Joy Tottman is a well-known name among British hockey circles. She’s been apart of Ice Hockey UK as well as the IIHF for over 15 years. What’s even better is she is a strong woman at the top of her game. The past Olympics in Sochi, Russia was her third consecutive time officiating the Winter Games and she held the honour of being selected to run the ice for the women’s gold medal game between Canada and the United States. I caught up with her to shed a little insight into what makes a strong woman referee and to give women here in Canada a chance at stepping into another part of the best sport on Earth.
March Hockey: How did you get involved in hockey? What made you head into the disciplinary part of the game?
Joy Tottman: I first started refereeing at the age of 12. I had wanted to learn how to skate and my dad had taken me to our local rink and given me the choice of playing hockey or figure skating and I chose hockey. I was playing under 10s and when we had games no officials were turning up. My dad was one of the only parents who could skate and so he took the referee course so that we could play our games. He would then have to stay on to referee the games after my game and so he got me to take the course too so I could stay on with him. I started to enjoy the refereeing and made the switch to just refereeing at a really young age. I guess it was a way for me to be involved in the game without the physical element of playing in a boy’s team.
MH: This past Olympics was your third. How do you prepare mentally and physically for an event of that size?
JT: The physical preparation was a huge part of going to the Sochi Olympics. There was a pre-Olympic selection camp in August 2013 where we were tested on and off the ice. I had a trainer for off-ice who I saw 3 times a week and then did my own programme on the other days. Because I have a day job this meant training at 6am each morning. The mental preparation for me was all about getting game experience throughout the season and of course over the years. Making sure that I focused on each game and learned from the situations within it. It was about putting myself mentally in a place where I knew I was prepared and had done everything possible to be in the best shape and best frame of mind for the games.
MH: Where do you see the state of women’s hockey in the next 5-10 years?
JT: It is a really exciting time for women’s hockey and certainly since Torino I have seen it develop so much already. Whilst the North American teams have always been strong, the rest of the world are significantly closing the gap and the games have all become more competitive with a much higher skill level than in previous years. With the right support I see the women’s game going from strength to strength over the coming years and I think the Sochi games was a fantastic advert for women’s hockey and a sign of what is to come for us.
MH: Are there any NHL referees you pattern your game after or look up to?
JT: I have a huge amount of respect for all the NHL referees. One of the nicest parts of being at the Olympics is the chance to be on the same officiating team as the NHL referees – the guys who get paid to do this as their day job. The chance to learn from them, to ask them questions and to watch them on the ice is a real privilege and I can honestly say I have learned so much from all of them. To single one out is really tough although I have to say the support and encouragement I have had from Don Van Massenhoven over the years has been incredible. I met him in Torino in 2006 and he has been in touch ever since with support and words of advice which I really appreciate.
MH: Do you think there would be enough support to hold a professional women’s league? What about in GB hockey?
JT:I think certainly we are getting to the point where it would be really exciting to see a professional women’s league. I hear from my USA colleagues about women’s college hockey and feel very jealous that they get to officiate such a high level women’s game regularly. Women’s hockey in GB has definitely grown and developed over the years and I feel with the right level of support and investment it has the potential to produce the most successful GB hockey team yet. I think the world is waking up and realizing women’s hockey is here, it is exciting and it has so much to offer us all.