Rapin the ref bound for Beijing
2012 UVM women’s hockey alumna will wear the stripes as a referee at Olympics
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The UVM women’s hockey team is a bit shorthanded and will be for the next few weeks with a handful of their best players over in Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics. A former Vermont Catamount will be on the ice in China as well, but rather than donning her nation’s colors, 2012 grad Chelsea Rapin will be wearing stripes. We spoke with Chelsea before she left to talk about her journey.
Jack: “Chelsea, obviously hockey has been a big part of your life. What was it like growing up around the sport of hockey?”
Rapin: “Pretty unreal. Every weekend, we would go to the ice rink and play either a game or multiple games. Going to practice during the week, I was multi-sport athlete in high school, so I would go and do my high school sport and then sprint over to the rink right after having a quick dinner. And then that was pretty much growing up with me as I was always on the run.”
Fitz: “What was the process like in terms of deciding that you wanted to come to the University of Vermont?
Rapin: “Well, I knew I wanted to play ice hockey and go to a school that had physical therapy. There aren’t many schools that do that. So this was one of ‘em. And then when I took my first visit here, I just fell in love with the state. I fell in love with Burlington, fell in love with the school, and I just I’ve stayed.”
Fitz: “You got to the point in your playing career that you were a captain here at the University of
Rapin: “I strived to be a leader. I like being a leader and I also like teaching. So I thought that was a real tremendous honor to be a captain of the team in Vermont.”
Fitz: “You get to the end of your playing career...you didn’t wanna give up on hockey yet.”
Rapin: “Hockey had gave me so much growing up and tremendous opportunities from a schooling standpoint that I knew I wanted to give back to it somehow. Around the same time that I graduated from undergrad, I picked up refereeing and it was just something to make some extra money. And it ended up kind of spiraling into something a little bit more.”
Fitz: “How did that progress from the point that you were doing youth league, adult league games, whatever, into obviously some much more serious games?”
Rapin: “Yeah, it starts with USA hockey. So through USA hockey, I was brought into high school locally around Vermont. And from there a couple of supervisors and head officiating people pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey, you should probably go to camp.’ Once you get to elite camp, then you end up either...they decide if you should be an international official or not.”
Fitz: “You don’t see a whole lot of officials in any sport that are calling games involving teams that they used to play for. What’s that experience like coming in here into the Gut, knowing that you’ve gotta be a neutral observer and make sure that the game is proceeding the way it’s supposed to?”
Rapin: “It’s really something special being back in the Gut. It’s an amazing ice rink and just being able to skate at it is great. But you’re right. You have to be neutral.”
Fitz: “You’ve gone through the ranks as an official going from youth leagues, doing Hockey East, and also doing international play. What was it like finding out, getting the call that you were gonna be going over to Beijing?”
Rapin: “I was in shock, honestly. With everything going on with COVID and the past couple of years, it’s been tough to kind of manage and balance. And getting that call kind of just put the icing on the cake. It’s been a lot of long trips, a lot of time, a lot of Starbucks, a lot of red bull. Just getting me through those long nights and those long trips. So everything kind of was put into place.”
Fitz: “Speaking of long trips, you’ve got a little bit of an Odyssey ahead of you to get over there. Can you kind of break that down? What you’ve gotta do to get into China?”
Rapin: “It’s gonna be quite a trip. I’m gonna drive down to Boston and then Boston to Tokyo. And that flight is a 14.5 hour flight. And then from Tokyo, they’re chartering a plane to China, because there’s no commercial planes to China. So it’s gonna be definitely something special, a little different than what a typical Olympics is, but it’s all gonna to be part of the experience.”
Fitz: “What’s it gonna mean to you to step out on the ice for that first time and call a game at the highest level?”
Rapin: “It’s gonna be one nerve wracking, but I also have to remember that, you know, I have done these teams before. It’s not something new. It might be a new venue. It might be a higher stage, but you’ve done this before and you’ve done these games before. So it’ll be very nerve wracking, but it’ll be very exciting at the same time.”
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