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Two Western New York hockey referees heading to Pyeongchang Olympic Games

The difference between Dina Allen and Fraser McIntyre's hockey careers is stark. Allen played at Nichols, on travel teams with boys and girls, in the old National Women's Hockey League and collegiately at Princeton University. McIntyre didn't even play for his high school team, extending his career by playing in house leagues.

Neither was able to complete the dream of representing red, white and blue as players on the Olympic stage. Instead, they're heading to Pyeongchang in black and white stripes.

The pair, both 33, are the first amateur hockey referees from Western New York to participate in the Olympics since Rob Hearn in 1994. Allen, a North Tonawanda native, is a referee on the women's side, while McIntyre, who was raised in Amherst, is a linesman for the men.

They're among an elite group, as the U.S. is only sending three refs and a linesman on the women's side and one ref and two linesmen on the men's. In total, there are 10 refs and nine linesmen for the women and 14 of each for the men.

It takes years to get to this level and most never do.

"My son is three," McIntyre said. "When he gets older, (I want) to be able to explain to him, 'Yeah, I did that.' ... Showing him hard work and what you get not giving up on it."

The key is to get on USA Hockey's radar, but that's easier said than done.

USA Hockey offers referee camps that slowly increase in difficulty and scope. Supervisors evaluate the perspective peacekeepers, ranking the attendees by talent. With time, the best move up the chain, going from local seminars to district, regional, national and finally elite camp.

"Your elite camp, that’s kind of USA Hockey’s opportunity to see if they want to put you into the mix internationally," McIntyre said.

Even if you're deemed talented enough for international duties, there's still a ways to go before getting to the Olympic stage. Most start at a lower level of international competition, as once again referees need to prove themselves. Allen has worked world championships, the Tier I Youth National Championships and a handful of Olympic qualifiers. McIntyre has worked two world senior tournaments and an under-18 and under-20 tournament.

Dina Allen and Fraser McIntyre skate in front of an American flag at Northtown Center in Amherst. (James P. McCoy / Buffalo News)

Allen nearly reached the pinnacle four years ago, when she was the final ref cut for the Sochi Olympics lineup. Only one American ref went over on the women's side. Allen was No. 2.

"That was a time where I had to figure out with my career and everything what I wanted to do," Allen said. "And family wise, on the female side of things, if you're going to start a family you have to take a little bit of time off to do that. I took that year off after the last Olympics, had my son and got back into it."

Balancing reffing duties with the rest of their lives can be a challenge, as both have other full-time jobs. Allen is an attorney at Cattaraugus-Allegheny BOCES and McIntyre works in insurance at The Stahlka Agency. Luckily for them, both their bosses have a background in sports and have supported them wholeheartedly.

For the next few weeks, they don't have to think about their day jobs. Neither has their schedule yet, but most of their days will be spent in either the Gangneung Hockey Centre or the Kwandong Hockey Centre. The women's tournament runs from Saturday to Feb. 22, while the men's runs from Feb. 14 to 25.

"It's just about taking in the whole experience," Allen said. "It's going to be a great time. And to do it with all of our friends, girls that I've worked tournaments with over the years, to be able to take it all in with them."

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