Family is important to any person, but it’s a common theme amongst the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductees.
Bill Guerin and Doug Weight have remained close friends in retirement, and both stated their respective families are close as well.
For Peter Karmanos, he helped found the Compuware AAA Midget team in part due to his son.
Two of Ron Mason’s grandsons are also involved in the game. Travis Walsh is a sophomore defenseman at Michigan State, the school at which Mason spent the majority of his legendary career. His other grandson, Tyler, is the video coordinator at Canisius College.
“I don’t know if there’s anything I enjoy more than coming up to watch him play,” Mason said. “They’re both following in dad’s and granddad’s footsteps getting involved in college hockey.”
Karmanos founded the Compuware Hockey Program in the 1970s with the goal of providing a local program to help players reach the height of their potential.
The program has found success over the years, so much that it’s something Weight remembers about his youth hockey experiences.
“Compuware used to thump us all the time,” he said with a chuckle, noting he played for his father’s team.
Cindy Curley reminisced on the days when she was younger playing in cold rinks with here brothers, who were instrumental in her growth as a player.
“They always found time for me to play on teams, even though I was the worst one,” she said. “It’s just great to get them all here. Anyone who knows about hockey knows about the sacrifices.”
But the most notable ties came between Guerin and Weight. Both noted how special it was to be inducted in the same class as someone they played many years with.
“It couldn’t have worked out any better and didn’t work out any better,” Guerin said. “Dougy is not only the ultimate teammate but the ultimate friend. He’s always got your back.”
Added Weight: “He’s a great friend of mine, he’s a great guy. We love to have fun, but he’s very dedicated and I love every time I played with him. So this is sort of icing on the cake.”
The way they act around each other is almost brotherly. While Weight was partaking in his media session, Guerin entered the room and shouted, “Are you done yet? Unless you’re talking about me, hurry up.”
While the people crowded in the room laughed, Weight smiled and looked at the gathered reporters.
“He has really big eyes, doesn’t he?” he quipped.
Many sports across the board have begun to see a decline in their number of officials. USA Hockey is no different, with numbers lagging slightly behind player growth.
With that in mind, USA Hockey has made a particularly concerted effort over the last couple of years to incentivize officials to stick around.
Not surprisingly that was the main topic discussed at the annual USA Hockey's Winter Meetings, according to National Referee-in-Chief Dave LaBuda.
“I'd say the overriding tone of the meeting was us talking about retention and trying to come up with ways in which to address that particular issue,” LaBuda said. “It's a very complex situation. There are a number of different factors that go into why an official decides not to stay registered. We can only address a certain number of those factors and the rest we have to hope fix themselves in some way.”
In an effort to be proactive, USA Hockey has implemented sweeping change in the registration process for existing officials.
It started by revamping the registration fees, and while some of the other minutiae is rather hard to digest, the most notable change is the reduction of registration requirements for officials that reach the Level 3 or Level 4 status.
As soon as an official has obtained Level 3 or Level 4 status for three consecutive years, they will become eligible to apply for tenured status. In order to attain that tenured status, officials must also attend what USA Hockey is calling an advanced officiating symposium.
“It's designed to encourage people to continue their level of registration and to advance to a higher level of registration,” LaBuda said. “Just getting them to climb that ladder and try to attain the highest level of registration will make them better officials, and in turn, improve the game.”
Essentially, USA Hockey wants to send a message to its officials, making it clear that their time is important to the organization.
“We understand that people's time nowadays is becoming tighter and tighter,” LaBuda said. “We wanted to make sure that we made the entire process as efficient as possible from a time standpoint.”
It seems to be working so far as USA Hockey has been able to stabilize its registration numbers over the last few years, according to LaBuda.
“We are starting to see some movement in that retention area,” LaBuda said. “It seems like every sport is experiencing a critical loss of officials to work their sport. We are hoping that these changes in the registration process will help us retain more officials down the road. It’s been a positive step in the right direction so far.”
No one wants to see anyone get hurt on the ice. As officials, it’s our job to make sure players, coaches and fans are in a safe (and fun) environment.
But even then, there is only so much we can do to ensure that safety. Luckily, the responsibility isn’t solely ours. New safety initiatives and focuses at USA Hockey have helped cradle on-going efforts to ensure the safest possible environment for everyone involved in the game.
We caught up with Kevin Margarucci, USA Hockey’s manager of player safety, to hear what’s being done to keep the game, and everyone involved in it, safer.
Q: What are some of the new initiatives that USA Hockey has implemented pertaining to overall player safety?
Kevin Margarucci: Safety is our top priority at USA Hockey and we are always working on ways to make the game safer for everyone involved, both on and off the ice. One of the significant changes coming next season is an update to our concussion management program.
In short, for a player suspected of having a concussion, USA Hockey will require a return to play document signed by a physician. Some states already require that as a return to play standard, but many don’t. In those states where that isn't a requirement, a parent could just go up to a coach and say, 'Yeah. We went to the doctor. He's fine.' That's it. We don't necessarily know if they ever got evaluated. As the national governing body, we felt it was important to have a consistent return to play standard across the country.
Q: Body checking has always been a hot button issue. What are the current standards for body checking at the youth level?
Margarucci: At the 12U level and below, the standard is body contact during games, with legal body checking during games being allowed at the 14U level and above. Our emphasis is on teaching kids that giving a body check and receiving a body check is a skill. We really want to put an emphasis on that and emphasize the progression from body contact into body checking. That said, while body checking is not allowed at the 12U level in games, it’s important that coaches teach body checking during practice at 12U so that the kids are prepared for the next level.
Q: How important of a role do officials play in how they patrol body checking during games?
Margarucci: Officials play a very important role and it really is critical that our on-ice officials enforce the USA Hockey standard of play in all areas of the game, including body contact and body checking.
That said, the onus is just not on officials. It’s important that our coaches and parents understand, teach and support the USA Hockey standard of play. We need to continue to educate all stakeholders involved in the game about the standard of play and ensure that respect is a central mindset in how we play, coach, officiate and administer the game.
Q: Obviously these kids are watching the NHL on TV. How important is it to teach kids that mimicking some of the hits they see from their idols on TV isn't necessarily the best way to go about it at the youth level?
Margarucci: The good news is that all of hockey, including the NHL, is working to eliminate dangerous hits and plays. The size and strength of players in the NHL is much different than youth hockey and the game is extremely fast which can result in some significant collisions. It’s important for youth hockey players (and coaches, parents, officials and fans) to learn what is acceptable and unacceptable in terms of body contact/body checking and to know there are things they may see at the NHL level that are not appropriate in youth hockey.
Q: Can you tell us about your involvement with the Concussion Legacy Foundation?
Margarucci: Sure. There's a relatively new initiative through the Concussion Legacy Foundation that we’ve supported called Team Up, Speak Up. It’s focus is to let players know it is OK to, and that they should, speak up for a teammate who may have a concussion and report to a coach, parent, doctor or athletic trainer. At the end of the day it is a simple and straight forward program that can have a significant impact and we’re happy to be involved