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It's a Summer of Fun for the Walpole Express

06/16/2014, 3:30pm MDT
By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com

When the Walpole Express teams take their summer break, the girls in the Massachusetts association have plenty of opportunities to keep in touch with the game and their teammates.

Most of the summer programs are designed around fun and exposing the sport to more potential players, according to second-year girls’ director Lisa Stampfli.

The girls gathered for a season kickoff party June 1. Players tried on their game jerseys and had access to vendors for equipment. A tailgate party in the parking lot was followed by an All-Star Skills Competition. The girls competed in skating, puck-handling and shooting accuracy contests.

“Last year, pretty much everything was new,” said Stampfli, who took over and expanded a Walpole girls’ program that had been in place for seven years. “This year, I’m trying to build on what we started with last year.

“We did have a kickoff party last year, but we didn’t have a skills competition. That’s new.”

Instead of trophies or plaques, the prizes were fun toys meant to represent the skill the players possess, such as squirt guns for the best shooters.

“It’s a little bit of competition, but a lot of fun,” Stampfli said.

Girls who are part of the Walpole program can take part in Sunday skills sessions divided into Under-10, U12 and U14 groups in the summer. Walk-ons can take part as well.

The Red Devils U8 girls’ team meets each Thursday night for a more formal program of skill development.

“They’re trying to see if [hockey is] something they want to do,” Stampfli said. “About half the kids in the U8 program are brand new to hockey.”

The offerings for the players already entrenched in the program are much less formal.

“For the older kids, they’re skating once a week on Sunday nights, and we don’t get all the kids every week,” Stampfli said. “For them, it’s a social thing as much as hockey. They skate. We make it fun.

“They’re meeting their teammates for next year, meeting their coaches for next year. We encourage that, but it’s not four days a week like it is in the season.”

Those who are more serious about developing their game in the summer can take part in the Backyard Shooting Contest, pushing themselves toward a goal of shooting 10,000 pucks during the summer. They began June 1 after the kickoff party and are able to input their information and monitor their progress through a website and computer program that Stampfli set up for the players.

Averaging about 100 shots per day would make the goal of 10,000 possible.

Later in June, the newest addition — a U6 group — as well as the existing U8, U10 and U12 girls’ teams have their Summer Open House and Bring a Friend Day to try to expose the game to more players.

The summer activities conclude in August with the second Summer Sizzler Tournament. More than 20 teams from throughout New England, New York and New Jersey took part in divisions from U10 through U19 last year and U8 will be added this year.

When it’s over, the Walpole Express will be ready to continue the expansion of their girls’ program into the next full season.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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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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