Playing ice hockey seven days a week, Mark Kohler
has a pretty good idea of what the game is all about.
Not only does the Bishop Eustace Prep School senior
play for one of only two NJSIAA-sanctioned teams in South Jersey, but he
competes with the Hollydell Hurricanes at the club level. He's an
experienced player a captain who is as serious about his sport as he is
taking a test in the classroom.
But Kohler wanted more. There had to be more
knowledge to be gained. For sure, a high school student couldn't know
all of the intricacies.
He saw an opportunity to approach the game from a
different angle -- as an official.
"I had been playing and wanted a better
understanding of the game. I saw a flier on the bulletin board at
HollyDell (Ice Arena) and refereeing exploded from there," said Kohler,
who will take his 3.9 GPA and nearly 1,300 SAT score to Bucknell
University as a chemistry major in the pre-med route.
"It gave me a new perspective on how the game is
played, and the additional ice time was a bonus."
As part of the USA Hockey program, the 17-year-old
Voorhees resident is a certified Level 3 referee. He has worked high
school games and officiated some district and league playoffs. Kohler
has also been involved with some national championship events in the
"You take a single-day class, usually from around 8
to 5," he said. "You then have to go back to school each year. Each
year, you can move up a level. It just becomes more in-depth.
"The only thing holding me back right now is my
age. Players and coaches give me a hard time at first because they think
I lack the age and ability to control a game. But at the end of the
game, coaches admire the job that I've done."
When he's not blowing the whistle, Kohler takes the
ice as a key player for Bishop Eustace. The Crusaders are considered to
be among the state's top programs, playing most of their games against
Central and North Jersey schools.
Bishop Eustace and St. Augustine are the only
state-sanctioned South Jersey schools playing ice hockey, among the 104
NJSIAA schools competing this winter.
While others in the region play at the club level,
these two are the only ones capable of playing in the Meadowlands for a
Bishop Eustace defeated St. Augustine earlier in
the year 4-1. "This season has been so amazing. I really have no
complaints," Kohler said.
Bishop Eustace coach Mike Green likes what he's
seen in Kohler over the past three seasons.
"He's always been a real conscientious and
intelligent person and player," Green said. "So whatever he's asked, he
gives his best effort toward doing that.
"Mark is a great team leader. He's a hard worker
and a good defensive player. He's a center, but a good defensive player.
I use him as one of our primary penalty killers."
Kohler has contributed a handful of goals and
assists this season, his biggest goal coming with three seconds
remaining against defending public school state champion Brick Township.
He's looking forward to playing a lot more hockey -- whether it be with
a stick in his hands or a striped shirt on his back.
"Obviously, I don't have too many playing years
left but I can ref for years to come," said Kohler, who's also involved
with sled hockey for handicapped kids at the Skate Zone in Voorhees as
part of his service program at Bishop Eustace.
"When I apply for a national license, I can ref
juniors, college. And if luck rolls my way, I could end up in the NHL."
"It's given me a perspective of the game from both
sides. When I'm playing, I know what the referee is thinking. And when
I'm refereeing, I know what the players are thinking. It's an edge."
Reach Kevin Minnick at (856) 486-2424 or firstname.lastname@example.org