ST. LOUIS -- One of the most celebrated players in USA Hockey history, Keith Tkachuk has enjoyed more than his share of accomplishments and accolades.
But it was what took place earlier this summer in downtown Buffalo, New York, that may mean more than his 538 NHL career goals, his 2002 Olympic silver medal or his 2011 induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
It was on this June evening at the First Niagara Center that Tkachuk heard his son Matthew's name called as the sixth overall pick by the Calgary Flames in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. And before this proud papa was finished embracing his son, he heard the names of four other St. Louis natives called.
With the selection of goaltender Joseph Woll in the third round, six local kids were snatched up by NHL teams. They all played youth hockey for the AAA Blues at Hardee’s Iceplex in nearby Chesterfield, Mo.
"To have six St. Louis kids picked was incredible," said Tkachuk, who played here from 2000 to 2007. "It was a great experience and hopefully we can keep building off of this."
It was further proof that St. Louis is quickly becoming a hockey hotbed to rival any market around the country.
Or as Chris Zimmerman, the president and CEO of the St. Louis Blues, likes to put it, this is the "Heartland of Hockey."
This week nearly 400 coaches have made the pilgrimage to the "Heartland of Hockey" to attend the 2016 National Hockey Coaches Symposium. And on Thursday night's opening session they heard from a host of speakers who trumpeted this town's successes, including an all-star panel of former Blues players, including Tkachuk, Chris Pronger, Jamal Mayers, Rob Ramage and Kelly Chase, all of whom have played key role in the development of future stars.
For these Blues alumni, and many others, they have parlayed their careers with the Blues with a lifelong love affair with the community, and have dedicated countless hours working with local youth hockey associations.
Tkachuk, a native of Melrose, Mass., the pace of life and the quality schools made it an easy choice of where to settle down after wrapping up his career in 2010.
"We love it here," he said. "We knew early on [in my time with the Blues] that this is where we wanted to be. It's been great for me and my family."
When Larry Boyd talks about the growth of hockey in the greater St. Louis area, it's hard not getting caught up in the moment. His enthusiasm is infectious. And who can blame him. As the president of the Missouri Hockey Association for almost 10 years, Boyd has had both a front row seat and played a vital role in how far the sport has come in the Gateway City.
And bringing USA Hockey's marquee coaching event to his hometown makes this long-time coach swell with pride.
"This is awesome," Boyd said. "To have so many dedicated coaches here taking the time away from their jobs and their families to be here just shows their dedication to their craft and to the game."
And it's that same dedication to the game that has led former Blues players to continue to give back to hockey, sharing their knowledge and their passion for the sport with the next generation of St. Louis players.
"We have a town where a lot of athletes when they decide to leave the game they find this community to be a great place to live. They get involved with youth hockey not only to develop their children but other children as well," Boyd said.
"They continue to grow young talent because they love it. They love passing on that knowledge. It's just awesome to see."
QUESTION: I was a timekeeper at my daughter’s game where the referee disagreed with a "running clock" rule. I was not rude to the ref, however he ejected me from the timekeeper position. The question I have is whether an on-ice official can eject an off-ice official?
ANSWER: The on-ice officials can remove an off-ice official if they feel they are not acting professionally or within the Game Officials’ Code of Conduct of USA Hockey.
QUESTION: During a Two-Official System game, the Front Official mistakenly waves off an icing believing because the goalie left the crease then icing is nullified. The Back Official doesn't blow his whistle as he's unsure why an otherwise obvious icing is waved off. The puck never leaves the end-zone, and a goal is scored. Referees convene and decide the icing rule was misinterpreted. The goal is disallowed. Is this correct call?
ANSWER: If the goal is the result of a missed icing call (officials are 100% certain), and the puck never left the end-zone the goal was scored in, and there are no play stoppages between the missed icing and the goal, then the goal should be disallowed.
QUESTION: If a player's jersey number is listed incorrectly on the game-sheet, is there a penalty or even a forfeit of the game if the mistake is found after the game? The player is legally rostered, and listed in the playing line-up. The roster label had wrong jersey number listed.
ANSWER: This type of roster clerical issue must be brought to the local governing body of the game (league, hockey association, tournament committee, etc.) to decide upon. Generally, there are no penalties for small clerical errors as long as the player is listed on the game roster.
QUESTION: During a game, a player used the inside of her skate blade to keep the puck under her control (by kicking the puck) and move it ahead. I wondered if that was a legal move? No one else commented on it.
ANSWER: Rule 627.c in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states:
“Kicking the puck shall be permitted provided the puck is not kicked by an attacking player and entered the goal either directly or after deflecting off any player including the goalkeeper.
However, the puck may not be played by the so called "kick shot," which combines the use of the leg and foot driving the shaft and blade of the stick and producing a very dangerous shot.”
QUESTION: An incident occurred recently in a game where a player in the offensive zone had their feet pushed forward by a defender positioned behind them, as a result the offensive player lost his balance and while falling clipped the defender in the face with his stick drawing blood. What should the call be?
ANSWER: Players are always accountable for controlling their stick at all times. Therefore, if a player recklessly endangers an opponent as a result of illegal stick contact (even if accidental) then they must be assessed a major plus game misconduct. However, any illegal action of an opponent that causes the illegal stick contact by the player who recklessly endangers the opponent should be penalized too.
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