On 2 October international linesman Bettina Angerer wrote history in Austria as the first woman to officiate in the top men’s league of her country, EBEL. The game between the Graz 99ers and Olimpija Ljubljana wasn’t the last EBEL encounter for Angerer, who now works at a higher level of play than any her female colleagues in Europe.
“I was nervous at the first game. It was the first time a woman was officiating and it was even at my hometown in Graz, so I was indeed nervous. Many people I know were watching. There were also many spectators in attendance,” Angerer admitted. “Since the second game I don’t feel nervous anymore.”
For Angerer it was a new career highlight after officiating in her first IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship last year in Malmo, Sweden.
“Everything was a bit faster. It was also in the four-man officiating system, which was a change for me. The speed, the shots, the strategy, everything was much more professional,” she said when describing her experience with the EBEL, where the best club teams from Austria compete with one team each from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia.
“She’s an up and coming young official,” Lyle Seitz, EBEL Director of Hockey Operations, said about her. “She’s a strong skater, has a good presence and is very mature on the ice. The thing that cut my eye is that she did all the basic things right. That’s the start for any official. Then we can work on the harder stuff that comes later like the face-offs.
“We have a whole trainee program so she came up from. Part of the trainee program is to have a game and if they do well at this level they get another game and for some it becomes a professional job. It’s like a hockey player. If they do well, they get more ice time.”
Like other EBEL referees she came into the program in top junior leagues followed by the second-tier men’s league INL, a cross-border league with teams from Austria and Slovenia, four years ago before she reached the EBEL this autumn.
It’s a career path and a chance she didn’t expect when starting officiating.
“I could never have imagined officiating a game in the EBEL. Normally there are only male officials,” she said.
The 24-year-old pioneer was a hockey player herself. She started when she was eight, she even represented Austria in the 2009 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division I and is still playing if she has time.
“I thought that my chances to make it to the Olympics as an official were higher than as a player and since then I’ve been focussing on my career as an official,” Angerer said.
Recently she visited Hockey Canada’s Female Level V Officiating Camp in Moncton. Being in Canada for hockey was a dream of hers and soon she will be back as she got an assignment for the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship in St. Catharines in the Toronto area.
Also there she will work on her dream to make it to the Olympics for the first time with PyeongChang 2018 on the horizon.
“I’m working on my dream. My summer training has become more intense. I work out more to improve my fitness and I can notice it during the games,” she said.
“I want to continue to get it going and get more games in the EBEL. That would be great. And then I want to commend myself in the U18 Women’s World Championship to earn another assignment for the Women’s World Championship.”
NOTE: The full interview with Bettina Angerer can be read in the November issue of our bi-monthly newsletter Ice Times