Without question the first Girls’ Hockey Day hosted by the White Bear Lake Area Hockey Association in Minnesota was an unqualified success.
“On a normal day, the bleachers [at Vadnais Heights Sports Complex] would be half full,” WBL Girls’ Hockey Director Steve Snyder said of the Jan. 12 event. “On this day, the bleachers were all full and people were standing around the boards. This definitely was outside the norm.
“Throughout the day, because there are two rinks at this arena, people who were at a boys’ game trickled over. Throughout the entire day there always was a large group of people.”
The event in the Minnesota community consisted of seven girls’ hockey games played consecutively throughout the day. Besides teams from the WBLAHA, neighboring communities such as Highland, Stillwater and Forest Lake also sent youth teams. In addition, games were played between the varsity teams of White Bear Lake High School and Cretin-Derham Hall.
“The idea was a collaborative between our White Bear Lake High girls’ coach Jerry Kwapick and me,” Snyder said. “We asked ‘What can we do to celebrate girls’ hockey?’ The intent was the promotion and recruiting and how to get more girls involved in girls’ hockey.
“It morphed into a celebration because we had hockey associations from the area come into town and play.”
Overall, approximately 200 girls participated, commencing with Under-10 all the way through the high school level.
“When we first started talking about it two years ago we were opening a new arena [Vadnais], which offered us two additional sheets of ice,” Snyder said. “Prior to the rink being built, it would have been difficult to host this event.
“I didn’t want to throw this on a calendar so we wouldn’t be able to make this a competitive event.”
One of several reasons why the day was a success was because of the work of a dedicated group of volunteers who helped plan and coordinate the event. One person, for example, secured ice time. The group as a whole was in charge of creating and distributing marketing material.
“We had people solicit items to be donated to the event,” Snyder said. “As we talked one of the main goals was — because there were going to be seven games throughout the day — we wanted a girl who played at 10 in the morning to stay all day.”
As a result, every hour a drawing was held only for girls from the White Bear program, and the lucky girls received a $10 gift card.
“Besides that, every game that a person attended received a raffle ticket, and we had another drawing during the second intermission of the high school game,” Snyder said. “The big prizes were headphones, plus a bunch of stuff that was donated by the University of Minnesota women’s national championship hockey team from last year — things like signed hockey sticks and posters.
“We wanted people to stay throughout the day. At the end of the day we had almost 600 raffle tickets in the bucket.”
In addition, every girl who participated received a gift bag.
Snyder didn’t exactly have to twist arms to persuade other organizations to participate.
“After we secured ice time, nobody had to be coaxed into participating,” he said. “We reached out and said, ‘We’d like your participation. Here’s the date and the teams you’ll be playing.’”
Another factor in enticing people to fill Vadnais almost to the rafters was the amount of marketing material that was distributed around town.
“One thing we really tried to capture is girls’ hockey has been booming,” Snyder said. “But over the last year and a half, we’ve seen a decline in the number of girls playing hockey. I was trying to re-energize our local community and help other communities.
“The bottom line is I want girls’ hockey to remain front page news rather than being stuck on the last page of the sports section.”
Parents from the aforementioned communities were urged to bring their girls even if they never had played hockey.
“We wanted them to see what this truly is about in hopes that they might say, ‘Hey, this is something I want to be a part of because it looks like it is fun,’” Snyder said.
In the same vein, player retention and recruitment were goals for the Girls’ Hockey Day.
“Luckily in White Bear Lake we’ve had a high retention rate,” Snyder said. “In our younger ages, we’ve seen a decline in new girls signing up. But I’m hoping come registration time, we’ll see a spike in numbers.”
Not surprisingly, Snyder has expanded his vision when the second annual Girls’ Hockey Day is scheduled for 2014.
“This year we considered it a baseline,” he said. “Next year we would like to make this bigger. What I’d like to do is find associations outside our district — outside of the Twin Cities area where they’re struggling for numbers.
“Bring them down into our area for this day and try to energize girls’ hockey. We want to have a farther reach than in the Twin Cities area.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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.
Tag(s): News & Features