Kendall Hanley is experiencing a wave of unprecedented and unexpected opportunity in her career as an ice hockey official.

The former Oswego State standout recently returned from working as a linesperson for women’s hockey at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games, and on March 9, was officially hired as the new manager of officiating for the North American Hockey League.

Hanley — the 2009 Oswego State graduate who played two seasons of women’s hockey for the Lakers — also refereed her first professional game this past December as part of the inaugural class of 10 women officials for the American Hockey League.

Hanley was selected to work the Gold Medal Game between Team USA and Canada on Feb. 17 to culminate her first trip to the Olympics. She was one of 22 total officials and five from the U.S. selected by the International Ice Hockey Federation for a job assignment that she described as “still surreal.”

“You set your sights on your goals and your big dreams and they don’t always come to fruition, but I’m very fortunate and blessed to have had that chance and to be a part of that family,” Hanley said.

She added: “You take a second before the puck drops to realize you’re there, and you just think about all the people in the village that it took to get you there, the support from family and friends, teammates and mentors, but once that puck drops, it’s away we go, we have a job to do. You just take a few hard laps around the ice to take it all in.”

Hanley quickly refocused upon her return from China and was named to her new position with the NAHL within a few weeks of getting back home.

Her primary responsibilities include educating, developing, and growing the pool of officials for the NAHL and its family leagues such as the NA3HL and NAPHL. She has already started in the new role.

“For me it’s been a 14-year process on the ice, so coming out of that, this incredible opportunity with the North American Hockey League came about,” Hanley said. “It’s a chance first and foremost for me to give back to the game I love and officiating.”

Hanley was among the first class of four female officials invited to work the NHL Prospect Camp in 2019 and worked the event again this past year in Tampa Bay.

She has officiated IIHF World Championships, including the most recent outing in Calgary, and was selected for Olympics qualifier tournaments before getting the call for Beijing.

“This is an exciting addition for our leagues,” NAHL Commissioner and President, Mark Frankenfeld, stated in a press release. “Some of Kendall’s first experiences in officiating were in the NAPHL, so she has been a part of our family for a long time. She is well organized, detail-oriented, professional, and a tenacious competitor, which is all a big part of her success as an on-ice official.”

Hanley was recently named to the American Hockey League’s inaugural class of 10 female officials and became the first woman to officiate a professional hockey game in Wisconsin this past December.

“It was rewarding but for me, you’re there to serve the game, so approaching it in the manner as I would any other game which is doing my homework, mentally, physically, preparing, and making sure I’m ready to go when that puck drops,” Hanley said. “You get a little bit of butterflies in the stomach while you’re taking that lap, but we’re there to do a job and fortunately I’ve had a lot of mentorship and support in my officiating development, so I felt prepared and ready to go in that moment.”

Hanley was also the recipient of the 2021 Ben Allison Award, which is presented annually to a top referee in the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program.

The award is voted on by 150 members of the organization and was created to recognize the official that best represents the characteristics of Allison, namely giving maximum effort all times on the ice and representing the game in a positive manner.

Hanley was the first woman to win that prestigious award.

“I didn’t necessarily have that goal (to ref professional games) originally but through doors opened by women before us, it came to fruition,” Hanley said. “It’s rewarding to be a part of that group and I’m excited to see what doors continue to open for women in officiating moving forward.”

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