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40 years later, Tompkins GHA celebrates its post-Title IX origins

02/19/2013, 2:15pm MST
By Mike Scandura

On Nov. 18, the Tompkins Girls Hockey Association celebrated the exact date 40 years ago that Cass Park was opened for first-time users, including members of TGHA. With that milestone, the oldest all-girls youth hockey association in New York was founded.
 
To celebrate, the association had a party for current players, alumni, parents and fans at which one of the founding players, Linda Dominic Hemmerich, made some pertinent remarks. Hemmerich noted that in 1972, her friend Margaret Stanton and her had “a desire and dream to play girls ice hockey.”
 
“Title IX was enacted by President Nixon in 1972,” Hemmerich said. “We were high school juniors in ’72. We talked about this hockey idea. We got our parents interested. We had their support and that of other community members who helped us take it to the next level. TGHA would not have happened without this.
 
“After the first signup, we realized there were girls interested in hockey. It’s not about winning a hockey game and records. It’s about girls playing ice hockey.”
 
Since then the TGHA has developed into an association that includes an initiation program, an 8-and-Under house program plus travel teams at the 10-U, 12-U, 14-U and 16-U/19-U levels, who’re officially known as the Ithaca Shooting Stars.
 
“My sense is there’s been an increase in the number of girls,” U-12 assistant coach C.J. DelVecchio said. “The initiation program is a free program to try and grow the sport. The numbers [in this program] are greater than they’ve been in the past.”
 
The emphasis in this program is on skill building, team play and fun.
 
The fact THGA is in its 40th season and still going strong is noteworthy.
 
“Where we are is a college town with a transitory population,” DelVecchio said. “People come from all over the country, and there’s a strong hockey connection with people coming in and out of town.
 
“Plus, Ithaca is a very progressive town in that it’s supportive of equal rights and women’s rights. We also have a very strong Cornell women’s hockey program. It wasn’t taken as seriously back then as it is now.”
 
As part of its affiliation with Cornell’s women’s team, the TGHA has a Cub Club.
 
“The Cub Club pairs a girl with a big sister who’s a player on Cornell’s women’s team,” DelVecchio said. “The younger girls really enjoy this and go to all the games.
 
“They chat with the players and sometimes there’s a movie night. It’s an opportunity for girls to watch women play and to see role models.”
 
The 12-U team last month captured the Top Gun Tournament in Amherst and went undefeated in five games. DelVecchio’s team beat the Tonawanda Bolts 2-1 in overtime in the final with Nora Cowett scoring with four seconds remaining.
 
“I think this was an accomplishment at this level,” DelVecchio said. “Last year the 19-U team placed second in states. At the 12-U level it’s unusual, but for our association it’s not unusual.
 
“The TGHA teams always have brought strong female players who’ve won titles and games.”
 
In DelVecchio’s opinion, winning the Top Gun Tournament was important for the girls’ self-esteem.
 
“We haven’t found a lot of teams in our league that are of equal level, so we’ve been playing a lot of teams that are a step up or a step down,” she said. “One of our girls asked me after the third game, ‘Is this really us? Are we winning?’ In a way, they had to learn how to win.”
 
One reason for the success of the various TGHA teams is the fact they’ve adopted USA Hockey’s American Development Model.
 
“[Coach] Eric [Eisenhut] and I follow USA Hockey’s American Development Model,” DelVecchio said. “It’s about skills and not winning the game all the time. Parents who don’t understand what we’re trying to teach the girls are focused on scoring and have higher expectations for their girls.
 
“Their skills have blossomed, especially in terms of finding the edges on their skates and the tenacity of getting to the puck.”
 
Another plus for TGHA is the Ithaca Shooting Stars Invitational Tournament, which last December was held for the 14th consecutive year. A total of 23 teams encompassing more than 200 girls played at five age levels.
 
“I think people love coming to Ithaca,” DelVecchio said. “It’s a small city that offers a lot of amenities and the tournament is early enough in the season so as not to interfere with holidays.
 
“People enjoy visiting colleges and downtown Ithaca. For many people it’s a day trip.”
 
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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A follow-up to Ian Walsh's NHL career-path article (see Stripes - February 2015)

For the last 15 years, Ian Walsh has crisscrossed the United States as an NHL official. In this Part 2 of our conversation with Walsh, the 42-year-old Philadelphia native fielded a series of questions discussing life on the road, his conditioning schedule, mentors, on-ice struggles, the evolution of the game and advice for aspiring officials. 

USA Hockey: How do you think you've been able to maintain all of the officiating success you've had over the last 15 years?

Ian Walsh: I believe one of my strengths as an official is my work ethic. I come to the rink every night ready to work hard and give 100 percent. I also believe I am very coachable, and when I'm offered a suggestion for improvement, I try very hard to implement that advice into my game.  

USAH: What is your conditioning schedule like during the NHL season? How about during the off-season? 

Walsh: During the season, conditioning work is more about maintaining what you built up over the summer. The workouts aren't as intense but you must continue to take good care of your body. Game-day workouts usually include a 30-minute bike ride or a couple miles run at the hotel gym. I also like to do some core work and light strength training on top of that. 

The weather in Portland is amazing in the summer, and I prefer to be outside and on my road bike. I usually get in about four days a week of riding outdoors to help build my endurance and strength. I try to play hockey a few days a week as well to help work on my skating.

USAH: When did you realize you finally had cemented your career as an official? What was that feeling like?

Walsh: I don't know if you ever get that feeling. Every night is a different challenge in our league. It is a hard, hard league to officiate. The scrutiny of every call, every goal, ever non-call is such a challenge for all of us. The best players and coaches in the world expect us to perform at such a high level every night, and we have to be ready for anything that comes our way. It’s a privilege to be on the ice in the NHL, and I think that is something no official takes for granted.

USAH: What has been your biggest accomplishment to date as an official? 

Walsh: Being chosen to participate in four Stanley Cup playoffs is what I'm most proud of. It’s an incredible honor to be selected and that’s the goal for every official each year. Also, being part of the team that was chosen to represent the NHL at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was a phenomenal experience and a great opportunity.

USAH: What has been the biggest hurdle/obstacle you've had to overcome in your officiating career? 

Walsh: I’ve been lucky so far, knock on wood, that I haven’t had any serious injuries. Other than some bumps and bruises, I’ve been relatively injury-free in my career. The biggest challenge is to be able to bounce back from calls you made that aren't correct. In this day and age, we usually know within minutes after the game if we made a wrong decision. When you make a call that impacts the game, it’s hard on the mind. Unfortunately, we make mistakes and what most people don't understand is that nobody takes it harder than the official making that mistake. Being able to bounce back from a mistake is something all officials must learn to do.

USAH: Who has had the most impact on your officiating career over the past 15 years? What has that person or those people taught you?  

Walsh: Nobody has helped me more over my NHL career than fellow referee Paul Devorski. I've worked a lot of games with Paul and we’ve had the opportunity to travel together on the road. As an elite, veteran referee, he has been able to pass down some of his knowledge to me to help me become a better official. Paul is retiring this year, and our staff will sorely miss him.

USAH: How has the game changed, besides speed, since you started in the early 2000s?

Walsh: I would say the biggest change besides the speed of the game would be the use of technology. It is amazing what you see at rink – teams have iPads on the bench, super slo-motion video replays, hi-def video scoreboards, etc. With all that technology, it makes the officials job appear easy. People forget that the official on the ice sees a play one time, in real time, and must make a split-second decision on that play. It often appears quite different when you see a replay in super slo-mo on hi-def after a game.

USAH: What advice can you give aspiring NHL/professional league officials as they progress in their career? 

Walsh: I would say make sure you have a backup plan. Making it to the NHL is everyone’s goal, but there are very few jobs available. There are so many factors that go into hiring an official and a lot of those are out of your control. Go and work the highest level available to you. Don't worry about other officials, if you are good enough, the NHL will find you. Also, control what you can control – always work on your skating, know your rules and come to the rink every night with a strong work ethic and a great attitude.

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