Despite a published report to the contrary, USA Hockey’s Junior Officiating Development Program (JODP) is not taking over Hockey East or the ECAC Hockey League any time soon.
Last week, the website HockeyRefs.com reported that the two conferences are looking for someone new to head their respective officiating staffs after recent shakeups, and that the JODP and coordinator Scott Brand were odds-on favorites to take over.
Brand vehemently denied that, calling it “a very bad rumor.”
“Neither I nor the JODP have ever been contacted by anyone from any college hockey league other than the (club-level) ACHA,” Brand said in an email. “I have no idea where or how our program or my name was brought up.”
The report suggested that Brand was poised to take over from L. Butch Bellemore and Brewster Earle, who resigned from the ECACHL last month amid controversy, and quoted Brand as saying his “full concentration is on the USHL and NAHL playoffs,” and that he would not “investigate any new arrangements for (the JODP) next season until our season is done.”
The JODP has a virtual monopoly over USA Hockey-sanctioned junior-level leagues, and has agreements with several professional leagues to allow the program’s better officials to work those games.
“Please don’t assume who we would use or who we would not use if we took over any league,” added Brand.
Brand also refuted claims that the JODP staff was substantially younger than officials currently working college games, or that the program’s hiring practices skew toward non-Americans, both of which would potentially be key issues.
He noted that “the average age of our full-time staff is 24.6 years old,” and that “we have one official under the age of 21.” He also affirmed the JODP’s commitment to qualified American referees.
And while NCAA conferences have typically elected to work with the National Ice Hockey Officials Association rather than USA Hockey, Brand said no conflict was present.
“We work close(ly) with the CCHA and WCHA and I think if you looked at their staffs 85 percent of the officials (are) from junior hockey,” he noted. “In fact, I am pretty sure the eastern leagues work with the EJHL. So I am not sure what the college versus USA Hockey issues are.”
The new Hockey East and ECACHL supervisors of officials look to be announced by early summer.