Kelly Cooke: Lessons Learned on the Ice

Tuesday, March 1, 2022
Kelly Cooke - 2022 Beijing Olympics - Womens Hockey

While the world was watching the athletes compete in the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, Morgan Lewis was watching the referees. Specifically, the referees at the women’s hockey games as associate Kelly E. Cooke took to the ice for three games, including the gold medal competition between the United States and Canada.

Kelly played college hockey at Princeton and on a professional level for the Boston Blades and the Boston Pride. She is one of the first four women to officiate at the National Hockey League (NHL) level and one of 12 referees from around the world who officiated the women’s hockey tournament at the Olympics.

Drawn in by the excitement of the game, Kelly shares how her hockey career evolved and how she translates her lessons from the ice to the practice of law.

When did you start playing hockey, and what draws you to the sport?

I started playing hockey when I was 4 years old. My parents had signed my older brother up for hockey and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I think what draws me to hockey is the speed and unpredictability of the game. The game can change in a split second, so it’s always exciting.

Do you find it hard to be a female official in the sport?

Being one of the first female officials to work an NHL-level game was a privilege. Knowing how many female officials have come before me made me realize just how important it is to continue breaking barriers and opening doors for future generations. It isn’t always easy or comfortable to be one of the first, but I’m happy to play a small role in providing more opportunities for those that come after me.

How did you get selected to be on the ice during the Olympics?

The selection process for the Olympics was based on my performance at various international tournaments over the previous six years. I was then selected to officiate at the Women’s World Championship in Calgary this past summer, which is the highest-level tournament in non-Olympic years. The final piece was a training camp in Denmark in early November, which consisted of off-ice physical testing. The International Ice Hockey Federation looks at each piece of the puzzle in order to determine which referees to select for the Olympic Games.

What was the best experience you had at the Olympics?

My top two experiences at the Olympics were the opening ceremonies and officiating the gold medal game. It really sunk in at the opening ceremonies just how lucky we were to be a part of the Olympic Games, and watching the best athletes from all over the world walk in the parade was pretty special.

Working the gold medal game was the pinnacle of my officiating career. I grew up watching the United States and Canada fight for the gold medal, so to witness that rivalry on the biggest stage was pretty amazing. Knowing just how much those women have done to grow the sport in North America and beyond made that moment even more special.

What lessons do you take from hockey that you apply to your legal career?

The biggest lesson from hockey that applies to my legal career is teamwork. Knowing that the team succeeds when every member is doing their job and focusing on our success as a whole applies both on and off the ice.

Kelly Cooke - 2022 Beijing Olympics - Womens Hockey