Hockey East, WCHA to Swap Top Officials

Prompted by the NCAA, the WCHA and Hockey East have come to an agreement to exchange high-rated referees on a limited basis.

Experimenting with this new arrangement, Hockey East’s Jeff Bunyon will be officiating both Colgate-Minnesota games this weekend at the Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. Well-known WCHA official Mike Schmitt will be flown East in late November to referee two games: Clarkson at Northeastern on Friday, Nov. 23, and Cornell at Boston University the next day. The Cornell-BU game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net New England.

“This is something we have been hoping to do for awhile,” said Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna, who also serves as Chair of the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Rules Committee.

“We wanted top officials who have a good chance to work the NCAA Tournament. This gives them a chance to become familiar outside their normal areas and to ensure that we will have a national crew of officials working the same game with the same rule book.”

All the games involve three leagues. In Minneapolis, a Hockey East referee will officiate a WCHA vs. ECAC game. Next month, a WCHA official will oversee a Hockey East vs. ECAC game. Local assistant referees will be used at each site.

“It will be a good thing for the officials to get a feel for the nuances of the different leagues,” said WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod. “Much of the credit for this arrangement should go to our two supervisors, Greg Shepherd (WCHA) and Brendan Sheehy (Hockey East). They have a good working relationship.”

Bunyon, in his 12th year as a Hockey East official, is a native of Belmont, Mass. He is one of the top-ranked officials in the league and has worked numerous Hockey East and Beanpot championship games.

Mike Schmitt is one of the nation’s top officials, having worked a number of NCAA championship finals, including last April’s Boston College vs. North Dakota game and the 1998 Boston College-Michigan final.

Both conferences would consider expanding this program in the future, and there are talks currently going on between the CCHA and the ECAC along the same lines.