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The Mid-Missouri Tigers Are Earning Their Stripes

03/26/2014, 4:30pm MDT
By Mike Scandura - Special to USAHockey.com

The Mid-Missouri Tigers are on the move.

Just ask Tigers President James Greer.

“I’ve been with the organization for seven years, and I’m so proud this year because our Squirt and Peewee teams won the Missouri state championship in our divisions,” Greer said of the Jefferson City, Mo.-based association. “Our Midget team plays in the Mid America High School Hockey League. They won their year-end tournament over Wichita, who had won the tournament the last four years in a row.

“There was a great deal of satisfaction regarding what the teams accomplished. We don’t win state championships every year. To win three in one year was very exciting. I don’t remember having won three championships in one year. I’m pretty sure it’s a record for our organization.”

The reasons for the Tigers’ success are numerous. For example, the Tigers bought into USA Hockey’s American Development Model three years ago.

“We definitely have more players because of [the ADM],” Greer said. “They have more time to develop instead of throwing them out there on the ice for full-ice games.”

As Greer noted, the Tigers’ adherence to the ADM scales down the playing surface and equipment and focuses on building player skills and having fun.

The Tigers field teams at the Mini-Mite, Mite, Squirt, Peewee and Bantam levels. Once players have used up their eligibility at the youth level, they play for a Midget level program that’s in a Midget league in the St. Louis area.    

The Tigers’ learn-to-skate/learn-to-play program has been a boon.

“The last two years have been excellent because we’ve partnered with our parks and recreation department in Jefferson City instead of doing it ourselves,” Greer said. “It’s really helped.”

The organization’s scholarship program fills also an important need.

“We have a certain part of our budget that goes to scholarships,” Greer said. “It works out to a few dollars for every player. Typically we don’t throw out full scholarships. We ask the family to take care of part of the bill, and then we do what we can do help defer expenses.

“We’re very economical compared with clubs we play against in St. Louis. We economize, which makes it more affordable.”

The Tigers also emphasize some of the more subjective aspects of hockey — aspects other than basic skills like skating, passing and shooting.

“A lot of it is like with most clubs in that a lot of families help each other out,” Greer said. “Our coaches have been involved for many years. Many are 40 years old, but given their experience that helps a lot.

“Some of our coaches not only teach hockey but they also teach life lessons, too, as well as helping kids build confidence, pride and responsibility. Because they emphasize hockey is a game that can be played for fun, they’re able to enjoy it for life.”

There’s more, especially when it comes developing friendships and time management skills.

“Starting with the bonds created in the locker room to the relationships formed on the ice, hockey creates lifelong friendships,” Greer said. “This camaraderie shared on and off the ice encourages teamwork and the development of leadership skills.

“Kids also learn to balance school, responsibilities at home and time at the rink. The sport encourages kids to learn time management skills that will later serve them in all facets of their lives. Hockey also is a prime source of physical fitness and helps promote healthy living.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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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.

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