Updated: 3 days ago
With a career defined by many acclaimed achievements, and with the promise of perhaps even greater summits reached, the loss of Jamie Huntley on June 4, 2021, occurring in her home state of California, remains one of the most visceral experiences in the women’s ice hockey community.
Although feelings of grief and sorrow remain, the outpouring of love and support are stronger. With a number of heartwarming tributes, not just remembering, but celebrating a life that will live on in the hearts of those who knew her, Huntley’s indomitable spirit stands as her hallmark.
Among the number of tributes, the San Diego Angels organization, where Huntley coached, has established a scholarship fund in her name. Also selling helmet decals with the initials of Huntley and her husband, adorned by the No. 23, which she wore throughout her playing career.
On the last weekend of August, which saw Angels parents and coaches participate in a three-on-three charity tournament, with proceeds going towards the San Diego Brain Tumor Foundation, the left shoulder of the Angels jerseys featured that unmistakable No. 23 logo.
Also paying tribute were Huntley’s club team at the junior level, the Anaheim Lady Ducks. With an increased number of participants for the organization’s alumnae game, looking to honour Huntley’s life during said game, there was a 23-second moment of silence.
Former Duck Brittany Trani, akin to Huntley, also transitioned to officiating. She delivered a heartwarming tribute prior to the puck drop. Of note, Trani was part of an all-female officiating team, including Bridget Gonzalez and Kristina Wampler, which worked the 2018 Pacific District Girls and Women’s Championship in San Jose. As a side note, Trani’s sister, Baylee, plays at
the NCAA level with the RIT Tigers.
Enjoying the opportunity to serve behind the bench, providing tutelage to a new generation of aspiring hockey players in Southern California, it provided Huntley the chance to tap into her playing roots. Having first admirably served in the capacity of head coach with the San Diego Junior Gulls 16U AA team, later rechristened the San Diego Angels, her presence
was also evident with the 14U AA team. Serving in the capacity of assistant coach with the 14U squad, led by head coach Erin Ozturk, a native of Huntington Beach recruited to play for the Harvard Crimson, Huntley’s efforts at both levels helped establish a fundamentally sound skill set for those who developed in the organization.
In addition to Huntley, the Angels enjoyed the privilege of learning from another pioneer in the modern female game. USA Hockey alumna and former All-American Blake Bolden, serves as the Angels Skills Instructor, also working in a coaching capacity with the 19U AA team.
Calling Kroc Center Ice in La Mesa as their home rink, the organization has been one on the rise. In 2019, championships were attained at the Steel City Selects Girls Invitational and the San Jose MLK Girls Tournament. Before the year expired, hosting the first-ever San Diego Girls Tournament, the Gulls 14U AA squad captured the title.
Undeniably, Huntley’s background as an official allowed her to be a much more effective coach for the Gulls/Angels. Bringing a cerebral approach that encompassed a very solid understanding of the game’s ebbs and flows, allowing the youth players the opportunity to grow, her coaching
approach also emphasized developing fundamental values as responsibility and reliability.
With an approach that also focused on the key objective of providing a fun environment for the players, Huntley’s influence was evident in the organization’s number of achievements. With the 19U AA girls winning the Inaugural Boulder Breakout tournament in 2020, the following year was an extension of her legacy with the organization. Reaching a historic peak to close March 2021, the 14U, 17U and 19U AA teams all reached the USA Hockey Pacific District Tournament. Of note, the 19U team, led by captain Tiffany Anderson, qualified for the USA Hockey Nationals, as Isabella Mardesich led the Angels in scoring. In an e-mail interview from 2020, Huntley discussed her approach to coaching, and the facets that were the most enjoyable.
“I believe my officiating background helps as a coach because you see the game a little differently, and I know how to explain the rules to the kids. I think having the officiating background, along with the playing background helps with the overall knowledge of the game and helping youth grow in a positive, fun, as well as in a competitive nature.”
Watch the interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4exDRcZwl0
Before the season starts, another tribute sees the Pacific District Women’s Officiating Camp, which fulfills USA Hockey’s Seminar requirement for the 2021-22 season, in Portland, Oregon, has been renamed in Huntley’s honour.
Undeniably, there is also an emotional feeling of tribute among the officials who knew Huntley, as she was slated to work the 2021 IIHF Women's World Championship, contested in Calgary, Alta. Huntley’s passing is one that, although many of the tournament’s followers may not be aware of,
leaves a significant gap. With seven American women working at the event as officials, including
referees Kelly Cooke, Chelsea Rapin, Jestina Vichorek and Mackenzie Welter, with Kendall Hanley, Spresser and Sara Strong serving in the role of linesmen, their duties encompassed a combination of tribute, national pride and unity.
Taking into account that Hanley, Spresser and Welter were among the crew of officials with Huntley at the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL_ games in Lake Placid, it serves
as an emotional extension of that proud milestone achieved earlier this year.
Hanley, whose most recent milestone saw her named the recipient of the 2021 Ben Allison Award-winner, presented annually to an official in the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program, reflected on Huntley’s impact. From the opportunity to play with Huntley at Elmira, later working together on numerous assignments, it marked a series of proud milestones
for Hanley, whose heart remains heavy over the loss of a dear teammate and cherished friend,
“I was incredibly fortunate to have been able to share the ice with Jamie as a teammate twice in my lifetime, in college and as an official. Jamie was the epitome of what it means to be a leader. Positive, energetic, humble, courageous, accountable – she was always team first. Jamie inspired greatness in others and built everyone up around her.
"She motivated us all to be the best version of ourselves and to ALWAYS dream big. Jamie strived for excellence every time she hit the ice but also made sure to enjoy each moment to its fullest – so yes, there were a lot of laughs along the way, and Jamie’s laugh was infectious. Jamie was the
best – official, friend, human. I am forever grateful to the game as it brought Jamie into my life – not just as my teammate, but also as my sister – and I will continue to dream big, for Jamie.”
Certainly, a compelling element of dreaming big has involved breaking barriers. In September 2019, Hanley worked at the Detroit Red Wings NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan. A few years prior, Huntley enjoyed the opportunity to achieve new dreams, part of an exciting path for female officials that is destined to expand.
Working with highly accomplished Erin Blair at a Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) game, it signified a major milestone for Huntley. Not only was it a spectacular apex that propelled her into sporting equality, it was an opportunity to work with one of the most decorated female officials in the game, whose resume included a decade of international hockey with
the IIHF, including the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
On January 9, 2015, Huntley joined Blair, officiating a contest in Fayetteville, North Carolina, between the Columbus Cottonmouths and the Fayetteville FireAntz. Coincidentally, these same two teams were part of another historic event for Blair. A few weeks prior, Blair worked with Katie
Guay in a November 21, 2014 contest, to become the first female officials in the league’s history.
As a side note, the feeling of making hockey history would extend far beyond the SPHL experience for Guay and Huntley. In 2020, both would experience the monumental milestone of gracing NHL ice.
During the final weekend of January 2020, Guay joined Cooke, Hanley, and Kristen Welsh, officiating the Women’s 3-on-3 event at the NHL All-Star Weekend at Enterprise Center in St. Louis. February 8, 2020, saw Huntley work the final game of the U.S.-Canada Rivalry Series, which saw American blueliner Megan Bozek score the overtime winner. Contested at Anaheim’s Honda Center, home of the NHL’s Ducks, it brought her hockey odyssey full circle.
One of the charter members of the Lady Ducks 16U team, coached by Kathy McGarrigle, it was only fitting that with 13,320 fans on-hand, it marked one of the most well-attended women’s ice hockey games on the Pacific Coast.
Huntley’s presence in the SPHL marked another empowering chapter in the now defunct league’s legacy. Worth noting, both matches featured Winter Games gold medalist (and Women’s Hockey Life Player of the Decade for the 2010s), Shannon Szabados between the pipes for the Cottonmouths.
Adding to the sense of achievement was the fact that two members of the FireAntz roster included a pair of 2012 Elmira College graduates, John Clewlow and Darcy Vaillancourt. Reflecting on the magnitude of this milestone in an email interview, it encompassed Huntley’s raison d’etre as an official. With a tremendous appreciation for the female game and its empowering pioneers, paying homage to a role model in Blair, she
commendably looked to the future,
“Being able to work an SPHL game with Erin Blair was a great opportunity. Being able to skate with and learn from an experienced official, such as Erin, is always a plus. Being able to work a different level game, especially on the men’s professional side is a step in the right direction for all female officials looking to grow the game for all.”
In the conversation among possible officials for the 2022 Winter Games, it would have marked the prestigious pinnacle in Huntley’s officiating career. Although it was a summit not reached as an official, she did gain the opportunity to work in the 2018 Olympic Qualification tournament.
Group D of the 2018 Olympic Qualification tournament found Huntley at the Hakucho Oji Ice Arena, in Tomakomai, Japan. With a field that included the host country, Austria, France and Germany, she was one of two referees in the game which saw the Japanese clinch an Olympic berth, defeating Germany by a 3-1 mark. Fellow American Jess Leclerc served in the role of
linesman for the game.
Additionally, Spresser was also part of the Qualification tournament, among the officials assigned to Group C. Contested at DNB Arena in Stavanger, Norway, the event saw the host country finish first overall, competing versus Hungary, Slovakia and Kazakhstan.
Reflecting on the chance to work both Olympic qualifying and World Championship events in a 2020 email interview, Huntley beamed with pride at the privilege of being part of such world-class events, standing as testament to her superlative skills in the zebra stripes. With a combination of enthusiasm and wisdom, Huntley also employed a philosophical approach to the assignments, observing how a key theme for both, the game and officiating, revolved around the important factor of growth,
“Being able to work an Olympics qualifying tournament and a few World Championships was a great opportunity and an honor to be selected to work such important events. Being able to serve the game to the best of my abilities, no matter what level, is the goal as well as to continue to grow and learn. As the game continues to grow, we as officials have to grow with them in order to continue to be selected for these high level events.”
To learn more about the Jamie Huntley-Park and Ryan Park Scholarship, please visit:
Editor’s Note: Interview with Huntley took place by email in 2020.
“All quotes obtained first hand.