BOSTON, Massachusetts - For members of the U.S. Hockey of Hall of Fame Class of 2015, tonight’s induction ceremony is more than just a celebration of their illustrious careers. It is also a homecoming of sorts for several of the enshrines, and an opportunity to thank those who helped them along the way.
Ron DeGregorio grew up not far from the Marriott Renaissance Boston Waterfront hotel, the site for tonight’s sold out event, developing a passion for the game on the ponds and playgrounds in East Boston. Over the course of his 40 years in hockey at both the local and national level, the former president of USA Hockey has held just about every position in the organization.
“Whatever you do in life, you don’t do it because you expect something like this. You do it because you want to do it and you have a passion for it,” said DeGregorio, who spent more than 40 years working at various levels of youth hockey starting at the local level before holding a number of key positions within USA Hockey.
“This is just icing on the cake. Having it here in the Boston area is special. All of my family can be here easily; this is really a family affair. There are more things to come, hopefully, in my life but this is one of those benchmarks that is nice to arrive at.”
Joining DeGregorio in the Class of 2015 is fellow New England native Chris Drury, along with Angela Ruggiero and Mathieu Schneider.
Also honored at the event will be longtime NHL scout Bob Crocker and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, who are recipients of the NHL’s Lester Patrick Award for a lifetime of service to hockey in the United States.
Legendary coach and general manager Emile Francis will receive the Wayne Gretzky International Award, which is given to an international individual who has made major contributions to the growth and advancement of hockey in the United States.
For both Drury and Ruggiero, the event marks a homecoming of sorts as both had stellar college careers in addition to starring on the international and professional stages.
Drury, who grew up in Trumbull, Conn., launched his Hall of Fame hockey career at Boston University, where he won the 1998 Hobey Baker Award and led the Terriers to the 1995 NCAA title.
“When you look at all the players who are in the Hall that I looked up to and tried to emulate, players like [Bill] Guerin, [Keith] Tkachuk, [Brian] Leetch and [Tony] Amonte, and now to be in the Hall with them, I’m certainly grateful,” said Drury, who also won two Olympic silver medals with Team USA (2002, 2010).
Ruggiero was a four-year star at Harvard University, where she led the Crimson to the 1999 NCAA title and was the recipient of the 2004 Patty Kazmaier Award as the top player in women’s college hockey.
“It’s amazing that it’s in the city that is a second home to me. I grew up in [Simi Valley] California but I played college hockey here and trained for the 1998 Olympics here, so it feels natural to have [this event] here,” said Ruggiero, who played more games (256) in a Team USA uniform than any other player, male or female, in the country’s history.
And Schneider, who works for the NHL Players’ Association, got his start in the game just down the road at the prep powerhouse Mount Saint Charles Academy in Woonsocket, R.I. Over the course of his 21-year NHL career with 10 different teams, the New York City native played hundreds of games in the Boston Garden as a visiting player.
Like DeGregorio, the induction ceremony is an opportunity for Ruggiero to thank so many of the players and coaches whom she played with over the course of her long career.
“Unfortunately we just couldn’t get enough tickets to invite all of my coaches and teammates but obviously they’re an important part of me receiving this honor,” said Ruggierio, who joins former teammate Cammi Granato as the only two women to be inducted in both the Hockey Hall of Fame and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
“The hockey community is like my second family.”
Even with almost 50 years of involvement in hockey, you can’t plan for the current state of the world and the impact coronavirus has had on our game. I think it is safe to say that nothing prepares you for the changes that have taken place in our daily lives and the uncertainty of when things might return to normal. Or in this case, what will become the new “normal.”
Our expertise is hockey, so what we’ll address in this piece: the impact of the global pandemic on our game and how likely it will affect our game in the immediate future.
USA Hockey continues to post information on COVID-19 on the main website. These updates keep our membership informed of specific programs and the changing safety recommendations that will be in place when hockey returns. Be sure to check back regularly for updates and other hockey information.
On the officiating front, much of what we are able to do from a program standpoint is connected to player events like national tournaments and player development camps. As you know, the national tournaments (along with the March, April and May IIHF World Championship events) were cancelled. The Officiating Program then canceled our two instructor training programs that were planned for late April and early May in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Colorado Springs, Colo.
At this time, details for any potential summer development camps are still being determined. On the player side, several camps we are connected to were cancelled, and the few camps that are still in planning have been dramatically downsized. The Officiating Program continues to monitor the decisions made for players and will take advantage of any opportunity we have to salvage our summer camp program and maximize participation.
The good news is, we are confident we will have a 2020-21 season. All indications show no reason to delay registration. It will open as scheduled on or around May 26, followed by the open book exams and online seminar curriculum on June 1.
SafeSport Training (required for anyone born in the year 2003 or earlier) and background screening (learn about the new national level screening program in the Q & A section) will also be available to complete at that time. If COVID-19 still has things slowed down in early June, it would be an ideal time to get these requirements completed.
The biggest unknown will be the timing in which we will be able to conduct seminars. The vast majority of rinks are currently closed, and many of them took this opportunity to remove ice to save operating costs and do maintenance. There is now doubt they will be prepared to quickly ramp up once they are allowed to do so, but as with most everything right now, the timing is uncertain. As a result, some of the earlier seminars may be pushed back a few weeks. The District Referees-in-Chief will secure ice times and facilities so we can provide seminar dates and locations as quickly as possible. We are also encouraging our instructors to think outside the box by providing some weeknight seminar options, and to look at other ways to best meet the needs of our members.
The Advanced Officiating Symposium, scheduled for Providence, R.I. in late July, is still going to plan. We will continue to monitor the situation, including local restrictions and travel advisories in the coming weeks, and we will announce any changes in advance to allow for alterations to travel arrangements. Click here for up-to-date information or to reserve your seat at the 2020 Advanced Officiating Symposium.
These are difficult times for everyone, and although our hockey family is important to us, it is a small fraction of the big picture that is impacting our daily lives. To quote Andy Dufresne in his letter for Red that he left under the big oak tree in The Shawshank Redemption: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We hope the coronavirus is conquered with minimal loss of lives and a return to a prosperous normal as soon as possible. We hope your passion for the game of hockey will only grow as a result of its absence. We hope we are back on the ice in the coming months and that the 2020-21 season will be our best yet.
Thank you for your continued support of USA Hockey and don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to make your hockey experience a better one. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and be prepared to be back on the ice soon.