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West St. Paul’s Greg Shepherd has spent 42 years as a hockey referee and supervisor of officials for college hockey and was recognized this month. The Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) awarded Shepherd the 2021 Otto Breitenbach Distinguished Service Award.
Shepherd spent 14 years as an on-ice referee going back to 1978. He worked in 10 NCAA Men’s Frozen Fours during that time. In 1992 he began serving as the officials’ supervisor for the men’s league and took on the same role for the women’s league with its inception in 1999. Shepherd is the longest-tenured officials’ supervisor in college hockey.
“No one cares more about this great league than Shep,” said WCHA Men’s League Commissioner Bill Roberson. “He embodies what is great about the college game.”
The Breitenbach Award is given to individuals who render extraordinary service to the WCHA. Previous winners include such fabled hockey names as Herb Brooks, John Mariucci, and Doug Woog. Shepherd is the 42nd recipient of the award and first officials’ supervisor.
Shepherd is stepping down as officials’ supervisor for the men’s league but will continue for the women’s league.
“Dealing with the coaches and kids was the best part of being a referee.”Greg Shepherd
About Greg Shepherd
After a 35-year career with Northern States Power, Shepherd has now been retired for 15 years. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1967 to 1969, and also put in a single term on the West St. Paul City Council from 1995 to 1998. He also somehow found time to coach youth baseball in West St. Paul.
Shepherd has been married to Nancy—”the love of my life”—for 50 years and they have three children, Derek, Tiffany, and Brad.
Shepherd and Nancy play golf all over the country and Shepherd currently works at Emerald Greens Golf Course.
Conversation With Greg Shepherd
What’s the hardest part of being a hockey referee?
Hardest part of refereeing is being out of town every weekend and missing my kids’ games and having my wife driving the kids all over.
Dealing with the coaches and kids was the best part of being a referee.
How is a supervising official different from an on-ice referee?
First I have to do the hiring of all the officials, have do the firing and all the supervising of all the officials that work for me. That’s linesman and referees. I have to handle all the calls from the coaches no matter what time of day or night, and watch all the clips that are sent in by the coaches.
When on the ice you do the game and go home, but a supervisor is always open for calls.
When did you first get into hockey?
I started playing at 5 years old at Baker playground on the West Side, and I am 72 now.
What’s kept you involved in hockey all these years?
The love of the game, the great people you meet along the way. Hockey has great people. And watching the grandkids play.
What’s the state of hockey in West St. Paul today?
The youth program is good. The problem is they have to keep the kids at Sibley. When they get to high school they leave and go to St.Thomas, Hill-Murry, Cretin. They have to keep those kids at Sibley, and in my mind the coach has to be at the youth games and show he cares. They are student athletes, tell them what Sibley has to offer.
You used to serve on the West St. Paul City Council—do you miss it?
Do I miss it? No. I wanted to try to make a difference, that’s why I was on the Council. I listened to what people had to say and tried to help.
What do you love about West St. Paul?
I grew up on the West Side and went to Humboldt—best high school around. I got married and moved to West St. Paul and raised three great kids and made West St. Paul my home 45 years.
Thanks to Greg Shepherd for sharing his thoughts with us.
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I went to UND and took in just as many hockey games as classes. It’s part of the student culture in Grand Forks. Mr. Shephard was always our favorite ref.