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Johnson, Pulford, Rossi and Sauer claim 2011 Lester Patrick Award

10/27/2011, 2:45pm MDT
By Corey Masiak (NHL.com)

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- This was a night to celebrate not just the sport of hockey in the United States, but the family of hockey.

Four men -- Mark Johnson, Bob Pulford, Tony Rossi and Jeff Sauer -- were honored Wednesday night as the Class of 2011 for the Lester Patrick Award at RiverCentre for their contributions to the sport in the U.S. All were deserving, and all in one way or another talked about the role of hockey in their families and about the greater family in the sport.

"The thing people sometimes forget about hockey is it is a close-knit community," Sauer said. "I've walked down Red Square (in Moscow) and had someone come up to me and say, ‘Hey coach, how are you doing?' It was a guy I had coached against in a world championship, one of the assistant coaches from Russia. It is a small community, and you don't see that in other sports."

Added Rossi: "The people in this sport have been phenomenal, and I do feel it is different than other sports because it always seems so family-oriented. Just with the rivalry we have Canada is really something to see, especially with the U-20s, but the guys at Hockey Canada like Bob Nicholson and Murray Costello -- they've stayed at my place in Florida. You're enemies on the ice, but when the game's over, the game's over. It is just a real family relationship. Now we've been able to meet people from all over the world and we've made such great friends in the sport."

Johnson could be here for his two goals against Russia in the 1980 Winter Olympics and his 11-year NHL career, but he's also had a remarkable impact on women's hockey, both as a coach at the University of Wisconsin and with the U.S. National Team.

Pulford was one of the original pioneers of hockey in southern California, moving there as a player and then becoming the first successful coach of the Los Angeles Kings before they traded for Wayne Gretzky. After that he had a long career as an executive for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rossi began as a volunteer at the youth level in Illinois and has risen through USA Hockey to be a man of incredible influence at both the national and international levels of the game.

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Life of an NHL Official: Part II

02/25/2015, 11:00pm MST
By USA Hockey Officiating Program

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.

Improving the Most Important Skill

02/11/2015, 10:45am MST
By Kelly Erickson

Tag(s): Lester Patrick Award