GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- As she instructed her team through the last preparations prior to heading to Finland this week for the Four Nations Cup, U.S. Women’s National Team coach Katey Stone said she likes the way her team is shaping up.
“We’re excited about going to Finland,” said Stone, whose team held a four-day training camp at the New York Rangers’ practice facility in the northern suburbs of New York City, an area ravaged recently by Hurricane Sandy. “Ever since we started [in August of 2010], everything has been one step closer to the 2014 Olympics. You realize how critical every step is, and this is another big step.”
The United States will compete in the Four Nations Cup with Canada, Sweden and host Finland in a round-robin fashion beginning Tuesday at the Tikkurila Valttie Arena in Kerava, Finland. A championship and third-place game will be held Saturday.
Stone said she likes the makeup of the team, which features 12 players from the 2010 Olympic team that captured the silver medal in Vancouver, as well as a crop of talented newcomers.
“I’m excited about this group we’re bringing to Finland,” said Stone, who doubles as the women’s hockey coach at Harvard. “It’s good to be experienced and it’s good to be young, and I think we have a little bit of both. We’re getting a great chance to evaluate some players as we still implement our system.”
Stone said that it was tough to conduct the camp in an area that was hurt severely by the killer storm. The camp was actually delayed one day as players made travel arrangements to arrive in the New York area after the hurricane had passed.
“I think you have to keep it all in perspective,” Stone said. “We were very fortunate to be able to have our camp here at this tremendous facility, but we still can’t lose sight of the bigger picture. So many people lost so much. Our hearts go out to those who are suffering. The damage caused has been unbelievable.”
Stone was glad to have veteran forward Meghan Duggan back on the ice. The 25-year-old Duggan, a native of Danvers, Mass., has missed most of the past year dealing with a serious head injury, but she returned to skate at the camp and will see action in Finland.
“Meghan is such a great, dynamic person and a great team leader,” Stone said. “We definitely felt her loss when she was not with us. She brings a lot to the table, and that’s going to help us as we move forward. Things looked bleak for Meghan for a while, but having her back has been great.”
Three-time Olympic medalist Julie Chu, having won silver medals in 2002 and 2010 and bronze in the 2006 Games, also returns. The 30-year-old Chu, a native of Fairfield, Conn., is the most experienced member of the U.S. squad headed to Finland. Chu has tallied 64 goals and collected 112 assists in her international career that has now spanned 13 years and encompassed an astounding 216 games.
Stone was pleased to also have a solid group of the U-18 National Team players to participate in the camp in New York.
“I was really encouraged with how much they developed in just three days,” Stone said. “Just seeing the way they shoot the puck even with the game being played an accelerated pace. I always think development is a great thing. You never know. Some of these girls may find their way onto the Olympic roster. The door is always open. It’s up to them to step inside of the door.”
Stone also liked the camaraderie that filtered down between the older and younger players.
“They all had a great, positive energy,” Stone said. “It’s not by accident that we have such quality people here. You can have all the skill in the world, but if you can’t get along with anyone, it’s going to be a long haul. It starts with the coaching staff on down. The good feeling becomes contagious. We have some good leadership on this team. It’s a good feeling all around.”
While they took part in the training camp, some of the players got to mingle with New York Knicks guard Baron Davis, who is rehabilitating a torn knee ligament he suffered in the NBA playoffs last spring. Davis presented many of the team members with Knicks’ ski caps, while the team gave Davis a USA Hockey baseball cap. Davis cordially posed for pictures with the Team USA players as they had breaks in action.
“I told the girls that the goal isn’t to just be on the roster,” Stone said. “The goal is to win a gold medal at the Olympics. We all have that goal in mind.”
Stone said that she plans on taking about 35 to 40 players to the tryout camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. in June.
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): Four Nations