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Seven years after the men, women get second referee at world hockey championship

03/30/2015 10:20 EDT | Updated 05/30/2015 05:59 EDT
MALMO, Sweden - The overtime period of the 2014 Olympic women's hockey final was chock full of drama and overseen by a single referee.

Three penalties — one for tripping Hayley Wickenheiser on a breakaway that had the Canadian bench screaming for a penalty shot — and Marie-Philip Poulin's overtime winner scored on a four-on-three made for a wild finish.

Veteran referee Joy Tottman of Britain was the lone referee assigned to manage it.

Seven years after it was introduced to international men's hockey, the women have two referees and two linesmen for the first time at this year's world championship.

Men have had a second referee at their world championship since 2008 and in the last two Winter Olympics.

"We've been talking about it that long," said Melody Davidson, Hockey Canada's director of female hockey. "We've built the depth of officials up now so we're ready."

Davidson sits on the International Ice Hockey Federation's women's committee.

IIHF officiating committee secretary Konstantin Komissarov told The Canadian Press in 2009 there was no reason to add a second referee to the women's game. He pointed to some of the lopsided scores as a reason it didn't warrant another on-ice official.

That the women now deserve the same officiating manpower as men is another sign of progress in the female game.

But the IIHF is just catching up to both the Canadian Women's Hockey League, which has operated four-official crews since 2010, and NCAA Division 1 female hockey, which has operated a two-referee system since 2008-09.

Canadian universities still have one ref in women's hockey.

The difference between the North American and international games, however, is the CWHL and the NCAA incorporate male officials into female games. The IIHF remains committed to running all-female crews.

"I think it will still be females," Davidson said. "We've built the depth up so now we have a lot of female officials with good experience from the Sochi Olympics, the Vancouver Olympics, even some from Torino.

"The speed of the game as we saw in Sochi is picking up and every year it gets better and better. A lot of rinks we play in don't have replays or the extra cameras that you have in the male game. The importance of having four officials out there is key."

Montreal's Gabrielle Ariano-Lortie is among the 10 international referees assigned to the eight-country world championship.

The 31-year-old worked November's Four Nations Cup, which served as a test event of four-official crews, in Kamloops, B.C.

The IIHF held a camp in Finland last summer to train the women in the system. Three female officials from Europe were sent to Montreal to work CWHL games this past winter.

"We don't have a lot of games back home that allow us to practise it," Ariano-Lortie said. "There are a lot of European referees. It's a challenge to work with officials who don't do it a lot and we don't work with them a lot.

"It's different work, but it helps you to really look at what's going on in front of the net and at the play. You can see where the puck is not going and if you miss a goal, you know there's another person here to help you."

With another voice in the mix, discussions between on-ice officials have occasionally gone long in Malmo. But the players were ready for a second referee at the women's world championship.

"The game is too fast for one," said Canada's Caroline Ouellette.

"We want the games to be won five-on-five. Unfortunately, I think in women's hockey there's still a little bit of embellishment. We need that to be called and we need that to be taken out of our game so it is played fair and hard and five-on-five."

U.S. captain Meghan Duggan is pleased there's more law enforcement on the ice at the women's world championship.

"It's great to have more eyes out there," Duggan said. "Hopefully the officiating is top-notch."

"I think anything to keep the game fair and keep the game safe is what we're looking for."

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