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Local Referee Attends NHL Exposure Camp

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins
Brent Baburich – July 18, 2011

Steve Waters has been around the game of hockey since he was 6 years old and competed as a player until the age of 19.  This fall he will be entering his 12th season as an official.  He began officiating games at the age of 13 with his dad to make a little extra money.  In the time since, Steve has gone on to work some significant games.

Steve Waters
In 2009, he worked one of the USA Hockey 18U National Semi-Finals.  In 2010, he was assigned the PA State High School AA Championship and last season he worked the Robert Morris-RIT game at the Island Sports Center that saw the Colonials bring in the largest home crowd in program history (1,200 fans).   It would seem fair to say that Steve has a lot of hockey-related experience and memories.  However, last month he was given an experience of a lifetime.

Steve was one of 20 officials invited to attend the NHL Exposure Camp in Toronto.  This camp is designed to bring together people that have played at a high-level of hockey who are looking to pursue officiating more seriously now that they are done playing.  The NHL holds the belief that this type of player will make for a good official as he or she should have developed a high “hockey IQ” during their time playing.  Steve knew how lucky he was to be selected for this opportunity.  He said, “It really meant a lot to be invited to this camp. I was told that there was an extremely large amount of applications for NHL Exposure this year and only 20 were selected.  It was truly an honor.”

In late June, the NHL flew the group into Toronto and put them up at a hotel in the heart of downtown.  The first night of the camp allowed the officials the opportunity to have a meet and greet session with Terry Gregson, the director of NHL officials, and two members of the NHL Officials Recruitment staff.   In addition, the group was joined by a current NHL linesman.  As part of the first night activities, Steve and the other camp attendees were given a tour of the NHL offices, including the popular “War Room.”

On Saturday, the group got down to business.  They discussed the importance of communication as an official and watched several videos put together by Terry Gregson.  These videos were examples of what Mr. Gregson sends out to NHL officials on a weekly basis to illustrate good officiating calls, as well as some where the official could have done something differently.   Also, the group heard about life in the NHL from current NHL linesman Tony Sericolo.

The camp gave Steve the chance to see what life is like for some of his biggest idols.  One of these idols is NHL official, and Pittsburgh resident, Stephen Walkom.   Steve says, “I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to talk with one of the best referees in the world, Stephen Walkom. I look up to him, as well as all of the other members of the NHL Officiating staff.  They have one of the most challenging jobs in the world and do tremendous work night in and night out.”

On the ice, Steve prides himself on hard work and honesty.  He believes the role of an official changes from moment to moment during a game, and the most significant factor is having a feel for the game.  An official needs to know when to get involved and when to avoid taking action.  Overall, he feels that an official needs to have integrity.  He says, “Every time I’m on the ice I do the best job I possibly can.  If I make a mistake I will be the first person to admit it.”

After gaining the experience of attending the NHL Exposure camp, Steve has the dream of one day becoming a NHL linesman.  However, he does keep things in perspective and understands that most likely may never happen.  In the next few years, he hopes to move up and work in the East Coast Hockey League.  Steve has his dreams and he is quick to offer advice to younger officials with dreams of their own.  He says, “Get as much game experience as you can, work hard, and have fun.  Remember no game is beneath you and you can learn something new from every game you work.”  For those who may not be able to play competitively at a high-level, officiating is a good way to stay involved with the game of hockey.

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