skip navigation

Illinois Referee Samantha Hiller Works the PWHL Showcase Game In Toronto

By Ross Forman, 03/26/24, 9:00PM CDT


The game was short and the play truly was a spotlight affair for the players, so her work as a referee in the 4-official system was easy. Samantha Hiller worked the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) 3 vs. 3 Showcase Game, played in Toronto in conjunction with the NHL mid-season celebration.

All the best female players from the new league came together for this all-star extravaganza, including Team Kloss captain Kendall Coyne Schofield, a Chicago-area native, who scored in the winning effort. Team Kloss won, 5-3, over Team King, as the teams were named in honor of Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss – PWHL Advisory Board members and long-time advocates of equality for women in sports.

“I was overwhelmed with excitement and shock,” Hiller said of being assigned the game. “If someone had told me, even a year ago, that I would skate a game on NHL All-Star ice, I wouldn’t have believed it. I was filled with pride and gratitude, not just in myself, but in the people around me who have brought me to this point in my career.

“To be selected for this assignment was an overall feeling of fulfillment and happiness. It is an honor to be a representative of this sport, the people who have supported me along the way, and to represent the organizations I officiate. I feel truly blessed to have been selected for this event.”

Hiller, 31, who lives in Gurnee, is a firefighter/paramedic for the Lake Forest Fire Department. She is in her 18th season as a hockey official, which includes working games in the AHL, PWHL, IIHF, NCAA, USHL, and a variety of youth leagues for IHOA within AHAI. She officiates 15 to 30 games per month.

“The (PWHL Showcase) game was shorter than I expected,” Hiller said of her all-star memories. “They played two 10-minute halves and it went by so quickly. It’s one of those games you just don’t want to end because the moment is so amazing. The game was more of a showcase for the players, so officiating it was straightforward. The players were having a blast amongst one another, regardless of which team they were on, so it made the game extra fun and light-hearted. I enjoyed being out there with some of the most talented female players in the world.”

Hiller skated with referee Elizabeth and lineswomen Kirsten Welsh and Alexandra Clarke. Ella Shelton (PWHL New York) scored the first goal of the game for Team King. Shelton also scored the first-ever goal in PWHL history.

“I received an email, rather unexpectedly, (in) late-December, asking if I would like to come work the PWHL game and attend the festivities for the weekend,” said Hiller, wearing lavender armbands as opposed to standard orange.

Hiller signaled several all-star goals.

“(It was) a lot of fun. Officiating in front of that many people is exciting; it makes you realize how fortunate you are to be in that moment. This is easily a top-three career highlight for me – not just for the assignment, but because of what it represents and the overall experience I had for the weekend. It’s an experience I will cherish.

“I am always happy to represent IHOA wherever I go. Even before I moved to Illinois, IHOA provided me opportunities for development. I also feel that the people in IHOA are like family to me. I want to make them proud and show them how much I value everything they’ve taught me.”

Hiller worked about 50 games this season in Illinois, often in Vernon Hills and Mount Prospect.

“I’m working as many AHAI games as I can with the spare time I have. I enjoy officiating AHAI tournaments and seeing teams from around the country,” she said. “I’ve been able to skate with some great people and work (some) fun tournaments. The officials I get to work with around here are a huge part of my enjoyment in working locally.”

Hiller officiated the Illinois High School Hockey State Championship Game in 2019 (Combined Division) and 2023 (Red Division).

She primarily officiates local high school, U16 and U18 games. “Sometimes I skate with newer officials in younger age divisions; I love (going) on the ice (to) mentor.”

She shared the Showcase with her mom, who joined her in Canada.

“She has been a huge hockey fan her entire life and never been (to Toronto),” Hiller said. “I took her to the Hockey Hall of Fame and she got to participate in all the events for the weekend. This was awesome for me because my mom has always been my No. 1 fan and I would not have any of this without her.

“When you’re a kid, you don’t always realize the sacrifices your parents make for you. I could finally give her a piece of that sacrifice back and say ‘Thank you, mom. Thank you for everything you did to give me the chance to do this.’ The NHL All-Star weekend will forever be a special memory for us.”