When it comes to law and order on the ice, it’s hard to pull anything over on Dina Allen. She knows all the dirty tricks of the trade.
Not only has she whistled off offending players in her role as a USA Hockey official, but she probably tried a few of her own back in her playing days.
By her own admission, Allen wasn’t the most law-biding player during her four years at Princeton University, so it may seem unusual that she’s one of the rising stars in stripes for USA Hockey’s officiating program.
“I was a pretty highly-penalized player,” admits Allen, who still holds an NCAA women’s record with five penalties in a 2006 game against the University of Minnesota.
“I grew up with hitting and physical contact, so it was hard to make the switch to girls’ hockey.”
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that she was never a big fan of officials during her playing days. It wasn’t until her husband Kyle began officiating while she was attending law school that she thought about putting on the stripes.
And now, in a relatively short amount of time, Allen has shot up the ranks among female officials, while catching the eye of those in the USA Hockey officiating hierarchy.
“Being a former Div. I college player, her development as an official has really fast tracked as many of the tools necessary for her to be a successful official are the same as when she played,” says Matt Leaf, USA Hockey’s director of the Officiating Education Program.
So much so that the 27-year-old Wheatfield, N.Y., resident was recently assigned to work two marquee events for USA Hockey – the Tier I Youth National Championships in her hometown of Buffalo and the 2012 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Burlington, Vt.
Living and working a short drive from Amherst, site of the Tier I event, offered Allen the opportunity to balance her profession as a lawyer with the Buffalo law firm of Hodgson Russ with her passion for officiating.
She did such a good job throughout the week that when it came time for supervisors to assign games on Championship Sunday, Allen’s name was called to work the 12 & Under championship game.
With the passage of the new USA Hockey rule that delays body checking until the Bantam age group, working the Peewee title game provided Allen with a good opportunity to work a fast-paced, wide-open style she would see in Burlington.
“Just like when I was playing on a boys’ team and a girls’ team at the same time, you have to change gears,” says Allen, who won a USA Hockey National Championship with the Syracuse Stars girls’ team in 2002.
“You can read and react and you know where the players are looking to go with the puck, so you know where to go to stay out of the way.”
“You always try to let them play. It’s when they start to do, for lack of a better word, stupid things, that’s when you try to reel them back in and make sure they’re playing hockey.”
It’s that versatility and knowledge of the game that gives Allen a leg up on other talented officials who may only see the game from one perspective. With years of playing with and against both boys and girls, and against some of the top women’s players in the country, Allen has a sense of where the play is going and how to get herself in a position to make the call.
With a smooth skating style developed over her years as both a forward and defenseman at Princeton, she is more than capable of keeping up with the play.
“It makes it a lot easier having that playing background,” says Allen, who played in 123 games over a four-year career at Princeton.
“You can read and react and you know where the players are looking to go with the puck, so you know where to go to stay out of the way. You also know where to look to see if there’s an issue, such as if there are a few players behind you, and you have to make sure there’s nothing going on behind the play.”
It’s that understanding, combined with her passion for the game and ability to perform on the biggest stages, that could lead to a call from the international officiating community when it comes time to select officials for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
“I know there are a lot of good U.S. referees that are out there right now, but I’d love to work the Olympics,” she says. “Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity. I’ll work hard for that.”
Sitting in the packed stands at the Gutterson Fieldhouse watching the gold-medal game between the United States and Canada, Allen intently watches the action on the ice. But rather than cheering for either team, she follows the third team on the ice.
“I watch the officials more than I watch the players now,” says Allen.
“U.S. and Canada are definitely a notch up, especially the rivalry, which makes for a more challenging game because it does get a bit physical. You try to strike the balance between letting them play hockey and calling the penalties you have to call so it doesn’t get out of control.
“And I’ve actually played with and against a bunch of the players who are on the ice right now, both Canadians and Americans. So there’s no bias here, I don’t really care who wins.”
Spoken like a true referee.