The other day, training camp opened for ECAC Men’s and Women’s Hockey officials at the Houston Field House on the RPI campus in Troy, NY. We welcomed aboard some 10 new candidates (we’re always looking for more).

Every year, there is attrition and it starts quickly. The group got pared down from 110 to 85. Time commitment, lack of availability, the demands of spouses, significant others and parenthood force some folks to reluctantly step aside.

In other cases, substandard performance is the candidate’s undoing.

Weigh-in in part of registration, and there are always some nervous people. The bane of some candidates’ existence is death by buffet. They have to make a choice between whether they care more about their whistle or their utensils. Being out of shape is deadly to one’s job hopes in the modern officiating profession: there’s no sugar-coating it (haha).

Officiating hockey is a marathon, not a sprint. Job candidates have to be ready.

If you aren’t in shape, your skating suffers. Iif you can’t skate with vigor, your positioning suffers. If you are not physically strong enough to take a bump and push off, you risk injury. If your core strength is challenged with an overhanging or flabby stomach:

A) you will likely develop back issues if you don’t already have them, and

B) you will look like a fat person on the ice and that’s not the image we want.

We pay for their talent for officiating the game, their travel, their commitment. They have to do their part to be ready to do the job.

At camp, we put the candidates through skating tests: three minutes, circle to circle with a minimum of ten laps. They also go fourth lengths of the ice backwards, from a dead stop, v-stop at the goal line, turn and come back. Times should be 40 to 50 seconds.

As part of fitness testing, there are one-minute pushup and one-minute situp tests. We look for a minimum of 30 bonafide pushups and situps apiece.

Our collegiate league has had two Men’s Frozen Four Championships in the last two years. The Women’s side won it all last year and constantly have teams in the NCAA tourney. The ECAC has every reason to be proud of its member teams, and the officiating side has to maintain the same high standards to keep the pace.

If everyone could do this job, we would have more people trying out. It takes someone special and a special kind of athlete to officiate hockey. Now let the games begin!

****** Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.

Today, Stewart is an officiating and league discipline consultant for the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and serves as director of hockey officiating for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC).

The longtime referee heads Officiating by Stewart, a consulting, training and evaluation service for officials. Stewart also maintains a busy schedule as a public speaker, fund raiser and master-of-ceremonies for a host of private, corporate and public events. As a non-hockey venture, he is the owner of Lest We Forget.

In addition to his blogs for HockeyBuzz every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Stewart writes a column every Wednesday for the Huffington Post.This post originally appeared on and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.