SOCHI, Russia – Josh Sweeney (Phoenix, Ariz.) scored the game-winning goal in the second period, allowing the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team to skate past Russia, 1-0, in the gold-medal game at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
With the victory, Team USA becomes the first team to win back-to-back gold medals in the Paralympics. The gold medal is the third for the U.S. since 2002.
"I've coached guys in the National Hockey League and guys that have won national championships, but the chemistry on this team with a 15-year-old and a 35-year old player is better than any team I've ever coached," said Jeff Sauer, head coach of the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. "There's a bond there and I love them like sons."
The Americans struck for the contest’s only marker at 9:28 of the middle frame when Sweeney converted after forcing a turnover in the offensive zone. Following a collision by two Russian players, Sweeney picked up the loose puck just inside the blue line and streaked in on Russian goaltender Vladimir Kamantcev. Sweeney deked to his left before sliding the puck back to his right and placing a shot over Kamantcev’s glove and under the crossbar.
Team USA played a strong defensive game throughout, limiting Russia to just six shots on goal while killing both Russian power-play opportunities. Goaltender Steve Cash (Overland, Mo.) came up with a pair of quality saves on dangerous Russian chances in the final stanza to hold Russia off the board.
According to NHL metrics, the average hockey shift lasts somewhere between 45 and 55 seconds. There’s inherent beauty and fluidity to line changes, as skaters come on and off the ice, looking to recharge after going full throttle for their teams.
Meanwhile, your NHL officiating peers are giving their all, too – regularly logging 4-5 miles a game. Those totals are even greater at your level, where you and your colleagues officiate multiple games a day, several times per week, on a seemingly never-ending calendar.
And, although we want to perform our best every game, everyone has both good days and bad – players and officials alike. To learn more about keeping burnout at bay, we went to the experts: longtime amateur hockey scheduler Larry Carrington and former NHL official Mark Faucette.
“There is so much more to officiating than meets the eye,” said Faucette, a 17-year NHL veteran. “It may look easy from the stands, but to maintain total control of a game along with the stress, slumps, supervisors, travel, and fitness regimen takes a very special kind of person.”
Get in shape (and stay there)
We all think we’re in “pretty good” shape, but the reality is, officials must be top athletes and in great condition – even at the youngest levels.
“Conditioning is very important—the deeper into the season, the more important it is,” Carrington said. “Burnout happens physically, mentally, and emotionally. An official who is in good condition will experience less physical burnout, and that will in turn help with the emotional and mental burnout.”
Faucette stresses following a workout routine that maxes yourself at least every other day. Neither player or official should plan to use games as a vehicle toward better physical fitness.
“Where we used to go to camp to get into shape, officials today are on summer conditioning regimens and are tested as soon as they come to camp,” he said. “Taking care of your body is a total focus for the good official.
“The players are so much stronger and faster now, so it’s imperative the officials keep the same pace.”
No, not balance on your skates (that’s a given). Rather, make sure to keep the big picture in mind, to work a manageable schedule that includes everything that’s important to you – family, friends, and time away from the rink.
Although it makes Carrington’s job as an assignor more difficult, he said it pays off in the long run.
“I encourage officials to take at least one weekend off to get away from hockey,” he said. “I certainly don't want to lose their services for a week, but the invigoration that it usually provides makes them a much more valuable asset over the course of the season.”
That’s huge in an industry where both mental and physical fatigue are commonplace.
“Every official runs into slumps, just as players do,” Faucette said. “You spend numerous hours alone as an official, and when things are not going good, where everything is negative, it can cause you duress.
“Positive thoughts and self-evaluations speed up recovery,” he continued. “So, instead of telling yourself, ‘I wonder what bad thing will happen tonight?’ say ‘I’m ready for anything – bring it on!’”
It’s No. 3 here, but should be No. 1 on your to-do list.
“I realize the officials are all trying hard, and mistakes are part of any sport by any participant,” said Faucette, who currently serves as supervisor of officials for USA Hockey, the NAHL director of player safety and the SPHL director of officiating. “That being said, the joy I get out of seeing a young official start out at ground level and making the big time one day is immeasurable.”
For most of you reading this, the “big time” might not be the end goal (and that’s OK). But wherever you are, there’s experience you’ve gained, as well as that to come – which both point back to why you first got involved in this great sport.
As an assignor, Carrington tries to get out of the office as much as he can and intentionally varies the schedules of his officials to help keep things fresh. He also encourages his more senior officials to lend a hand to those who aren’t as long in the tooth.
“Going to the rink and helping officials help themselves get better can be very invigorating,” he said. “Even a very good, very experienced official will often find it fun and relaxing to mentor some new official at a lower-level game where the stress levels aren’t nearly as high.”
But no matter where you officiate, Carrington emphasizes keeping one thing in mind: the love of the sport and those playing it today.
“If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be out there.”