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The Columbus Cottonmouths are no strangers to opening doors for women to play a role in men’s hockey. Last season they signed two-time Canadian gold medal-winning netminder Shannon Szabados to a contract and brought her back for the 2014-15 campaign.
Their next effort will showcase two decorated women in a non-playing capacity.
When the Cottonmouths host Girl Scouts Night on Friday, the game will be officiated by female referees Erin Blair and Katie Guay.
“We are extremely excited to be allowed the opportunity to showcase two of the top female referees in the world,” said SPHL Director of Officiating (and former NHL ref) Mark Faucette. “Shannon Szabados broke the barrier for female players in the SPHL last season, and we are confident that Erin and Katie can do the same for female officials.”
Blair has been an official for over 14 years, beginning with her freshman year at University of Findlay in Ohio, and worked the women's tournament at the Sochi Olympics. She’s also reffed all over Europe and Asia.
Guay currently works men’s and women’s college games in both the ECAC and Hockey East. Last month she was named to the crew that will officiate the 2015 IIHF Women’s World Championships in Sweden.
Joy Tottman has officiated games in the Elite Ice Hockey League in the United Kingdom. There have been three full-time female officials in the NBA, as well as a female assistant referee in the Barclays Premier League in England. Will we see female officials make their way into North American men's leagues on a regular basis? As Blair told ESPNW in 2011, it's possible.
"I think there are definitely plenty of women officials that are capable of working men's hockey at the highest level," she said. "It's just a matter of getting the right attitudes and the right people to help you break through the obstacles that are there. It would probably take a lot."
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