Ref in the Danish net
by Derek O'Brien|07 FEB 2022
Denmark goalie Cassandra Repstock-Romme takes a drink during a break in the action. 
photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images

It’s not unusual for high-level hockey players to become on-ice officials after their playing careers are over. In fact, many referees and linespersons who work World Championships, Olympics or professional hockey did play the game competitively to some degree.

For most, their days of refereeing international hockey come after their playing careers are over. Some fans might remember Lars Bruggemann playing for Germany at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, and then being chosen to go to Sochi in 2014 as a referee. American Paul Stewart played in the WHA and NHL in the late 1970s and early 80s before embarking on a lengthy career as an NHL referee and took part in two Canada Cups.

What’s not so usual, however, is for a player to do both concurrently. But that’s what 20-year-old Cassandra Repstock-Romme is doing. Repstock-Romme is currently in Beijing as a goaltender for the Danish women’s national team. She’s also an IIHF-accredited on-ice official.

“I’ve been an IIHF official for two years now,” Repstock-Romme said. “I was supposed to a tournament (Women’s U18 World Championship, Division I Group A) in Hungary, but it was cancelled due to COVID.”

“It’s amazing to be here,” she said about Beijing. “I love to represent my country in the Worlds and now in the Olympics for the first time ever. I’m very honoured and very proud. It’s been such a journey for this team and I think we really deserve to be here.”

Women's Hockey Ambassadors: Cassandra Repstock-Romme
A wall in the Danish net and working as a game official in her country: Meet Denmark's Cassandra Repstock-Romme.
DEN 07 FEB 2022

Repstock-Romme’s Olympic debut on Friday was memorable, for both good and bad reasons. She was excellent in the Danish net against host China, keeping the score 1-1 through two periods despite her team being outplayed by a wide margin. Overall, she stopped 29 of 31 Chinese shots, but the one she remembers most is the last one – the one that got away.

With just under a minute to play, Danish captain Josefine Jakobsen fell along the boards and lost the puck to China’s Ni Lin, who beat Repstock-Romme with a little deke with 50.9 seconds showing on the clock. An empty-net goal made it a 3-1 final.

“Right now there’s no joy, no happiness,” the Danish goalie said after the game. “The only thing I can think about right now is disappointment. It’s an honour and I love to play on the team and play for my country, but I’m really disappointed right now.”

About the game, she said: “I tried to make every effort for the team because this is the best team ever in Denmark and we want to be together as a unit. I try to be there for them because they’re there for me, blocking shots and taking hits. I’m glad I could be there in some tough situations but I don’t feel very good about the last goal, to be honest. That just overshadows everything else because I shouldn’t let in a goal with 50 seconds left.”

Things got worse in the second game. Getting little help from her team in front of her, Repstock-Romme faced several oncoming Japanese rushes and was beaten three times – two on breakaways and another 2-on-1 – in the first 15 minutes before being pulled. Denmark ultimately lost 6-2.

“We can’t let them skate around us and go on breakaways. We have to give our goalie more support than that,” said Danish head coach Peter Elander said after the game. “Cassandra kept is in yesterday’s game and today we abandoned her. I changed the goalie but it wasn’t her fault.”

Playing goal is a high-pressure position in hockey and the goalie often faces criticism when things don’t go well. The same is true for on-ice officials.

“I think the perspective I have on hockey from my active career, it helps me as a linesperson,” she said.

But she doesn’t use her experience as an on-ice official or knowledge of the rules to challenge referees on their calls while playing goal.

“I know when you’re making a call as a ref, you’re not going to change it,” she said. “But sometimes we have little chit-chats about calls, or just about whatever happened on the ice.”

That doesn’t mean she doesn’t occasionally get caught up in the moment. During one play against China when an attacking player was called for offside deep in the zone, Repstock-Romme made a pointing motion with her stick to the opposite end of the ice to indicate an intentional offside. Sure enough, that was the call from the linesperson and the Danish goalie gave a nod.

“Of course you do when you’re just in the middle of the action, the heat of the moment,” she explained. “But no, I don’t think about it like that.”

After two games and two losses, Denmark’s maiden voyage in Olympic women’s ice hockey appears to be half over. But just 20 years old, Repstock-Romme’s playing career is far from over and she hopes that there will be more trips to the Olympics for her in the Danish net. And who knows, maybe she’ll repeat Bruggmann’s feat an Olympic or two in stripes is in her future as well.

“I love playing and I love to be on the ice as a linesman as well,” she said. “Right now, though, I’m focusing 100 per cent on being the best goalie I can be for my team. But when I’m old and one with playing, that’s something I would enjoy doing, yeah, just to continue the sport.”