Chris Woodworth will be a men's ice hockey official at the Winter Olympics.
As a 13-year-old, Chris Woodworth officiated youth hockey games at the Greater Canandaigua Civic Center. After years of traveling across the country and world for various officiating assignments, Woodworth, now 33, was selected to work the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
"It was very exciting, I never in a million years thought I would get to that level," Woodworth said. "It's taken years of hard work, many camps and lots of games under my belt. It's nice to establish that I'm pretty good at what I do out there. You have to be one of the best to get an assignment like that."
He is one of 32 officials who were selected to work the men's hockey tournament, only four of whom are Americans.
Like many hockey-loving boys in the area, Woodworth played for the Canandaigua Knights youth hockey program. His family was instrumental in starting the Canandaigua Academy varsity hockey team, which first took the ice for the 1997-98 season. Woodworth was a captain for the very first Braves hockey team.
The son of Lynn and Scott Woodworth received his start working at the Greater Canandaigua Civic Center. The rink's Executive Director David Korpiel remembers the teenager driving the Zamboni and working the snack bar along with refereeing games.
After graduating from Canandaigua in 1998, Woodworth spent two years studying at Finger Lakes Community College and two years at SUNY Geneseo. He helped Bob Black coach the Braves while in college.
"If he wasn't an official, he'd be an outstanding coach," Black said. "At a young age, he was able to have a great overall perspective of how the game is played. He had the anticipation and the knowledge, so it's easy to see why he's an official. He'd be on the bench and he knew the rules better than the referees did."
Woodworth is a linesman, as opposed to a referee. Linesmen handle calling offsides and icing violations, conduct face-offs and break up fights, and they can call some severe penalties.
After graduation, Woodworth got noticed while officiating a youth national championship and received the opportunity to attend a national referee camp in Burlington, Vt. After a strong showing at the camp, Woodworth was offered a full-time job officiating junior hockey in Dallas.
"It was a nine-day camp they really designed to be mentally and physically challenging," he said. "They're putting everybody head-to-head in various activities. People who aren't physically fit or mentally fit would deteriorate."
While Woodworth was only supposed to do junior hockey in Dallas, an official got sick and he ended up getting the opportunity to work a game in the Central Hockey League, a mid-level minor professional league. He did a good job and ended up working 35 games in the CHL that season.
The following year, Woodworth got into the American Hockey League and was based out of Rochester. He started out doing about 120 games per season between the AHL and other leagues, basically a game a day. The Canandaigua native continued to get many officiating assignments and worked the Eastern Conference Finals of the AHL Playoffs.
Woodworth's ultimate goal was to officiate in the National Hockey League, but those jobs don't open up very often. Being on the road so much became a difficult lifestyle to maintain.
"I couldn't really justify chasing the dream anymore," Woodworth said. "I quit doing it at that level and settled down back at home."
Two years ago, Woodworth became the general manager of Bill Gray's Regional Iceplex in Brighton and scaled back the amount of officiating he did. However, he continued to officiate AHL games and started getting involved with international hockey.
The linesman couldn't work his first two international assignments due to injuries. Just when he thought his international career was over before it even started, Woodworth received an assignment to work the 2012 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Calgary.
After a successful tournament, he was invited to work the 2013 IIHF World Championship in Stockholm, Sweden. There, Woodworth called a penalty when a Swedish player took out Canadian star Eric Staal's knee with an illegal hit.
In the summer, the IIHF brought the top 40 linesmen and referees to Switzerland for three days of testing and team building to determine who would work the Olympics.
"I didn't think I had a legitimate opportunity, but when we got there they told us that everybody has an equal chance," he said. "I found out a couple months ago when USA Hockey contacted me and said, 'Congratulations.'"
If Woodworth does well in Sochi, he could earn the opportunity to work quarterfinal, semifinal or medal games. However, officials can't oversee games in which their home country is playing. While it's not known what games Woodworth will be assigned to, his mother Lynn said she'll be watching — even if it's at 3 a.m.
A big topic leading up to the Olympics has been security and safety in Sochi. The Rochester resident said he's a little concerned, but more for the spectators attending games. "We will be inside the Olympic village the entire time, so I personally feel safe," he said.
Woodworth's picture is on display at the GCCC, and Korpiel is excited to watch his friend and former employee take the ice on TV.
"It couldn't have happened to a better man," Korpiel said. "I think it's exciting for Canandaigua. He's at the world showcase, and it started right here at the Civic Center. I'm really proud and happy for him."
The 2014 Winter Olympics event coverage will be televised starting at 8 p.m. tonight on NBC. The opening ceremonies will be televised at 7:30 p.m. Friday on NBC.