Kelly Cooke Balances NWHL Role, Officiating, Legal Studies and More

Kelly Cooke Balances NWHL Role, Officiating, Legal Studies and More

The following article was posted on on Wednesday, July 3 featuring former Princeton University standout, and current ECAC Hockey official, Kelly Cooke.

By Mark Staffieri.

Participating in the inaugural season of the modern NWHL, contributing towards the Boston Pride winning the first Isobel Cup, Kelly Cooke earned a unique place in American hockey history. While she remains an integral part of the league’s future, holding a valued place in its leadership structure as the Director of the Player Safety Committee, her presence remains just as relevant on the ice.

Balancing her duties in the NWHL with ambitions towards a legal career and Master’s Degree, devoting 10-hour workdays as a paralegal, Cooke, a graduate of Princeton University and native of Andover, Massachusetts, also wears the black and white vertical stripes, defining features among the hockey officials jersey. Adding an empowering dimension to her hockey narrative, she has proven to be just as proficient in this other endeavour of her athletic odyssey.

Certainly, Cooke’s duties as Director of Player Safety for the NWHL serve as positive influence in her outlook towards the game. Discussing both roles, Cooke’s confidence shows, with an emphasis on integrity and strong focus, able to separate the unique aspects of each,

“I think my role as the Director of Player Safety is complimentary to my role as an official. Naturally, the perspective that I bring to the Player Safety Committee is that of an official, but I believe they are pretty distinct roles. When I am on the ice, I concentrate on calling the game fairly. When I am reviewing plays as part of the Committee, my priority is to protect the players in the league, regardless of the on-ice call.”

Although it may come as a recent revelation for some that Cooke has been garbed in the paraphernalia of a referee, with obligatory whistle in hand, such an occupation ran parallel to her playing career for many years. Having first worn the stripes at the tender age of 12, the result was a perspective that allowed the cerebral Cooke a greater appreciation for the game’s minutiae as a player.

Revealing the importance of organization in effectively and responsibly balancing the obligations of officiating, competition and studies, an element that extended beyond Cooke’s time with the Princeton Tigers. Employing such assiduous attention to the commendable ability to balance such duties as a professional player, whether it be with the former Boston Blades, or the shift to the Boston Pride, the demands of such commitment were alleviated by the element of enjoyment, never feeling like toil, rather a labor of love,

“You really rely on time management as a student-athlete, so that is something that I carried with me when I started working full-time while playing and officiating on the side. Each endeavour was unique and enjoyable in its own way, so I never felt like any of them were work, which made them much easier to juggle when my schedule was hectic.

I think the most rewarding element was being able to pursue three separate passions simultaneously: I knew that I wanted to go to law school and become a corporate lawyer. I loved competing alongside my teammates on the Pride, and I realized that officiating was something I truly enjoyed and wanted to continue doing at a high level after I finished playing.”

Recently, Cooke experienced a monumental milestone as an official. Alongside the likes of Katie Guay, Delaney Harrop and Amanda Tassoni, all former players who transitioned into officiating, they comprised what is believed to be the first-ever all-female officiating crew in the history of the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four.

Having also comprised the officiating crew at the 2019 ECAC Championship Game, contested between the regular season champion Cornell Big Red and two-time defending NCAA champion Clarkson Golden Knights, the opportunity for this fascinating foursome to take on the same role in a much bigger venue provided an empowering highlight for 2019 in ice hockey.

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