USA Hockey Magazine

January 2015

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It was just another small step onto the ice for Erin Blair, but it could be a giant leap for female officials everywhere. Working a Southern Professional Hockey League game between the Columbus Cottonmouths and Fayetteville Fireantz was more than just a promotional event, it was an opportunity for Blair and fellow USA Hockey official Katie Guay to show that female officials can take their game to the next level. "I had a blast. It was a great time," said Blair, who has been officiating for 14 years after finishing her playing career as a goaltender for the University of Findlay (Ohio). "It was a great opportunity for me, and hopefully what we were able to do will help open the door for other female officials." It was all part of a Hockey In Heels promotion on Nov. 21 to bring more female fans into the Columbus Civic Center. But for Blair and Guay, their focus was on the action on the ice and putting their USA Hockey officiating education to use to call a good game. "Every game you work, whether it's a Peewee game or a pro game makes you better and helps you grow as an official," said Blair, who worked the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Guay, a native of Westfield, Mass., is no stranger to men's hockey, having worked both men's and women's games in the ECAC and Hockey East. She was also selected to officiate the 2015 IIHF Women's World Championship in Malmo, Sweden. Still, there were some nuances of working a professional game that took some getting used to, such as the prospect of potential fisticuffs, which came to fruition early in the first period. "We knew it was going to happen but my eyeballs almost popped out of my head when the first fight started," Blair admitted. One side note, Blair and Guay weren't the only females on the ice on this Friday night. Two-time Canadian Olympic gold medalist Shannon Szabados was between the pipes for the Cottonmouths and rejected 34 shots to pick up her first professional victory. 13 Robert Kopf has been on the ice since he was 4 years old, but it wasn't until 20 years ago that the native New Yorker began standing behind the bench. The 41-year- old Kopf started coaching with his dad in the mid-1990s before jetting off to Virginia Beach, Va., in 1995, the year he graduated from Clarkson University. Kopf coached at different youth levels in the Hampton Roads Youth Hockey Association while earning his Level 4 coaching certification. Eventually, Kopf returned home to spearhead the girls' 10 & Under program with the Niagara Jr. Purple Eagles Association. He also sits on the board of directors as the director of Girls' Hockey. Even after being involved with the game for 35-plus years, the Buffalo Sabres' season ticket holder said that being around his team and at the rink continues to be a huge part of his life. "I've always loved hockey," said Kopf, who works for a software consulting company. "Some of the best memories I have growing up are of going to games with my dad. Being on the ice with the kids is the best part of my week." COACH OF THE MONTH Robert Kopf Grand Island, N.Y. USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM JANUARY. 2015 Female Refs Reach For New Heights

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