“It was a huge honor to get the invite,” Jackson said. “I know it’s the first-ever one, but it’s definitely an honor and I know guys who have worked the All-American [Prospects Game] in the past — guys I still to this day look up to — so to be able to get this opportunity is awesome.”
The four officials are just like the players in their quest to turn their passion for hockey into a career. Jackson, Sailor, Frederickson and McNamara are already well on their way in their striped journey, as they all have or are currently going through USA Hockey’s Officiating Development Program, which provides them with world-class leadership and guidance while they work junior and minor pro games across the country.
“Just like players, we strive for the best,” McNamara said. “All of us working the game, our goal is to be in the NHL someday, just like the players. That’s something that the players are at this game for, and it’s the right stepping stone for us, working this game too. It’s a tremendous honor and it’s a great way for us to come up with realistic goals in the future. There have been officials who have worked this game, Ryan Daisey for example, he worked this game and now he’s a full-time NHL linesman. Obviously nothing is ever guaranteed, but it’s great to see that people in the past have worked this game and they’ve been able to achieve goals like working in the NHL, and that’s something we can use by being selected to work this game.”
Scott Zelkin, manager of the officiating development program, and Matt Leaf, director of the officiating education program, were in charge of selecting the referees to work the BioSteel All-American Game, and they had plenty of talented individuals to decide on.
“The officiating development program, within USA Hockey, is the vehicle we use to coach, train and development the best amateur officials that we have in the country with the goal of helping them to move on to careers in professional hockey, whether it’s the minor leagues or the NHL, as well as Division I1 college hockey and the international assignments,” Zelkin said. “Officials within this program work on an intensive basis within our top two junior leagues, the NAHL and the USHL. These guys get the opportunity to skate with super talented players, and learn and grow and develop no different than the players. Officials who have come through our program are working the NHL, they are working internationally, whether it’s the world championships, the world juniors, NCAA Frozen Fours, things like that.”
For the referees, wearing the stripes is a way to stay involved in the game they love, just in a different way as a player. McNamara, for example, began working as a referee when he was 12 years old and he went back and forth between a stick and a whistle all the way up through college before making the decision to chase his referee dreams full-time.