At the end of this month, men’s bandy teams from all around the world will converge on the city of Trollhättan, Sweden. Their mission? Gold.
From January 24-28, the 2017 Bandy World Championship ‘B’ Division games will be held in Trollhättan’s Slättbergshallen Arena. Participating nations include Hungary, Japan, Mongolia, Ukraine, Canada, China, The Czech Republic, Estonia, The Netherlands, and Somalia.
While the United States Men’s Bandy team will forgo this party, in lieu of their reserved spot in this year’s ‘A’ Division field, the Stars and Stripes will still have a unique presence in the ‘B’ group, as the American Bandy Association will be sending a team of match officials overseas to work the games. Most notably in this contingent are two current members of the USA Women’s Bandy team: player, Kelsey Kennedy and assistant coach, Andi Schoephoerster, who will both be acting as assistant referees in the tournament.
The significance of the ladies’ participation in this high-stakes international men’s sporting event cannot be ignored. This tournament will mark the first time that a female referee has worked a men’s game since the inception of Bandy World Championship competitions in 1957. For those keeping score, that’s exactly 60 years of gender-barriers being broken down by these trail-blazing bandy pioneers.
USA Bandy recently caught up with Kennedy and Schoephoerster, to learn more about these impressive ladies and the makings of their historic moment.
USA Bandy: How did you hear about this unique opportunity and what made it appealing to you?
KK: I hadn't heard anything about the tournament, actually. I just had been interested in reffing the game as I thought it could potentially be another way to keep involved when the day comes that I won't be playing on the women's national team anymore. A couple days after expressing my interest, I got an email saying I could go to Sweden for it. So, naturally, I accepted!
AS: I heard about this opportunity from our referee supervisor, Neal Logan. This fall when we brought a team to Norway and Sweden to participate in the Women's World Cup, one member of our group, (Ellie Cardinal) came to referee in that tournament. She had a great experience and when the chance to referee in the Men's World Championship came up, I was excited to accept and be a part of this event.
USA Bandy: Have you ever officiated any other sports, before this endeavor?
KK: Not officially, no. Just in the various hockey scrimmages I ran.
AS: Yes. I was about 13 or 14, and I umpired baseball.
USA Bandy: How have you prepared to work at this tournament? What type of training/testing is involved with the process of becoming a bandy referee?
KK: We are reffing as many games as we can for the ABA league before we go, and meeting before and after those games for little "classroom" sessions. At the tournament we'll have to take both a written and skating test.
AS: To prepare for this tournament we have been given rule books, and gone through off-ice and on-ice training. When we get to Sweden we will go through skating tests and rules tests as well. A big shout-out to Neal Logan, Kevin Bowen, and the entire bandy community as they supported and helped us prepare for the World Championship.
USA Bandy: What are you most looking forward to at the 2017 World Championship?
KK: I’m looking forward to getting to see some of the top bandy in the world from the best "seat" in the house, as well as watching any different styles between the nations.
AS: After participating in three Women's World Championships, I'm extremely excited to see and be a part of a Men's World Championship for the first time. This is going to be a great experience and learning opportunity.
USA Bandy: What does it mean to you, to be a female official at a Men's World Championship competition?
KK: To me, being female shouldn't be anything that shocking: male or female, the rules are the rules. But unfortunately we know that that's not necessarily our reality. I think it's great that USA Bandy has been so supportive and is essentially showing the rest of the world that they promote the game for both men and women alike.
AS: It's a great honor to be officiating at the Men's World Championship; finding out that Kelsey and I will be the first females to ever officiate a men's game is really cool!