Thursday, February 2

Hanley from St. Louis Park pursuing his passion for hockey as an ice official in Beijing

Alicia Hanrahan saw her friend and colleague Kendall Hanley last week.

Through a closed glass door.

Hanrahan, an Eagan native who umpired at the Sochi Games, left a gift for Hanley, who sailed over the weekend for the Winter Olympics in Beijing. As a precaution during the pandemic, Hanley has been under strict quarantine protocols at her St. Louis Park home before becoming a line judge for women’s hockey games in China.

Hanley, a native of Raleigh, NC, first discovered his love for the game by watching the Stanley Cup playoffs on television and playing street hockey. He went to a prep school in Massachusetts before playing Division III hockey for four years, first at Elmira College, then at SUNY-Oswego, where he earned a degree in zoology. Once she graduated in 2009, she didn’t think there were going to be many opportunities for women in hockey beyond that.

But when she visited her father in Dallas her last semester of school, a woman she met at an impromptu hockey game mentioned that it was official, opening up a new avenue of possibilities for Hanley.

Since then, he has been rising through the refereeing ranks and bouncing from Texas to Colorado to Illinois and finally to Minnesota five years ago when his partner’s job relocated them here. Hanley runs a dog-walking business (she has a yellow Lab and a chicken coop for her own pets) and also works for a local fresh pet food company.

However, his main focus has been preparing for this Olympic opportunity. He converted his one-car detached garage into a gym for the summer, using the alley as his running track. For winter, he takes over his basement and skates at any one of Minnesota’s many outdoor rinks, working on his edge control.

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“Everybody that’s at this level on the athlete side, the player side, they’re extremely fit,” Hanley said. “They’re training day after day. So we have to have the same level of fitness. So I have a pretty regimented and intense training schedule that I built around my daily life.”

In addition, you have a lot of research to do, studying the rule books for the league you’re umpiring, and making sure you’re familiar with the teams and players you’ll be sharing the ice with.

Hanley’s friends and fellow officials call her the best team player, someone who is always looking to help and do what she can to fix any problem. It’s what has made her such a fine official, that she umpired the 2019 NHL Prospect Tournament as part of the first four-woman team to do so. Hanrahan said you can see Hanley breaking more of those barriers after the Olympics, from umpiring an NHL game to becoming an evaluator or scout for younger umpires.

Hanley gives a lot of credit to the women who came before her, especially those who helped guide her and exponentiate opportunities for women in sports. But the real reason she chose this as her career has to do with the family she created within herself.

His favorite memory of his entire career so far was not a major international competition. It was in Denver last May at the USA Hockey women’s national championship.

Hanley and two of her closest friends should have been in Nova Scotia officiating at the women’s hockey world championships, but the pandemic put that on hold. Instead, a last-minute opportunity to referee the national tournament arose, and Hanley helped her friends do what she knows best: make the most of a less-than-ideal situation.

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Hanley roomed with Jamie Huntley-Park, her friend, fellow officer and former varsity teammate at Elmira. They asked to work on a game with another close best friend, Jackie Spresser, and Hanrahan, who oversaw the game’s team of officials, completed the friendship quartet.

On the last day of the championships, everyone took an excursion off the ice.

“Most people want to work Championship Sunday, as we call it, but we asked for the last day off, so the four of us went and got little zebra tattoos,” Spresser said of his now-tattooed ankles. “That’s what we call ourselves because we wear stripes.”

It had been Huntley-Park’s idea for a long time, but the four were hardly ever in the same place at the same time, with Spresser in Colorado and Huntley-Park in California. But finally they made it happen.

Just over a month later, Huntley-Park passed away. On June 4, she was struck and killed by an oncoming driver, both detectives with the San Diego Police Department, and her husband.

Huntley-Park would almost certainly have been one of the officials selected for Beijing, just as Hanley and Spresser eventually were.

“These women have been a part of my life for over a decade, and the friendships that have come from that, I’m really grateful for,” Hanley said, referring to their last moments together in Denver. “…Any time they’re on the ice together, it’s so much fun. So I’m always going to have that.”

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