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The Grandville Hockey Community Remembers Ryan Fischer

06/13/2014, 4:45pm MDT
By Roman J. Uschak - Special to USAHockey.com

It was going to be the biggest game of Ryan Fischer’s life.

The senior forward and team co-captain had helped Grandville High School to its first-ever Michigan Division 1 state semifinal hockey appearance. The Bulldogs were slated to play in Plymouth against powerhouse Novi Detroit Catholic Central on March 7.

Fischer, who also starred in football and baseball, and was to attend the United States Military Academy to study aerospace engineering, wouldn’t get to play in that game, or any other, however.

He never woke up that morning.

Fischer, 17, who had assisted on a Grandville overtime goal in an earlier state playoff victory, died in his sleep of an enlarged heart, according to a Kent County medical examiner. It was an unforeseen medical condition — and his unexpected passing stunned the small west Michigan community.

“I ran down there as the whole situation was unfolding,” said Grandville coach Joel Breazeale, a neighbor of the Fischer family. “We were still in shock.”

Word soon spread of what had transpired. Breazeale said that a major goal was to try to keep the situation contained and off of social media, to help protect Fischer’s sister, who was away at college in Wisconsin, from inadvertently finding out.

Breazeale gathered his team soon after at his home to make the terrible announcement about their teammate, and the players also got to share their thoughts and shed their tears.

“We just spoke from the heart, and let the boys express their emotions,” Breazeale said. “The day was one of complete shock, including our coaching staff.”

No one would have questioned the Bulldogs if they had chosen not to go ahead with the state playoff game two hours away. Yet play they did, at the behest of Ryan Fischer’s parents, Roni and Scott, who spoke to each and every player before they departed for the Detroit area on a sullen bus ride.

“They found the composure to think about the boys,” Breazeale said of the Fischers. “It was a huge, huge day for our community.”

The Bulldogs (16-11-3) came up short against Catholic Central by a 3-0 count at Compuware Arena, despite 34 saves from Grandville goaltender Myles Madden, the second star of the game. At the request of the Fischers, co-captain Max Houtman wore their son’s No. 11 jersey to honor his long-time friend, “Fish.” So did many of the dozens in the stands who were dressed in maroon and white and had made the trek from the Grand Rapids area.

“It was a huge honor for me to wear his number, and I hope I made Ryan proud,” said an emotional Houtman to mlive.com afterwards.

“We did what we felt was the right thing to do,” Breazeale said. “It was truly inspiring despite the tragedy ... It was the type of outpouring we’ve come to expect from the hockey community.”

He added that it was Ryan’s mother who had urged getting the hockey community involved — and not just from Grand Rapids or Michigan, but from all over, at all levels of the game.

“It was awe-inspiring,” Breazeale said.

Catholic Central fans wore Grandville’s colors in a show of solidarity. Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson, a Michigan native and former University of Michigan blueliner, even sent supportive tweets to the Bulldogs.

When the final buzzer sounded, Grandville’s players didn’t stand alone. They were joined in a huddle by Catholic Central players, who were also playing and praying for one of their own in senior Matt Sorisho, who had been paralyzed in another game just weeks earlier. The Shamrocks, who saluted the crowd post-game along with the Bulldogs, won the state title the next night over Brighton.

Fischer’s funeral at St. Pius X Catholic Church on March 12 was standing room only in the faith-based Grandville community. The Ryan Fischer Legacy Scholarship, through Fifth Third Bank, has been established in his name and will honor a player in Grandville’s conference who embodies Fischer’s qualities of character, determination, integrity, academic achievement and community service.

A skating fundraiser was slated for May to benefit the scholarship in Fischer’s name, as his hometown continued its healing process. An April fundraiser in his memory was also held at a local movie theater with the “Captain America” sequel, which proved to be a fitting choice.

“Everyone looked up to him. I mean, he was the Captain America of our school,” said former teammate Logan Bellgraph, who donned Fischer’s No. 11 for a runner-up finish in a 3-on-3 tournament at Ferris State University. “He was the greatest friend ever, and he was everyone's best friend.”

Now he lives on in their memories.

“The impact he had as a great Christian young man, player and scholar will be everlasting,” Breazeale said. “We’re better because of what Ryan did for us.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Called up to The Show

09/26/2016, 10:45am MDT
By Kelly Erickson

Three USA Hockey officials earn the chance to officiate in the NHL for the first time this season

For the majority of young hockey players, their dream is to skate in the National Hockey League. They want to be the next Zach Parise, Patrick Kane, Ryan Suter — the list goes on. This season, starting in NHL training camps, three young Americans will make their dream a reality, with one caveat — instead of playing, they’ll be officiating.

Ryan Daisy, Furman South and Cameron Voss, three USA Hockey officials, were each recently offered NHL contracts and will attend their first NHL training camps this fall.

“It’s been a dream come true, really,” South said. “I’ve dreamt of being in the NHL my whole life. I grew up playing hockey from a young age and have been a hockey fan my whole life. Ever since I learned to skate it was always a dream of mine to be in the NHL. For most of my life I have dreamt of being there as a player, but once I was done playing, my dream was to make it as an official. And I made it. I can’t wait to have my first NHL game.”

Daisy echoed the sentiment, noting that making it to the NHL level as an official has been a goal of his for awhile.

“It feels awesome,” Daisy said. “I’m sure there will be a lot of emotions going on in my first game, the first time I touch the ice in the NHL with the NHL crest on my sweater that I’ve been dreaming about for years. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

It’s a dream made reality for all three, and the ultimate payoff for many years of hard work and sacrifice.

“It’s an accumulation of all the sacrifices my family has made for me, all the supervisors and friends along the way that have helped me,” Voss said. “It wasn’t just me, it was a collection of people that pushed me and made me believe and work hard. It’s a pretty overwhelming feeling being at this point. I’m just glad all the sacrifices that we’ve made have paid off. I’m very blessed and humbled by the whole experience.”

Voss, South and Daisy were drawn to officiating from different paths, but once on it, they both climbed through the ranks and took advantage of the USA Hockey officiating development initiatives, including summer camps and the USA Hockey Officiating Program for South and Daisy to hone their skills.

Voss was the first of the three to don the zebra stripes, becoming an official at age 12, working alongside his father. It was his way to help pay for his hockey gear and get extra ice time. After closing his collegiate career at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, pursuing a career as a ref became a reality. He attended an officiating summer camp and saw all the opportunities available to work in higher-level hockey, and before long, he was working his way through them, spending time at the youth, high school, junior, NCAA Division I and professional levels in the American League.

“My eyes lit up really wide and I was just eager to start the process,” Voss said.

“USA Hockey gave me lots of opportunities to learn and hone my craft. The people involved in USA Hockey, they sacrificed a lot of time … they helped me out tremendously, especially at the grassroots level. They let me learn and grow and even let me fail and learn from those experiences. USA Hockey helped me from when I first started when I was 12 to when I got the call (from the NHL) in July.”

South played NCAA hockey at Robert Morris University. When he graduated in 2012 at age 24, he simply wanted to find a way to stay involved in the sport about which he was so passionate. He tried coaching, he instructed at camps and then he got a chance to ref a game and he loved it. He’s officiated everywhere from high school up, spending last season in the American Hockey League.

“It kind of came naturally to me and I realized it was something I wanted to pursue,” South said. “A couple of years later, it seems to have worked out.”

Daisy was drawn to officiating because it was a way to be in the game, to skate on the ice. His dream of becoming an official firmly solidified when he joined the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program during his senior year of college. With some early success, he was offered a contract to work in the United States Hockey League full-time, fueling his aspirations.

“(USA Hockey) will do everything in their power to help you achieve your dreams, no matter what level of hockey it is,” Daisy said.

From his Level 1 seminar to summer camps to his job in the USHL, Daisy has felt extreme support from every manager and mentor along the way, noting they all wanted to help him be a better official.

“You’re learning from the best,” Daisy said. “You’re learning from guys that are either currently in the NHL, have been in the NHL, officials that have worked international hockey and college hockey. They’re out there helping you become better.”

South also credits the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program as a factor in his success, noting Scott Zelkin, the Officiating Development Program manager, and the program itself gave him every opportunity to succeed as an official. To make his dreams come true.

“I can’t say enough about USA Hockey and the Officiating Development Program,” South said. “I wouldn’t have had this chance with the NHL if it wasn’t for those guys, that’s for sure.”

USA Hockey Mourns Passing of Walter L. Bush, Jr.

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Hockey giant dedicated more than 50 years of service to USA Hockey

3

How do we come up with the rules?

09/26/2016, 11:00am MDT
By USA Hockey

Q-and-A with USA Hockey Director of Officiating Education Program Matt Leaf on the playing rule change process

Every season, USA Hockey strives for improvement in the game and its rules. Every four years we get to take steps toward making the rule changes official, thanks to the playing rule change process. We enter that period this season, with the final decision on prospective changes taking place at USA Hockey’s Annual Congress in June 2017. The new rules will go into effect for the 2017-18 through the 2020-21 season.

So how does the process work? In order to get a handle on what this rule change process entails, we caught up with USA Hockey’s Matt Leaf, director of the Officiating Education Program and staff liaison to the Playing Rules Committee. He helped us answer some need-to-know questions.

USA Hockey: Walk us through the process from when a proposal is received, to having it get into the official playing rules.

Matt Leaf:
The first thing you need to know is that USA Hockey has a very diverse and experienced Playing Rules Committee that thoroughly reviews and considers each proposal. The committee is made of key USA Hockey volunteers that represent coaches, officials, players and administrators. Contrary to what some people believe, it is not one or two people sitting in an office deciding rule changes.

Playing rule change proposals are submitted to me as the staff liaison to the committee. Once received, I format them into a document that compares the current language to the proposed change for each proposal. The Playing Rules Committee meets early winter and will discuss and make a preliminary recommendation on each proposal. These recommendations are then forwarded on to the various councils/sections and committees and are also posted on USAHockey.com. The board of directors will review and make any amendments to the proposals during the Winter Meeting and they are again posted on USAHockey.com for all of our membership to see.

The Playing Rules Committee will meet once more during the Annual Congress in an open forum and will review each proposal, taking into consideration any feedback received from the respective councils/sections and committees. At this time, they will make a final recommendation on each proposal to be presented to the board of directors for adoption or defeat. The board can accept the recommendation of the Playing Rules Committee or can make its own determination. Once the board has voted and adopted the changes, work on editing the rulebook gets started right away so the new version can be ready at the start of the season.

USA Hockey: So a lot of people are involved. Who can submit playing rule change proposals and how can they do so?

Leaf:
Any member of USA Hockey can submit a playing rule change proposal.  According to our bylaws, they can be accepted until Nov. 1 prior to the Annual Congress when they get voted on. A formal proposal form can be found on USAHockey.com.

USA Hockey: What are the types of changes USA Hockey is looking for? Is there a certain philosophy that the Playing Rules Committee tries to follow?

Leaf:
The Playing Rules Committee is looking for any change that will make the game better and/or will make the rules clearer and easier to understand without compromising the spirit and intent of the rules.

There are four main areas dealing with the game that the committee takes into consideration when reviewing possible changes:

  1. Fair Play – No competitor gains an advantage and the rules are equal for all participants.
  2. Safety – Players must be allowed to compete in a safe environment where players committing dangerous actions are held accountable. Although this does not exclude physical play, it must be done so within the rules and with a respect for the opponent.
  3. Adaptability – Proposed changes must recognize the changing game and also the wide range of ages, skills and participation that has to be included.
  4. Balance between offense and defense – A natural fairness between the two, where neither side dominates. This includes a special emphasis on encouraging puck possession and development of all hockey skills.


In addition, there are five areas from a rules writing style standpoint that are taken into consideration. This includes making sure common rules are placed within the same rule or section (codification); minimizing exceptions to the rules; clear and precise language (brevity); use of clearly defined words and expressions relevant to the game (definitions); and use of fundamental statements that allow readers to understand and properly apply the rules without learning each rule verbatim (local organization).

USA Hockey: You are entering your 23rd year as staff liaison to the Playing Rules Committee, and you’ve probably seen nearly every type of proposal. Is there one that stands out in your mind that might be considered a little bit “out there?”

Leaf:
There have certainly been a few submissions over the years that caused some head-shaking and gave members of the Rules Committee a reason to chuckle. A few that stand out include the creation of a two-point line where any goal scored from behind the designated line would be worth two points. The rationale was that it could boost scoring and give a team that was behind a better chance to catch up. The second memorable one was a proposal to add a section in the rules pertaining to goalkeepers that would allow for a “shooter tutor” to be used in an official game if one team did not have a goalkeeper present.

I’m sure there are a few others that I could dig up, but those are the two that immediately come to mind.

USA Hockey: Anything else you want to share with our readers?

Leaf:
Yes. After being involved and working with this core group of volunteers who make up the Playing Rules Committee for so long, I can say they are an extremely knowledgeable and diligent bunch.  They really do put the time and effort to consider every single proposal and are extremely thorough in discussing the impact the change would have while looking at the big picture of protecting the game. Regardless of whether you agree with every rule or decision they made, you have to respect the process and their determination to do what is best for the game. I am very proud to work with this group and our membership should be equally as proud to know the rules of the game are in very capable hands.

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