COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The Charlotte Metro Hockey Association (Indian Trail, N.C.), Homer Hockey Association (Homer, Alaska) and Sno-King Amateur Hockey Association (Kirkland, Wash.) have been selected as the recipients of the USA Hockey Grow the Game Award, presented by Total Hockey. For the sixth consecutive year, the award recognizes youth hockey associations for their efforts to create new and innovative ways to grow the game of hockey.
The three winning associations were voted as this year’s top submissions. Total Hockey awards the first-place finisher (Charlotte Metro Hockey Association) with 30 sets of starter equipment, second place (Homer Hockey Association) with 20 sets, and third place (Sno-King Amateur Hockey Association) with 10 sets.
As a result of these nationwide initiatives, participation in youth hockey around the country continues to grow thanks to volunteers and the new programs they are implementing.
Inspired by USA Hockey’s growth initiative, the 2 and 2 Challenge, Charlotte Metro Hockey Association implemented a supplementary “Grow in Schools Program.” Local volunteers and Extreme Ice Center staff members taught floor hockey during gym class for one week to several elementary schools. Within one to two weeks of visiting a school, they held an on-ice Try Hockey For Free event for the elementary school kids. As a result, they held seven Try Hockey For Free Events since inception, which included up to 80 participants per event.
As the only non-profit rink in the State of Alaska, it is essential for the Homer Hockey Association to annually grow participation. In doing so, Homer has implemented a variety of unique and creative ways to attract more kids to the rink. These “fun activities” are spread out every couple of weeks throughout the season. They included the Zamboni Tour, Dress the Coach, Skate-A-Thon and Family Skate programs.
Sno-King Amateur Hockey Association has introduced more kids to the sport of hockey through a variety of programs including It’s Great To Skate Reading Program, Physical Education Teacher Outreach Program, Parks and Recreation Advertising, promotion within the ice rinks and monthly Try Hockey For Free events. With their introductory programming, Sno-King has found that more instructor-parent/participant interaction equals greater success with converting kids to youth hockey.
Total Hockey and USA Hockey encourage youth hockey associations nationwide to tell their stories of growing the game at a local level. Click here to learn more about the USA Hockey Grow the Game Award, presented by Total Hockey.
NOTES: Associations can begin submitting their application for the 2015 USA Hockey Grow the Game Award, presented by Total Hockey, in January. E-mail email@example.com for more information. Entries are judged on four criteria: creativity, media/marketing potential, transferability to other local programs interested in growing the game and the overall impact the program had on the local youth association.
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.