By Mike D’Abate

Amanda Tassoni Calls it Like She Played It…With Heart

It has long been the public consensus that officiating is the most controversial task in sports. When all goes well, the name of an official (whether it be an umpire, referee or judge) is seldom heard. One would be hard-pressed to remember a time in which an official was routinely congratulated on a job well done. Rather, the official is either praised or vilified, when the spotlight is the brightest.

While most would avoid a position subject to such scrutiny, some bravely choose to use their talent and knowledge to guide athletes in the direction of fair and just gameplay. This type of dedication not only demonstrates a deep love for the sport, but also for the official’s chosen craft. It is this spirit of tenacity that drove Smithfield’s Amanda Tassoni to shine on one of the largest stages in sports.

The game of ice hockey embodies a rich tradition both in Smithfield, and in Rhode Island as a whole. From the Smithfield High School Sentinels, to the legendary Mounties of Mount St. Charles Academy, high school hockey is among the most closely-followed sports in the State. At the collegiate and professional levels, that fandom is greatly enhanced.

However, both the men’s and women’s Frozen Four were treated to a unique showcase of ‘Rhode Island skills’ in 2019. Tassoni joined fellow officials Kelly Cooke, Katie Guay, and Delaney Harrop to comprise the first all-female officiating staff in the history of the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four. United by the common thread of having played competitively, she considers joining outstanding quartet of officials as one of the crowning achievements in her hockey career.

Tassoni enjoyed a great deal of success during her time playing for the University of Rhode Island Rams, and head coach Beth McCann. Appearing in over 100 games for the program, Tassoni collected a career total of 72 points, placing her among the top 25 scorers in Rams history. Her greatest season came in 2010-11, in which she earned spots on both the Second-Team Eastern Collegiate Women’s Hockey League (ECWHL) All-Tournament team and a Second Team All-American. Tassoni was undoubtedly an invaluable contributor for a squad that placed third in the national rankings, and qualified for the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) tournament.

Upon the conclusion of her collegiate career, Tassoni continued her dedication to the game of hockey. Her proficiency in the sport made her an ideal candidate to either coach or officiate. While intrigued by both, officiating offered the unique opportunity to bring order and structure to the game, while simultaneously fueling her spirit to be physically well-conditioned. As such, Tassoni began to embark on the pursuit of her goal.

While continuing to gain experience as a referee, Tassoni cultivated her level of familiarity with the game of hockey. In a bit of poetic foreshadowing, she worked with Cooke, Guay and Harrop at the 2019 ECAC Championship Game between Clarkson and Cornell. That experience led her to realize that she had developed the necessary skills and experience to display her talents on the largest stage in collegiate hockey.

Upon discovering that she was chosen to officiate the 2019 Frozen Four, Tassoni was overcome with pride and a satisfying sense of accomplishment. While always humbled by her love for hockey, she realized that her selection was the result of hard work and steadfast commitment. However, Tassoni was understandably most overwhelmed by the honor of being a part of the first-ever all-female officiating crew at the Frozen Four. Following her selection, Tassoni told Women’s Hockey Life:

“I was ecstatic! I could not have asked for a more amazing group of ladies to share this experience with, and was so thankful to be a part of it. The 2018-19 season was a long one with a lot of traveling, and being a part of the Frozen Four made it all worth it.”

Tassoni’s experience in the Frozen Four was truly a positive one, in every sense of the word. Akin to umpiring a World Series or officiating a Super Bowl, being a part of the sport’s pinnacle event is among its greatest privileges. Having gained a much greater perspective on the duties that encompass officiating, it has only served to enrich Tassoni’s love of the game. In speaking with her, one cannot help but be impressed with the knowledge and passion she has for the sport, as well as her desire to uphold its integrity.

However, Tassoni is keenly aware that she was a part of a historic moment for women in athletics. Not long ago, opportunities for women in hockey (after concluding their collegiate careers) were scarce. As she and her colleagues have demonstrated, the prospect of officiating has resulted in breathing new life into the game.

“Yes, I believe that a lot of attention was drawn to females in officiating this season more so than past seasons overall. The world of officiating is not an easy one, and it certainly is not for everyone. But if girls are up for the challenge, then I highly recommend giving it a shot. It is a great way to stay involved in the game, and this was a perfect showcase of how rewarding the road can be!”

For Amanda Tassoni, officiating at the Frozen Four was an amazing experience. Being given the opportunity to do it with the first-ever all female crew was, in her words, ‘a dream come true.’ Staying true to her Rhode Island roots, she is determined to remain humbled by the love of her family, friends and colleagues. She is thankful for the female officials that paved the way for her to pursue her dreams. As a result, her continued hard work and dedication will continue to blaze the trail for young female athletes, and officials in the years to come.