Kelly Cooke is a graduate from the School of Law at the Northeastern University. She has become one of the first women to officiate games at the recent NHL Prospects Showcase for players, hoping to reach the ultimate hockey league. Cooke stands at 5 feet 1 inches, a foot shorter than many of the players.
Cooke expresses her gratitude saying, “Anytime you have an opportunity to be the first—to open doors for future generations—that’s a big load on your shoulders. Knowing that the games went well, I couldn’t be happier. Because everyone’s watching, and you don’t want to mess up and have the doubters think that they were right.”
Since 1997, women have been refereeing the NBA games. Till now, Cooke refereed three games in Nashville, where prospects from four NHL teams competed. Hockey is a game which has been lagging behind. However, with the emergence of four women officials at the NHL’s preseason tournament, the league has shown its interest in officiating diversity. League Commissioner Gary Bettman has predicted that a woman will officiate in the NHL eventually.
Cooke acted as the assistant captain as a forward at Princeton who led the team in goals during her senior year. She played three years professionally with the Boston Blades and the Boston Pride. She began officiating as a 12-year-old in Andover, Massachusetts, where she used to watch her older brother make extra money refereeing youth hockey games. Her leading assignments have included women’s world hockey championships, in addition to the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four and the Women’s Beanpot Final last season. She was among 96 officials at the NHL Exposure Combine for prospective officials in August, from which 30 officials were chosen to work the Prospects Showcase. Last year at law school, Cooke refereed around half-dozen professional and college games per week.
If the NHL offers her the ultimate invitation, she will respond by reverting to her fundamentals. She cannot afford the luxury of dwelling on her pioneering role as a woman in a man’s league.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman