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Kirsten Welsh, former captain and number 4 on the blueline during her time at RMU is now rising in the ranks of officiating, including being the first female official in the OHL and one of the first officials in the AHL. RMU Photos: Justin Berl. OHL photo provided

Kirsten Welsh was a standout player at Robert Morris University during her four years on campus. She played during one of the most successful eras for Colonial hockey, which included the program’s first trip to the NCAA tournament, a CHA Postseason title and 3 CHA regular season championships. Welsh, a defender, sits in the top 10 for all major offensive categories in team history, having scored 34 goals and 57 assists for 91 points during her 128 games as a Colonial and served as a Captain during her senior year.

Off the ice, she was an active member of the RMU community while working towards a degree in Business Management. Her degree led to her starting her career as an operations manager with Allegheny Petroleum for 2 years after graduation. She then started working in sales for ADP in March 2021, where she still works today.

Her post-RMU career has taken off on the ice as well, as an official. Welsh attended the NHL Officiating Exposure Combine in 2019 which is designed to take ex hockey players and help give them the skills and knowledge necessary to officiate at high levels of hockey.

After the program, she worked her way up the ranks, officiating in local youth hockey, juniors, NCAA D1 and now in her fourth year as an official officiates at the professional level in the AHL (American Hockey League), ECHL and PHF (Professional Hockey Federation) as well as Canadian Major Juniors in the OHL (Ontario Hockey League).

 We caught up with Kirsten about her time at RMU and how it helped her reach where she is today.

Q: How did your time at RMU and the network you developed there help in your officiating career?

Welsh: “There is no way I would be officiating if it wasn’t for the incredible people I met at RMU. I was contacted by Coach Logan Bittle during my senior year of college per the request of Stephen Walkom. As Director of Officiating for the NHL, he was enthusiastic to give me an opportunity as a female ice hockey official.

During my time volunteering with Little Pens, and eventually coaching a youth girls Pens Elite Team, I obtained invaluable experience and relationships. Those opportunities helped me develop better relationships that helped drive my current pursuit of being an NHL official.”

Welsh officiating an AHL game. She was one of 10 female officials to officiate in the AHL this season. – Photo Provided

Q: How did your time at RMU help prepare you for your off-ice career?

Welsh: “RMU offers incredible opportunities for success in many fields. I recall taking courses that helped me pursue several careers. All in all, RMU’s education helped prepare me for the real world and provided me with insight to be able to make my own career path and keep my options open based on the variety of classes I took as business major.”

Q: What lessons did you learn as a hockey player at RMU that have helped you in your careers since graduating?

Welsh: “Consistency and perseverance. I know I’ll mention those words time and again, but that is extraordinarily key to success. Having the teammates and coaches I was so fortunate to have, allowed me to learn from so many other great peers.

Hockey helped mold who I am as a person, and specifically, college taught me valuable lessons that I have applied in all areas of my life. I learned how to be a leader by action and voice. I learned how to overcome adversity and to persevere to keep working consistently hard through the toughest of times to see success.

Sports teach you invaluable things in life. Commitment, accountability, teamwork, critical thinking, and creating passion that will drive you to succeed both inside and outside of athletics. I was so extraordinarily fortunate to have the constant support of my family in which majorly contributed my love for hockey.”

Q: What was your greatest memory from your time as a RMU hockey player?

Welsh: “My greatest memory is winning the CHA’s and going to Wisconsin to the Final 8 round for the NCAA Tournament. An experience that momentous, shared with my teammates and coaches, was an indescribable capstone. All of which was from the extra hours with teammates and coaches, taking care of your mind and body in and outside of season, and continuous support from our fans and family.”

Q: What is your proudest post-RMU accomplishment thus far?

Welsh: “My proudest personal accomplishment so far is being chosen as the first woman in the history of the OHL to be a linesperson; as well as being selected as one of the first 10 females to officiate in the AHL!

Q: What advice do you have for future Colonials?

Welsh: “RMU is a very hands-on program where you build very close relationships with the coaches, teachers, your teammates and community within RMU. Most importantly the program has a strong legacy – be confident you are willing to build and add to that legacy to be a part of something bigger than yourself.”

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Welsh celebrating the Colonials 2017 CHA Championship – Justin Berl