Photo by Stefan Kubus/MiHockey

First female-only USA Hockey Referee Clinic in Michigan a success

Photo by Stefan Kubus/MiHockey
Photo by Stefan Kubus/MiHockey


By @StefanKubus –

LIVONIA – The Michigan Amateur Hockey Association and USA Hockey held the first annual USA Hockey Referee Clinic strictly for women this past weekend.

Eighteen girls signed up for the clinic, held Saturday at Eddie Edgar Ice Arena in Livonia. With 44 registered female officials across the state of Michigan last year, MAHA’s new Referee-in-Chief Russ Eidenberger said adding 18 to the officiating pool is certainly a positive step forward.

“We’ve got 18 females, and this is a program that I want to grow for Michigan, and I’d love nothing more than to be the leader in the female officiating program for the country. We’re fortunate to have Melissa Szkola and Sara Strong around and Janine Martinez.”

Martinez was one of the three instructors on-hand to assist with the program. She said it was “about time to get the ball rolling” in producing more female officials in Michigan. She, Szkola and Strong took the women through a six-hour seminar, complete with off-ice and on-ice instruction, covering everything from penalty signals and dropping the puck to dealing with fights and unruly coaches.

“The turnout of the amount of young first-year officials gives me great hope for the future to grow female officials in Michigan,” Martinez said. “It was an honor to be a part of the first female only ref seminar.  I was proud to be asked by Russ to be on a staff with Melissa and Sara to run the seminar.”

Getting more female officials in the sport just makes perfect sense, especially given how many girls’ hockey games take place each year in Michigan.

“It’s huge. There’s lots of female games throughout the state of Michigan, and there’s no reason female officials shouldn’t be doing these games,” Eidenberger said. “It’s a different game when you’re doing a female game, there’s no checking and things like that. And most of these girls have played in hockey so they have a better understanding than maybe a male official.”

Photos by Stefan Kubus/MiHockey

While the numbers aren’t overwhelming just yet, Eidenberger said it’s only the beginning.

“I think that it’s been tried a couple times, but kind of fizzled away, so I told all the instructors here today that this is a program that we’re not going to give up on, we’re just going to keep working on it and communicating.

“I just think that it’s a fantastic thing to have all females do female games if we’re able to do that. Unfortunately we’re not. Last year we had 44 registered females across the states of Michigan, so we’re looking to grow that number, and hopefully we have some success in the future in building the program, and we don’t intend on giving up any time soon.”

On a personal level, Martinez – a three-year veteran – said the coolest part was having her daughters with her and seeing their enthusiasm to get involved in officiating. Her two younger daughters are first-year officials, while her oldest is entering her fourth year.

“I am most proud of having my three daughters with me to experience the seminar and that my two younger ones want to follow in their mom’s and older sister’s footsteps.”

MiHockey Staff

Welcome to MiHockey, your source for all things hockey in Michigan.