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Last Updated: Monday, 30 January 2006, 14:10 GMT
Ice maiden
By Paul Woloszyn

Joy Tottman. Photo: Diane Davey
Tottman is relishing her trip to Turin. Photo: Diane Davey
Britain's sole representative in the macho world of Olympic ice hockey will be a 23-year-old woman.

Referee Joy Tottman will don the stripes for the women's event in Italy, on the 70th anniversary of Great Britain's men winning Olympic ice hockey gold.

The Essex girl, and Oxford graduate, who was the first female to referee in a men's professional league in 2004, said: "I am really chuffed.

"When Andy French [the Elite League's director of hockey] phoned to tell me that I'd be needing time off in February I didn't ask any questions."

Tottman began officiating when she was just 11, following in her father Dave's footsteps, after playing in a boys' league.

She described the move as "the only way to stay in the sport".

"I used to help dad on the line, picking the puck up and stuff like that," she said.

There was certainly an amount of prejudice and it was difficult at the start
Joy Tottman

"My dad has given me fantastic support. We have officiated in a lot of games together and it gives me a big comfort zone because he is always there to back me up.

"Being a referee himself he has always been able to advise me on things and has been a massive influence on my career."

Tottman's rise saw her installed as a 'linesman' in the now defunct Superleague, then Britain's top flight, at the tender age of 17.

"I think any woman breaking into a male-dominated sport is going to experience difficulties and it was no different for me. There was certainly an amount of prejudice and it was difficult at the start," she said.

Since then Tottman has achieved referee status and in November took charge of the Elite League game between London Racers and Edinburgh Capitals.

But the fact that she is a woman does not give her an easy ride from the players.

Turin's Olympic ice hockey stadium
Turin's Palasport stadium will host the Olympic ice hockey event

"I get as much abuse, if not more, than a male official would get. But there have been occasions when they don't even realise I'm a woman until the end of the game and then go to apologise to me for using bad language.

"But I don't think they react differently to me and I wouldn't want them to.

"You are always going to get abuse but I think I can get away with more in return too. If I'm late on the ice I can say, 'I was just putting my lipstick on' and things like that."

There aren't many men who could split up two professional hockey players who are intent on fighting
Joy Tottman

In her role as linesman, Tottman, unsurprisingly dubbed 'Totty' by players and fans, has had to break up many of the fights the sport is notorious for.

But she does not feel her 5ft 7in slender frame makes her less able to deal with such situations than her male counterparts.

"There aren't many men who could split up two professional hockey players who are intent on fighting," she said.

In Turin, Tottman will be in charge of the women's version of the game, but she insisted that does not make her task any easier.

"Women's hockey has a no-checking rule so there is a large grey area for a referee in terms of what to call or not to call a penalty," she said.

"It's difficult to judge, especially with the more physical teams like the USA and Canada, so I would actually say it's more difficult to referee than the men's game."

Despite her achievements in the men's game on a domestic level, Tottman says the possibility of a female referee in the men's Olympic tournament is not one she would welcome.

"I don't think it's entirely appropriate to be honest," she said. "I don't see why female officials should feel that the women's game is not good enough to have to go down that road.

"In saying that, I don't see why it couldn't happen, but with the improving level of the women's game it's not something that I see happening.

"I'm reffing in a men's league because that what I've always worked in and it has prepared me well for the Olympics, but it was never a burning ambition to do so, that's just the way it's happened."



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