carter Hochman | Follow me on Twitter @Carterr33
It’s not very often you get to sit down (via Zoom) with someone who’s broken a barrier and is the “first” to do something, but that’s just what I got to do a short while ago. I myself, amongst other members of Black N’ Gold Productions, had the pleasure of chatting with a referee who’s officiated her fair share of Boston Pride games, but this time recently became the first woman to officiate an AHL game, Katie Guay.
A Massachusetts native herself, Guay grew up in Westfield and played hockey all the way through to the Division I level at Brown University back from 2001-2005, a very talented team in a difficult ECAC conference. At the time, post-college, there really wasn’t a ton of opportunity for women to play aside from the National teams pending you were good enough. Guay, deciding she wasn’t quite done with the game of hockey just yet, decided to get into refereeing.
During our interview, Guay admitted that one of the reasons she’d started to referee was to help pay for the adult league she played in, admitting that after having been receiving free gear and ice time for four years, hockey is a relatively expensive game to play. “I started doing women’s adult league,” Guay mentioned, “adult recreational league, and it was great because they [the other referees] didn’t know the rules, and I didn’t know the rules, and so we got to learn them together.” It was her first real experience seeing the game from a completely different lens and the start of a new passion and journey for Guay.
Things she’d never noticed as a player became paramount as a new referee, things like “how to stand when you’re dropping a puck, where to stand when you’re dropping a puck,” Guay added, “which side of the dock to stand on, [these were] things that were all completely foreign to me. A ton to learn in the beginning.” But Guay was quick to take on this new education for the game she loved, and her first goal was to try and minimize the mistakes. “I actually had a little notebook in the beginning and wrote down one mistake I made every game because, let’s face it, we make a lot of mistakes out there. My goal was to not make that same mistake twice.” It truly brought to light the wide range of scenarios, both frequent and rare, that come about during a hockey game, something that fans, myself included, don’t generally think about.
It was time for Guay’s next step, where she started officiating Division III college hockey, where it was an entirely new rulebook. “I got to see at the college level, it’s a different respect for the game [that the players and fans have]… it was just a matter of being a sponge. I would ask a lot of questions to my partners.” Guay mentioned that she wanted to learn as much as she could from every referee she came across, also noticing that each referee has their own particular style as well, name-dropping NHL fan-favorite Wes McCauley’s flair for the dramatic in his calls.
After working her way up through the ladder, Guay was one of the first four women called to officiate in the NHL Prospect Tournament in Anaheim back in September of 2019. It was clear that Guay had talent as a referee, and the league took notice. On October 16th, Guay made history as the first female referee in an AHL game the moment she dropped the puck between two Lehigh Valley and Scranton-Wilkes Barre centermen. Guay mentioned feeling the butterflies leading up to the moment she dropped the puck, but once the game went underway, “it just felt like another game.” And the rest, as they say, is quite literally history.