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Warkentin now calling "offsides" and "hooking"

December 06, 2017

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Ken Warkentin gets up early Sunday morning and hops into the car to head to a hockey rink. Although he spent the better part of Saturday calling harness races at Freehold and the Meadowlands, finishing work around midnight, he is energized. When he arrives at the rink, he will not be playing in a game, though. He puts on black pants, a striped shirt, and gets ready to have a new kind of fun.
The 58-year-old Warkentin is in his first year as a USA Hockey official.
Warkentin is no stranger to hockey. He grew up in Toronto and was starting to skate at the same age he was learning to walk. He played organized hockey in youth leagues, high school and college, and for several winters was on as many as four teams at the same time. As an adult, he continues to play hockey in recreational leagues.
But now Warkentin is enjoying another side of the sport. Earlier this year, at the urging of his wife, Warkentin completed an officiating class and is now a certified Level 1 USA Hockey official. He has worked 10 games so far, for ages 10-and-under (Squirt) and 8-and-under (Mite).
"It's quite challenging and intense," Warkentin said. "But being out there with the kids, and the game, it's just a lot of fun. It's high-octane fun.
"I've had nothing but pleasant experience so far. No parents have thrown rotten tomatoes at me yet."

Warkentin is paired with a more experienced official in each game as he gets more comfortable in his role. Unlike the NHL, which has two linesmen and two referees, these games are worked by only two officials.

"You've got to skate your tail off and know the rulebook inside and out," Warkentin said. "It's a team effort between two guys and you have to work together. It's really all about positioning, but you need to hustle.

"The games I've watched experienced officials do, it looks like they're doing nothing. It looks like they're standing in one spot the whole game. It just comes with experience to be in the right position; to see what is going on and being in position to make the right calls. It's a real challenge, but it's a lot of fun."

Warkentin officiates mostly on Sundays because of his schedule. He drives up to an hour to get to the various rinks and has worked primarily travel league games.

"These kids are fast and they've got skill," Warkentin said. "You've got to be on your toes and laser focus for three 15-minute periods. It's a fast game and split-second decisions. You can't stop the game and ask to think about it. You have to see what you see and call it right away. It's kind of like the races, in a way. When I call races, I don't think, I react.

"Of course, you're going to make mistakes. The professionals make mistakes all the time. But everyone here knows you're not only developing the players, you're trying to develop the referees. We're all in the same boat. You just have to be honest when you mess up. You apologize and move on."

Warkentin, who has a Level 2 USA Hockey coaching certificate and has helped at clinics in the past, would like to work his way up the officiating ladder.

"I'd like to challenge myself and do higher levels," Warkentin said. "You only get out of something what you put into it. I'm taking this seriously. This means a lot to these kids and their coaches and their parents. When I get my assignment, I can't stop thinking about it all week. I want to do it right.

"Even if I'm up at 6 a.m. after a late night working, I'm not tired. I'm excited. I can't explain it. When I get on the ice, there is something magical about it." (HRC)

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