As one of the veteran leaders on U.S. Olympic Women’s Team, Gigi Marvin knows how important it was for Team USA to finally get two wins against rival Canada going into the Christmas break.
After losing to Canada three straight times at the start of its Bring on the World Tour ahead of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, this February, Team USA finally defeated Canada in consecutive games. After losing by a total goal count of 13-7 in the first three games, Team USA beat Canada 5-1 on Dec. 12 in Calgary and 4-1 on Dec. 20 in Grand Forks, N.D.
“Our team has done a great job implementing the different systems and kind of goals our coaching staff provided,” said Marvin, a 26-year-old defenseman who won silver at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. “So it was great to put everything to work. Everything we’ve done in practice the last couple weeks that we’ve built up was put on display and we had a great team effort.”
One issue Team USA has had against Canada this year has been putting together 60 minutes of good play. Marvin said the U.S. players are getting closer to their goal of playing a complete game.
“We put together a solid 60, but the first period was not our best, that’s for sure,” she said of the game in Calgary. “The final 40 minutes we definitely stepped it up a bit more. We still have the opportunity to put a full 60 minutes together against them.”
Marvin has scored seven points in seven games in the Bring on the World Tour, including assists in the last two wins against Canada. She got things going in Calgary by skating out from behind the net and passing the puck to Alex Carpenter for a goal at the 11:59 mark of the opening period that put Team USA up 1-0.
“We were on a five on three and the players did a great job moving the puck around,” Marvin said of the assist. “Carp snuck in back door on the high slot. It’s easy to put it on her stick. That girl is a sniper. She can get it from anywhere. It was a nice tick-tack-toe play. Carp is a sniper. Carp has a nice shot and she roofed it.”
Then, at the 8:37 mark in the second period in Grand Forks, Marvin fed a cross-ice pass to Brianna Decker for a goal that put Team USA up 2-1.
Coming up big in the last two games against Canada is indicative of Marvin’s leadership style. Even though she has played in six International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championships and seven Four Nations Cups, Marvin noted that around half of the 23 women competing for the 21 spots on the 2014 U.S. Olympic squad have previous Olympic experience. With that experience, she said she can lead simply by focusing doing her job.
“For me personally it’s simply you do it, and I think it’s simple as everyone always says, ‘You can talk the talk but can you walk the walk?’” she said. “A lot of people speak, but what speaks volumes is actions. Simply going out and doing what’s called on you to do.
“I don’t think it’s more on my shoulders than anyone else’s shoulders.”
Marvin said the entire team knows how to talk the talk as well.
“It’s something we enjoy doing,” she said. “We love to share what experiences we’ve learned and how we manage different things, manage certain situations and what to expect. You don’t even think about it truly because it’s some within you and it just happens.”
Marvin said it was also a shot in the arm for the team to get good results in the past two games against Canada.
The games in Calgary and Grand Forks were not only Team USA’s first wins against Canada in its pre-Olympic tour, they were also the first games in the tour that were broadcast by the NBC Sports Network and Universal Sports Network. The final two games of the tour against Canada on Dec. 28 in St. Paul and Dec. 30 in Toronto will also be broadcast by NBC Sports Network and Universal Sports.
“It’s awesome that NBC is broadcasting it; we couldn’t be more happy,” Marvin said. “I remember in 1998, the first time women’s hockey was in the Olympics and they were on TV winning the gold in Nagano. That was huge, and the fact that it was televised brought so much attention.
“It’s the entire country supporting us and encouraging us. I love the fact that NBC is broadcasting it. We love the support and encouragement. We love all the prayers people are sending our way.”
The St. Paul game will also be a homecoming of sorts for Marvin, who hails from Warroad, Minn. and played for the University of Minnesota, where she was twice a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in 2008 and 2009.
The game is also Team USA’s first game coming out of the Christmas holiday, so Marvin won’t have much traveling to do. And even though Team USA is preparing to play Canada for the seventh and eighth time in just a three-month span, Marvin said it doesn’t take much to get motivated to play the northern rivals.
“I was just talking to one of my friends who said, ‘Wow it has to be difficult to get up for them to play them so often,’” Marvin said. “I said, ‘No it’s exactly like college when we played Wisconsin and North Dakota four times.’ We see the same teams over and over, but it’s not a burden. It’s awesome because it’s great competition. It’s enjoyable; we love to compete against them, and it’s definitely something none of us take lightly. We embrace every opportunity.”
Marvin also said having to get up to play Canada so many times makes it easier to not get ahead of herself by looking ahead to the Olympics.
“You focus on the day, focus on task at hand,” she said. “Many times you get in situations where you focus on the Olympics, yeah that’s great, but that’s not today. It’s not Feb. 7 or 20, it’s Dec. 16 today and you focus on doing the job today. You can’t worry about tomorrow.
“Do the job today and embrace it and find joy in that. … You put work in now and act as if this is the gold-medal game every day and live it.”
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.