On March 19, Sydney Harris laced up her skates for the final time as a collegiate hockey player. Her Elmira College Eagles faced Plattsburgh State in the NCAA Division III Women’s Hockey Championship third-place game.
Despite dropping a tight 3-2 contest, the Eagles’ senior captain knew she would not have to wait long to get back on the ice. Her return just 12 days later, however, would be as an official rather than a player.
“I think it’s an amazing way to get to be a part of the game longer than your playing career will take you,” Harris said. “No matter what, when we start as kids, our hockey games are numbered as players. I know that as I’ve gotten older, getting to officiate and being part of the youth game still is a huge part of being a part of the game and helping the next generation of girls players come up.”
A standout blueliner for Elmira, Harris is now swapping her playing jersey for an officiating one, preparing for a whirlwind week that starts in Pittsburgh, Pa. at the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier I National Championships, and ends in Hungary at the 2022 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship Division I, Group A, her first international assignment.
Harris, an official for almost six years, uses the outlet as a way for her to give back to a game she loves so much. Earning the opportunity to officiate at Nationals has an even more sentimental meaning for her, as she competed in the event multiple times during her Girl's hockey days.
“The teamwork that goes into getting to a Nationals is one of the greatest parts of being on a team. It takes everyone to buy in,” Harris said. “I always remember my Nationals experiences extremely fondly, it was a fun time with my team. Sometimes it wasn’t even about the game, it was just about getting to be there. I found that the years I was having the most fun at the national tournament, were the years we went the furthest.”
Harris’ journey will keep her in Pittsburgh for two days before heading out to Gyor, Hungary. A whirlwind last two weeks Harris said, but one she wouldn’t trade for anything.
“When you’re playing career is done you can go one of two ways, you can officiate or you can coach. Both have benefits to staying in the game and help shape the next generation of hockey players,” said Harris. “Officiating is one of those things where your hockey game never dies. There’s always a place for you here as an official. It’s just a great way to stay a part of it.”
For Harris, officiating is the natural progression for her to continue being involved in hockey, especially with her collegiate career coming to a bittersweet end last month.
“[The last two weeks] have been very high highs and very low lows,” said Harris. “Obviously it’s bittersweet to have ended my college hockey career, but my team managed to go pretty far. It’s really cool to have something to look forward to like the IIHF tournament. It’s really cool to get to still stay in the game and still be a part of it.”