Remembering Ace and Mark, Rooting for Refs in Traverse City

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I would be remiss today if I did not make mention of the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that stand as one of the most senseless and heartbreaking tragedies in modern history. In memory of the victims and families of 9-11, we must never stop being vigilant in the fight against terrorism.

Among the victims of the 9-11 tragedy were Los Angeles Kings director of pro scouting Garnet “Ace” Bailey and Kings scout Mark Bavis.

The two men were traveling on United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angeles, heading for a Kings’ preseason organizational meeting. The flight was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City.

The loss of both men struck every person in hockey in a very personal way. First of all, Ace and Mark were both well-liked and highly respected. Secondly, it was a stark reminder that none of us are immune from the random evil of terrorists or the inherent risks of being in a business where travel is a way of life. The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash tragedy that happened 10 years later had a similarly chilling effect in addition to the immense grief over the deaths of so many friends and acquaintances due to other people’s sheer negligence.

Ace was one of our game’s true characters; an outgoing and fun-loving guy. As with myself, no one would ever have described Garnet Bailey as the meek and introverted type.

There’s a famous story about Garnet Bailey that nails his personality to a tee: In May of 1972, about a week after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, Bruins forward Bailey and group of other players and their friends went out to continue their celebration. Among other stops, they hung out at a lounge owned by Bruins goalie Eddie Johnston.

The party went late into the night. Some time in the wee hours, a minor scuffle ensued inside Johston’s bar and picked up again outside. The police were called and Bailey and the others got arrested for disorderly conduct and public drunknessness; charges were later dropped.

At any rate, after being informed of their Miranda rights and taken to the police station, Bailey and the others were told they could make their phone call. Another Bruins player on the scene promptly phoned his attorney. Two of their arrested friends called spouses or siblings to come post bond for them.

Ace Bailey called an all-night pizza place and ordered in delivery for the cops and his buddies.

At any rate, if Ace and Mark had not perished in the 9-11 tragedy in 2001, they would no doubt have continued to work as NHL scouts for many years to come. Come tomorrow, there will be many NHL scouts on hand in Traverse City, Michigan as the annual prospects tournament gets underway. This year’s eight team tourney showcases the prospects of the Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues.

In addition to being an outlet for aspiring NHL players to show what they can do, it is also a showcase for young officials who hope to someday work in the NHL. This year, there will be 14 officials working the tournament — eight young referees and six linesmen. The participants were selected by Joe Ernst (ECHL Officiating Director), who is in his fourth year of overseeing officiating at the Traverse City Tournament.

I won’t be in Traverse City but you better believe that I will be rooting from afar for these young arbiters. Yes, I notice and take mental notes on players and teams. My main focus, though, is on the officiating. Each and every game and regardless of league affiliation, I quietly root for the officials to put themselves in good position, display consistent hustle, good judgement and self-confidence.

Just as with players, it is important to scout prospective officials. A trained and experienced eye can tell who has the “it factor” of the necessary qualities to make for an excellent pro.

****** 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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