VIERUMÄKI, Finland – The 2014 IIHF Women’s High Performance Camp is also about becoming a better athlete. That does not only count for players. The female game officials at the camp recently had sessions with Dave Smith, the Director of Fitness and Medical for the NHL Officials.
“I really like the way the camp is run with the hockey teams, good coaches and positive enthusiasm. The officials are trying to become better. We’re trying to have them understand the importance of why they need to do this and that. They all want to work,” Smith said.
“We want them to become better and keep them going up and when they go home they try to be better and next time you see them they’re better. That’s our job.”
In his daily work Smith is monitoring and working on the health and fitness of the NHL on-ice officials and prospects in minor leagues. He hasn’t been in Europe for the first time with hockey. He once played professionally in Norway and Sweden. Later he became the strength and conditioning coach for the New York Rangers, where he was part of the Stanley Cup winning team in 1994, and of the Florida Panthers. Since 2000 he’s been working for the National Hockey League Officials Association.
Working with female officials is something he hasn’t done that often. “I came here two years ago and to [the IIHF Women’s Pre-Olympic Officiating Camp in] Lake Placid last year. I worked with female hockey players but not so much with female officials. I’m working on the skating dynamics and side lines and exercises,” he said.
For him it’s to give the officials a better understanding about how important it is to be in shape.
“Good fitness is the engine to help them become a better skater,” he said. That allows for better positioning and thus better decision making. “I really work on those areas because you can control those areas. You can become a better athlete. You can become a better skater. You can understand where to go on the ice. But the hardest part is getting fitness and skating and side lines to go into your judgement. So I work on that with the NHL refs and bring it over here.”
With the officials in Vierumäki he worked on off-ice training, stretching, they had a circuit workout, agility, quickness, skating dynamics.
“Hopefully some of them take this to their programs at home because if they do that they become better and can give it to their association or colleagues who can do the same thing,” Smith said. “I try to give them drills they can do on the ice and hope they can work on that themselves or within the association.”
In Vierumäki 20 female game officials have had practices, sessions and games working with four referee instructors.