NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Paul Stewart has a very big goal for the next stage of his already lengthy hockey career, and that's helping women follow in his footsteps by officiating in the NHL.
Stewart, being inducted Wednesday night into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, said Katie Guay will be working the upcoming Beanpot tournament in Boston after being an official at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Stewart, who refereed 1,010 NHL regular-season games, 49 Stanley Cup playoff games and two NHL All-Star Games, says he had a small part in helping Guay.
“I want to see someone break that glass ceiling,” Stewart said. “It doesn't take an X or Y chromosome to put your arm in the air and call a penalty. It only takes brains and guts. And that's it. My next goal is to have lots of great women officiating.”
Stewart joined David Poile, general manager of the NHL's Nashville Predators, three-time Olympic medalist and U.S. national team captain Natalie Darwitz, former Michigan coach Red Berenson and the late Leland “Hago” Harrington being inducted. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also presented the 2018 Lester Patrick Award to the late Jim Johansson.
Darwitz, who coaches Division III Hamline in St. Paul, Minnesota, said women being officials in the NHL is possible. She said she couldn't shoot like a man or skate as fast but believe women could be referees. She mentioned Guay and Kristine Langley, a referee for men's game at the D-III level.
“If you know the game well enough, that's certainly a huge possibility that could happen in the future,” Darwitz said. “And I would love to see that.”
Five women took part in the NHL's officiating combine in Buffalo in August.
What the NHL is looking for in officials applies to men and women. Walkom said qualities need include being an exceptional skater to keep up with the pace of play, and Bettman told the AP that being as qualified as other candidates is the key.
“I don't view any limitations in our ability to continue to attract knowledgeable, smart, hard-working professionals, whether they're male or female,” Bettman said.
The induction ceremony was a sellout event Wednesday night at a hotel a couple blocks from the Predators' arena thanks to Poile, the man who built Nashville's NHL franchise from the ground up as an expansion franchise. “I'm a lucky guy,” Poile said. “I was born into a hockey family, so I have no regrets and I have no complaints.”