Central Catholic Student Selected to Referee Ice Hockey National Championship

By William Collins, Central Catholic High School - PA

In December of 2022, Central Catholic senior Jack Sabo, ’23, was selected to referee the 2023 USA Hockey National Championship in Buffalo, New York.

The National Championship tournament took place March 30 – April 3, 2023 and featured 50 of the best teams in the country. In order to qualify for the National Championship, teams had to earn berths through their state championships, with each state qualifying their top team for competition.

In addition to selecting the players, there is a lesser-publicized process for selecting the referees. Since the National Championship is the crown-jewel event of the year, USA Hockey wants to ensure that the best officials from across the country are working games. To this end, 48 officials are selected to referee the high-level tournament, an honor that few referees can claim in their lifetimes.

While many may think of FBLA or forensics when Jack Sabo comes to mind, he also officiates ice hockey. Even as a high school senior, Jack referees every level of competition, from the NCAA to high school to local youth hockey. Jack made history as the youngest male referee selected to work a National Championship last year, and he continued this record-breaking season with a selection to officiate the quarterfinals of the Pens Cup Pennsylvania High School State Championship, becoming the youngest referee in Pennsylvania to earn such a spot.

“Nationals is such an amazing experience. You work with referees that come from all across the country, and it’s awesome to build that locker room camaraderie that all teams have. People don’t necessarily understand that the referees are the 3rd team on the ice, and, due to the nature of our jobs, we need to be the best team out there.”

Jack notes that there is always an added level of pressure when you get the call to work Nationals, saying, “It’s a surreal feeling when the National Referee-in-Chief picks up the phone and asks you to fly out to Nationals. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Just like the players, the referees are evaluated each game by former NHL officials. Only the best officials are selected to work the quarterfinals, semifinals, and, ultimately, the national title game. This year, Jack was selected to work the National Semifinal game, the first of his career.

We asked Jack about the moment he was told he would be suiting up for the Semifinals, to which he reminisced, “When they posted the crews for the National Semifinals on the wall of the locker room, I just sat there in awe. This was a milestone I had set going into the tournament, and I was really proud to have achieved it.”

Although Jack was never the best player, he has distinguished himself as a nationally recognized referee. Jack is still chasing his first national title game but hopes to reach this goal as he ventures into college and beyond.

This story was originally published on The Viking on May 26, 2023.