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Oshie Quietly Hopeful for Olympic Selection

12/16/2013, 2:30pm MST
By Jason L. Young - Special to USAHockey.com

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — T.J. Oshie would prefer as much to fade into the background as he would be the star player. It’s just his style and, as of late, it’s been working well enough to consider him a top candidate to make the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team.

A 2005 first-round pick of the St. Louis Blues, Oshie is having his best season in his six-year National Hockey League career. Yes, his goal scoring is down, but it’s the other things he’s doing that have helped his team get off to one its best starts in franchise history.

Center David Backes plays on the Blues’ first line along with Oshie and left winger Alexander Steen. Backes also played for the U.S. team at the 2010 Winter Games and doesn’t hide his desire for Oshie to join him this February in Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Olympics.

“When you watch him on the ice, it’s a humble game that he plays,” Backes said. “He’s in the corners, doing the hard work, battling guys, running them over.

“He may not always get the accolades, or the points or the cookies at the end of the night. But he brings his work boots and his lunch pail and he’s right back in there the next night. That’s the kind of guy you want on your team.”

Oshie, who was born in Washington but later moved to the legendary hockey town of Warroad in northern Minnesota, wants little more than to be on the Olympic team.

Just don’t bring it up to him. He’s put the kibosh on any talk of making the Olympics with his friends and family. To breach the subject puts it on his mind, and he is trying to keep his focus on the Blues.

Unfortunately for Oshie, his friends and family can’t contain their excitement. His girlfriend, Lauren Cosgrove, might be the worst offender. She wants the experience of the Olympics; he’s more hesitant to let her travel overseas.

The couple is expecting their first child, a girl, in April and Oshie isn’t certain that being in Russia two months before Cosgrove is due is the best decision.

“They talk about it quite a bit,” said Oshie, who played college hockey at the University of North Dakota. “I tell them if it happens it happens. I want it to happen, but I’ve got to deserve [my] spot there, first.”

That’s what impresses those around Oshie the most. He doesn’t take anything for granted. At 5-foot-11 and about 190 pounds, he’s not known for being a bruiser. He’s not what you’d call a scorer, either. Through the first 28 games of the 2013-14 season, he only had four goals. He’s never scored more than 19 in a season. He just finds ways to contribute.

Backes said that’s what makes him perfect for the U.S. team.

“He’s a blue-collar, work-your-butt-off, go-right-through-you type of player,” Backes said. “For me, it’s the epitome of blue-collar America. He’s worked for everything he’s gotten, had some adversity and fought through it. Now, he’s a darn good player at the NHL level that hopefully he’s on that team.

“And, if he’s on that team, he’s also a great team guy. If he’s asked to have a big role, he’ll definitely do that. But if he’s asked to have a smaller role, a penalty kill role or perhaps be a guy who is in and out of the lineup, he’s a guy who wouldn’t be a distraction. He’ll help the team win when he’s asked to step in.”

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, an assistant on the Canadian Olympic team, said that Oshie continues to impress him. He rebuffs the idea that the player is “coming into his own” or that he might not have played to his potential in his first few years in the NHL.

The coach said any difference between this year and previous years might be as much about maturity for Oshie, who turns 27 on Dec. 23, as anything else. Playing in the Winter Games would only continue that process, Hitchcock said.

“I’m really hopeful that he does,” he said. “I think that experience would do wonders for him as a professional and as far as finding another level that you have to play at.

“You have to stand up and take notice of what he’s doing right now. He’s having a [heck] of a year here. I’m really proud of him because I’m seeing the evolution of a player who doesn’t take his skill for granted. He doesn’t take his status on the team for granted. He’s a really focused guy. I’m really impressed.”  

And although Oshie prefers not to talk about it, he’s not shy when asked how meaningful it would be to wear the American sweater in the Olympic Winter Games.

“I don’t even know if I could describe it until it happens,” he said. “It’s something you always dream about. It’s one of those things you take great pride in. I’ve done it in world championships but to do it on an Olympic scale, it would mean the world to me and also to my family.”

Now, if they’d only stop talking about it until Jan. 1 when the team is announced.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Three ways to beat burnout

11/28/2016, 9:45pm MST
By Dave Pond

According to NHL metrics, the average hockey shift lasts somewhere between 45 and 55 seconds. There’s inherent beauty and fluidity to line changes, as skaters come on and off the ice, looking to recharge after going full throttle for their teams.

Meanwhile, your NHL officiating peers are giving their all, too – regularly logging 4-5 miles a game. Those totals are even greater at your level, where you and your colleagues officiate multiple games a day, several times per week, on a seemingly never-ending calendar.

And, although we want to perform our best every game, everyone has both good days and bad – players and officials alike. To learn more about keeping burnout at bay, we went to the experts: longtime amateur hockey scheduler Larry Carrington and former NHL official Mark Faucette.

“There is so much more to officiating than meets the eye,” said Faucette, a 17-year NHL veteran. “It may look easy from the stands, but to maintain total control of a game along with the stress, slumps, supervisors, travel, and fitness regimen takes a very special kind of person.”

Get in shape (and stay there)
We all think we’re in “pretty good” shape, but the reality is, officials must be top athletes and in great condition – even at the youngest levels.

“Conditioning is very important—the deeper into the season, the more important it is,” Carrington said. “Burnout happens physically, mentally, and emotionally. An official who is in good condition will experience less physical burnout, and that will in turn help with the emotional and mental burnout.”

Faucette stresses following a workout routine that maxes yourself at least every other day. Neither player or official should plan to use games as a vehicle toward better physical fitness.

“Where we used to go to camp to get into shape, officials today are on summer conditioning regimens and are tested as soon as they come to camp,” he said. “Taking care of your body is a total focus for the good official.

“The players are so much stronger and faster now, so it’s imperative the officials keep the same pace.”

Find balance
No, not balance on your skates (that’s a given). Rather, make sure to keep the big picture in mind, to work a manageable schedule that includes everything that’s important to you – family, friends, and time away from the rink.

Although it makes Carrington’s job as an assignor more difficult, he said it pays off in the long run.

“I encourage officials to take at least one weekend off to get away from hockey,” he said. “I certainly don't want to lose their services for a week, but the invigoration that it usually provides makes them a much more valuable asset over the course of the season.”

That’s huge in an industry where both mental and physical fatigue are commonplace.

“Every official runs into slumps, just as players do,” Faucette said. “You spend numerous hours alone as an official, and when things are not going good, where everything is negative, it can cause you duress.

“Positive thoughts and self-evaluations speed up recovery,” he continued. “So, instead of telling yourself, ‘I wonder what bad thing will happen tonight?’ say ‘I’m ready for anything – bring it on!’”

Have fun
It’s No. 3 here, but should be No. 1 on your to-do list.

“I realize the officials are all trying hard, and mistakes are part of any sport by any participant,” said Faucette, who currently serves as supervisor of officials for USA Hockey, the NAHL director of player safety and the SPHL director of officiating. “That being said, the joy I get out of seeing a young official start out at ground level and making the big time one day is immeasurable.”

For most of you reading this, the “big time” might not be the end goal (and that’s OK). But wherever you are, there’s experience you’ve gained, as well as that to come – which both point back to why you first got involved in this great sport.

As an assignor, Carrington tries to get out of the office as much as he can and intentionally varies the schedules of his officials to help keep things fresh. He also encourages his more senior officials to lend a hand to those who aren’t as long in the tooth.

“Going to the rink and helping officials help themselves get better can be very invigorating,” he said. “Even a very good, very experienced official will often find it fun and relaxing to mentor some new official at a lower-level game where the stress levels aren’t nearly as high.”

But no matter where you officiate, Carrington emphasizes keeping one thing in mind: the love of the sport and those playing it today.

“If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be out there.”

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