HOCKEY WILL BE BACK: A Referee's Perspective


 Ian McCambridge Hockey

 We have all been yelled at, booed, and chased out of buildings we worked in.  If we are lucky every now and then, we get to hear a good old fashioned “ref you suck” chant.  But what happens when it ends? What happens when it ends when you’re not expecting it to?  A friend of mine once said, “Skate every game like it is your last.”  I wear those words on my right wrist.  I always took that for granted until March 8, the day after my last game of this season.  With five weeks left in the regular season, I thought there would be another long car ride or another drive to the airport. But sometimes in life, just like in a hockey game, we have to persevere to survive.  It’s the way we all get through games.  No experience on the ice is ever the same, nor is any moment in our lives outside of the rink. That being said, who better to deal with stress, hardship, confusion, and chaos than a referee?

In the last couple of months, things in the world have changed drastically.  The world has shut down; things in life are unpredictable and uncertain.  But I do choose to believe in one thing— and this one thing has helped me get through the hard times—that HOCKEY WILL BE BACK! 

On and off the ice, we will all become stronger through this pandemic.  There are two different options we can choose to take during these difficult times.  We can choose to think that the world is going mad and be upset that our games and lives have been taken away from us, or we can choose to be better than our last opportunity we had skated.

Ian McCambridge USA Hockey Officiating Development Program

In the first two weeks of  quarantine, I have spoken to a lot of my friends who were on the ice with me every night, and we all thought the same thing, “What is going on, and this can’t be real.”  Well after a couple of Saturday nights of sitting on the couch and not doing a line change, it started to dawn on us that hockey will not be coming back in the near future.  Two of the biggest things that I have learned in recent times is that no one person struggles completely alone and that the hockey community, especially in the refereeing world, can rely on each other in all ways possible.

A core group of my friends and I share the same goals and passions that I do.  We always want to do the game justice and achieve the ultimate goal.  What does it take to reach the ultimate goal?  I can’t tell you.  It depends on the goals of the individual official.  But it comes down to dedication.  Being a successful official, at any level, requires that.  So what can we do with our time off?  What can we do to be better on the ice?  The first thing mentioned in any seminar and training camp that I have attended is rule knowledge.  All referees should be required to know the rules.  That is the first, and most important, aspect of our jobs.  I will be honest, there have been situations in games that have challenged me and challenged my knowledge of the rules this last season.   So, what is the first thing we can all do as officials in our time away from the game to prepare ourselves for the next time we hit the ice?  Brush up on the rules!


As the days go by, I think of a number of different things.  Some things being family, financials, and when I can hit the ice next.  Most importantly, what’s next?  Lately, I have been thinking of what vacations I can take to get away from this crisis.  What can I do to distract myself?  What can I do to get away from the reality of what is going on?  It has now started to dawn on me.  Can we take this time off to have fun and do the things we normally can’t do during the season?  Or should we get a head start on the season and the challenges that lie ahead of all of us?  Maybe a little bit of both.  But regardless of your goals, a major factor to our craft is physical fitness.  At all levels of our game, you must be an athlete; but even off the ice, we can all just be healthier people.  During the hardest of times, we can all better ourselves off the ice to physically prepare  for the next time we get back to our games.


One other aspect of being in quarantine and not being able to do what we all love is the chance for reflection.  Time to take a step back and look at what else our game offers each of us.  I personally look back and think of the relationships and rapport we gain with players and coaches.  How can we better them in the future?  How did we fail them in the past?  Gaining rapport is gaining mutual respect.  It adds a human aspect to our jobs.  In this time of reflection, I have thought about multiple things regarding our professional relationships and how this can work on the ice for a mutual benefit.  Maybe a coach is upset with his team and the easiest target is the referee.  Maybe there is a personal aspect of a coach’s life that is causing irritability.  Maybe letting a coach screaming at you and understanding helps gain that mutual respect.  The rapport part plays in the next time you see that coach and he remembers you; that is how respect is gained.  Personally, I miss getting yelled at; I miss the high-pressure conversations that we take for granted; and I miss being able to work through a difficult situation that involves communication, either verbally or nonverbally.

Being an ice hockey official is a unique and special lifestyle.  To most of us, it isn’t a job; it's a passion. However you view it, our great game will be back.  I have had some amazing life experiences, have learned lessons on the ice that can relate to my personal life, and have met some of my best friends.  Even though we are not on the ice, we can still all rely on each other.  We can all better ourselves so that we can better the game when we all get to hit the ice again.


 Ian McCambridge

Note from Eric:

Ian McCambridge is a current full time professional ice hockey referee working towards the opportunity to get hired by the NHL (National Hockey League)

His experience is tremendous with multiple league championships under his belt. Some of the places you might have found Ian donning the stripes include the AHL (American Hockey League), IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation), ECHL (East Coast Hockey League), SPHL (Southern Professional Hockey League), Big10 NCAA D1, USHL (United States Hockey League), NAHL (North American Hockey League), ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association) and local hockey at rinks around Illinois and Indiana. He takes a lot of pride in giving back to the game and helping hard working, up and coming officials.

Ian has personally helped tremendously to develop and advance my officiating career. We spent a lot of time working together last season as he made his transition from a linesman to referee. He's one of the strongest communicators in the officiating community and i'm lucky to be able to call him a great friend of mine.


If there's ever anything we can do for you or if you just want to talk hockey email us at!!!


  • David E Weddig

    I have worked a couple of USHL camps with Ian and his rapport with the players has always been professional, while keeping things light for the kids in the camp. He also works well with the other officials, most of whom are younger, offering insight & advice.
    Glad hockey is back, good luck moving forward.

  • Andy McElman

    Well stated Ian. It is a great time to reflect on all aspects of an officials experiences over the shortened season. Rule knowledge, mental fitness, physical fitness and all the hockey relationships are important aspects of an official’s game that must be worked on.
    I agree with you that the game of Hockey will return and all your examples for officials to focus their time on can be key to their improvements.
    I wish all officials the best at achieving their own goals they set for themselves. That is what you can control.

  • LaVonne Klueber

    I am so hoping that Ian is right about Hockey coming back. I’m so bummed that our USHL team(Stampede, Sioux Falls, S.D.) will not be playing this fall, and my Bruins!! I always order the NHL channel, so I can watch my Bruins. I am their biggest fan!!! I know Ian from him working at the Stampede games every so often. He is a super nice guy, and works hard on the ice!! I have no doubt that he will make it to the NHL!! I was devastated when the playoffs didn’t happen! I just know the Bruins would’ve took the cup. I go through Hockey withdrawals all summer, just waiting for it to start up again. What if Charo doesn’t come back? He’s probably gona retire, and I won’t get to see him play again. That will kill me!! It was good reading what Ian had to say about the game!!

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