On Friday, Nov. 21, when the Southern Pro League’s Columbus Cottonmouths take on the Fayetteville FireAntz, referees Erin Blair (Bloomingdale, IL) and Katie Guay will be making the calls.
Both highly decorated and with a ton of international experience, the female duo was selected to work the game, in partnership with the Cottonmouths and USA Hockey, as part of Columbus’ Girl Scout Night. Former NCAA players, Blair and Guay have been part of some of the most notable international women’s tournaments, and this will further add to their list of achievements.
“We are extremely excited to be allowed the opportunity to showcase two of the top female referees in the world,” said SPHL Director of Officiating Mark Faucette in a release.
Blair, who has been officiating for 14 years, has spent over a decade of that time at the international level, calling games from Under-18 World Championship and IIHF World Championship all the way to the Sochi Olympics, one of only six women selected to work the tournament. Before beginning her career as a referee, Blair was a Division 1 goaltender at University of Findlay.
As for Guay, she already officiates men as part of her duties in the NCAA’s ECAC and Hockey East, but it will be her first time working a professional men’s contest. Prior to getting the call to work the Cottonmouths game, Guay has officiated at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship. She’s already gotten the call for duty at the 2015 IIHF World Championship. During her playing days, Guay was a member of the Under-22 US women’s national team and was named the MVP of her team at Brown University.
“Erin and Katie are two highly capable and qualified officials that I know will represent the entire officiating community to the highest level,” added USA Hockey Officiating Education Program Director Matt Leaf.
Friday’s game will not be the first time female referees have called a professional men’s game. In 1995, Heather McDaniel became the first woman to accomplish the feat, working games in the Central League. McDaniel, who got the call at age 24, worked men’s games for several years before retiring from refereeing professional hockey.
The advent of more women’s tournaments and a women’s professional league have given women more opportunities to continue their careers as referees at both the college and professional women’s levels. While this opportunity seems like a one-off for Blair and Guay, it’s an incredible accomplishment by both women and can hopefully lead to more opportunities for the finest referees – male or female – to make their way up the ranks.