NEW ULM – When Landon Depew’s high school hockey career ended in 2019 when he graduated from New Ulm High School, he knew he wanted to stay involved in the game.
So Depew turned to match refereeing – something he started when he was still a member of the youth program here. This has now brought him to the North American Hockey League – and a return to the New Ulm Civic Center as a referee.
âWhen I first started playing I was a second year Bantam player and wanted more ice time. “ he said. “I had a few buddies like Kelton Schmitz, Colin Huffman and Ethan Kraus umpiring so I figured that would be a way to save time on the ice and make money on the weekends.”
After graduating from NUHS, Depew went to Alexandria University.
âI wanted to stay involved in high school hockey refereeing, so I joined a group in Alexandria and a group in Twin Cities that mainly covers the games on the West Side of the Cities and the St. Cloud area. I have been there for two years. Now that I’m in Plymouth, I’ve joined the Minneapolis Hockey Officials Association and played in many high school games.
Depew said he first became interested in refereeing junior hockey after meeting a friend in Alexandria who was a full-time referee for the NAHL, NA3HL and USHL (United States Hockey League).
“I asked him how could I do this because it’s the next step above high school”, said Depew. âHe gave me some contact names for the NAHL and told me I should go to Buffalo, New York, and try their hope camp. And if you show you’re good enough, they’ll hire you full-time or part-time.
Depew went to Buffalo last July.
“I flew with a friend from Minnesota for a week last July” said Depew. âThey had two NHL scouts there to take notes on the players going to the NHL Combine. There was also the supervisor of officials from USHL and ECHL and IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation).
âAnd there are over 50 public servants there from all over the United States. The great thing they watch out for is skating ability. And then they teach them along the way how to make better calls on the ice and be in the right position.
Depew said it’s important to move from high school umpire to junior hockey.
“I refereed a lot of Class”A“High school hockey used to be, so it was a big leap”, he said. âMy first weekend (as an NAHL referee) I was in Aberdeen. It was a lot faster and more sophisticated – they’re a lot smarter on the ice. They put the puck where they want and where their teammates are going to be. It’s more physical and they can fight. Big difference compared to high school. My first weekend, I had two fights in my very first game, I wanted to break up, but you have to take a step back and let them go. I had my visor knocked down but haven’t received a punch yet. “
Depew, who works full-time as an automation specialist at Maple Grove, said his realistic end goal is the National Hockey League.
âIt’s a real possibility because the NHL just hired three under-25 umpires from our program last year and a game was being evaluated by an NHL linesman. And I want to work in DI hockey.
And if you were at the New Ulm Civic Center in October for a Steel game, you might have seen Depew on the ice.
“It was quite fun” he said of returning to New Ulm. “I went back to the locker room and so many memories come back.”
Depew does not know if he will be a referee at New Ulm again this season.
âI have games scheduled until mid-January. I am very busy with hockey.