Friends and Memories Made in Ufa

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The World Junior Cup Championships in Ufa, Russia has been a well-attended and thoroughly enjoyable tournament. Hosted by the MHL Commissione Dmitry Efimov and his staff, I count this as my third tournament as an observer and consultant.

Participating teams this year include two teams from Russia (Ufa and Spartak), Red Bull Salzburg and squads representing Belarus, Canada (Cape Breton), Czech Republic, Finland, Latvia, Sweden, and the USA (USHL club Sioux City).

The tournament games in the pretty river town of Ufa have been held in two rinks: The new Ufa Arena and the older Sport Dvorets(a classic and chilly old rink that reminds me a bit of Cincinnati Garden. Apart from the fans in attendance, there were numerous hockey legends and about a dozen NHL scouts.

The level of hockey was quite good, comparable to Division I NCAA hockey. Among with mself, MHL Supervisor Sergey Semenov and Slovakian IIHF Supervisor Vladimir Mahalik observed numerous games. Overall, I thought our young officials did well in the tournament, although we can always be a tad better, can’t we? With young officials especially, it is a work in progress to feel the game versus applying every rule that comes down the pike.

Pictured below with yours truly is Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Vladislav Tretiak. Apart from being president of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, he is the proud grandfather of a young goalie playing JR for The MHL Club CSKA in Moscow. Vladislav Tretiak and yours truly.

The younger Tretiak stands about six-foot-five (then again, doesn’t it is seem like most young goalies nowadays are huge?). He has the biggest smile along with two of the biggest feet that I have ever seen. The box his skates came in could double as a small row boat.

One of the big thrills of my playing career came when I played against the Vladislav Tretiak when he was with the Red Army team playing against the WHA’s Cincinnati Stingers in 1978. We got schooled, but it was still quite the experience.

In that game, I played defense, paired with Whitey Stapleton. He said, “Give me the puck, kid, and then get behind behind me.”

Sage advice from a hockey icon and a dear friend. I did as Whitey said, and gave him the puck.

At any rate, after the games there was a fabulous dinner for all club personnel held at UFA Lights. The food was very good and there was singing, music and a cabaret dance show which lightened the athletic atmosphere as we got to know each other as people. A good time had by all. Hint to all politicians: you might try this approach when working on issues. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when get together as human beings.

For the young players in the tournament, they are playing against teams and other kids that they will repeatedly see and compete with and against as they grow older. I hope they will become friends as I have with so many of the players I used to see when I was on the ice as both a player and a referee. Believe me, those relationships create memories that last a lifetime, long after the final score of a particular game is long forgotten.

****** Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.

Today, Stewart is an officiating and league discipline consultant for the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and serves as director of hockey officiating for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC).

The longtime referee heads Officiating by Stewart, a consulting, training and evaluation service for officials. Stewart also maintains a busy schedule as a public speaker, fund raiser and master-of-ceremonies for a host of private, corporate and public events. As a non-hockey venture, he is the owner of Lest We Forget.

In addition to his blogs for HockeyBuzz every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Stewart writes a column every Wednesday for the Huffington Post.This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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