2019 esso cup erin zach feature

Earning her stripes

Erin Zach stayed involved in the game after retiring by becoming an official and hopes to help other former players do the same

Katie Brickman
April 26, 2019

It’s a role many fans love to jeer, but as Erin Zach likes to remind us, “Without officials, there would be no games.”

The former player is embarking on a new career and wants to do her part in growing the game.

“I wanted to be on the ice skating and I felt it was important to grow the not only the playing side of women’s hockey, but also the officiating side,” said Zach. “Officiating felt like it was the best way for me to stay in the game and show there are other avenues to be a part of the game.”

The 27-year-old decided to retire from playing after the 2016-17 season to focus on her officiating career.

“I had sustained quite a few injuries and concussions over my playing career, and I felt like it was just time to make the smart decision to switch to officiating,” she explained. “It allowed me to make my own decision to retire, rather than being forced to.”

Zach is making her debut on the national stage at the Esso Cup and is excited the opportunity is in her home province.

“I’ve had the experience of playing in a national championship tournament while at school. It will be amazing to experience another one from a different perspective,” she said.

Zach, from Elmira, Ont., grew up playing minor hockey about 20 minutes south in Kitchener and played at various levels of the game.

She began her career with the Cambridge Fury (now Rivulettes) of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League, where she played three seasons. She spent four years at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she won an NCAA Division III championship in 2012. While at RIT, the team made the jump to Division I in her senior year and won the College Hockey America title.

“In that [championship] game, I scored my last goal of my college career. I will never forget that moment,” Zach said.

After graduation, she made the Buffalo Beauts roster in their inaugural season in the National Women’s Hockey League, and played one season with the Toronto Furies of the now-defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League before retiring.

“Being able to share the ice with Meghan Duggan, Megan Bozak, Natalie Spooner and Sami Jo Small is the biggest accomplishment of my playing career,” said Zach.

Coaching is a common next-step for many retired players, but officiating seemed like a natural fit for Zach.

She started as a timekeeper for Waterloo Minor Hockey when she was 10 years old and began officiating minor hockey in 2007. She took a break when she went to university, but when she moved back home in 2014 she pulled on the stripes again and hasn’t looked back.

“I did not enjoy coaching. I wanted to be on the ice and I wanted to stay in the game,” said Zach.

In her new role, Zach feels she must shoulder some of the responsibility of keeping former players involved.

“The young girls look up to us and they want to be just like us,” she said. “If they see ex-professional players staying in the game once they retire, it shows them there are so many places hockey can take you.”

As a former player, Zach has been on both sides of a crowd. She was a playmaker that would generate excitement from the crowd. But, as an official, she has also heard the calls from players and fans, alike.

“We take a lot of heat on the ice, and in reality, it takes a lot of self-control and discipline to stay cool and calm in stressful situations,” she said. “Officiating is not an easy part of the game. It requires practice, just like playing does. It can be just as rewarding as playing. Without officials, there would be no games.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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