Happy Labor Day weekend wishes go out to my family, friends and readers in the United States and Canada. I am still in Ufa, Russia. As long as there is breath in my body, being involved in the game will always be my labor of love. Every day is Labor Day.
The other day, I met up in Ufa with the legendary Lou Vairo.
Lou was in Ufa for the game between the Sioux City Musketeers (USHL) and Ufa. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Lou, he has been one of the great builders for both American hockey and the international game for decades. He is a member of the IIHF Hall of Fame and a recent inductee in the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. Lou is one of only two Americans to date to win the Paul Loicq Award, which is the highest personal recognition given by the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Lou was one of the primary architects of the US National Team Development Program, which has become of the world’s most elite sources of future professional and international hockey talent. He was also crucial to the development of the USA Hockey Coaching Education Program, and in exchange programs with hockey federations around the world.
I’m sure you’ve heard the famous stories of the late Fred Shero’s hockey trips behind the Iron Curtain in the 1970s. Well, a young Lou Vairo was there, too, along with the Fog.
As a coach, Lou has been behind the bench with Team USA at the Olympics (1984, 2002), the IIHF World Championships (1983, 2000-2003) and the 2003 World Junior Championships. He is also a former New Jersey Devils assistant coach.
It was a pleasure catching up with Lou the other night, to share a beer and some good conversation. We got the last two beers sold that night! This photo was taken by Dmitry Efimov, the commissioner of the MHL.
In the meantime, I was also very proud to be invited to drop the opening puck at the Krutov Cup tournament, named in memory of Russian hockey legend Vladimir “the Tank” Krutov. I refereed his first NHL game with the Vancouver Canucks, when he played on a line with fellow KLM Line legend Igor Larionov (one of our sport’s greatest players of all-time and a true gentleman off the ice).
Coincidentally, I officiated the first home exhibition game that Sergei Makarov, the third member of the CSKA Moscow/Russian national team’s top line, played as a member of the Calgary Flames. On that night in 1989, the Flames played the Canadian national team at the Saddledome.
I also refereed games involving the fully intact KLM Line at two Canada Cup tournaments. That 1987 tourney was some of the best hockey ever played — perhaps topping even the 1972 Summit Series — and it was also my big breakthrough as an official.
Hockey, hockey, hockey. It all comes back to hockey. Happy Labor Day. I will be back on Tuesday.
****** 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.