Wisconsin sees sharp decline in hockey referees

February 8, 2016 / Athletic AdministrationHockey
Wisconsin high school hockey officials say they’re concerned about the sharp decline in the number of certified referees within the sport.

Photo: Devan Mighton, Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Devan Mighton, Wikimedia Commons

According to a report from WISC-TV, the Wisconsin Hockey Officials Association has lost nearly 25 percent of its certified referees since 2010. States like Michigan and Indiana are fighting similar battles across all sports, struggling to find qualified individuals who are willing to deal with the stresses of the job. That includes everything from a heavy workload to verbal abuse from coaches or parents.


Tim Richter, with the Wisconsin Hockey Officials Association, has seen it firsthand. He started seeing a decline in certified referees in 2010. That season, there were 1,605 officials in Wisconsin. This year, there are 1,232 hockey referees, nearly 400 less than five years ago.

“I know a lot of sports that they’re in the same situation hockey is,” Richter said.

Richter said that 25 percent decrease statewide comes as hockey keeps growing in popularity, especially with girls. On top of that, an increase in tournaments has put an additional strain on staff.

“Because of this reduction, we’re starting to see games getting canceled, especially in the Madison and Dane County area,” Richter said.

Richter said the organization would focus on recruiting former high school hockey players who don’t plan to play at the next level. They have the time and experience to make quality referees.

The articles notes the growing popularity of hockey in Wisconsin, but statistics don’t agree. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations’ annual participation surveys, boys hockey has declined 9 percent since the 2010-11 season, while girls hockey has declined 18 percent. Still, the number of qualified officials seems to be diminishing at a much faster rate.

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