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College Hockey Imprinted the Stanley Cup Playoffs

June 11, 2018, 9:43 AM ET [6 Comments]
Paul Stewart
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Congratulations go out to Alex Ovechkin, coach Barry Trotz and the rest of the Stanley Cup winning Washington Capitals. The Caps have had some contending teams and some awful teams in their 44 years of existence, but to finally savor the fruits of winning hockey's ultimate prize is a hard-earned accomplishment. I'm particularly happy for Ovechkin. Teams win Cups, not any one player, but Ovechkin was like a man possessed in the playoffs this year and when a player that talented is also that driven, it's mighty hard to stop him.

Another note: Regardless of what they say and who says it, if George McPhee doesn't get a lion's share of credit for building both teams that were in this year's Stanley Cup Final, I would vehemently disagree. George played the game in the NHL, won a Hobey Baker while playing college hockey; a true testimony that college hockey is now a viable way to go to get to the NHL, whether it's as a future NHL coach (Dave Quinn, Jim Montgomery,Dave Hakstol, Peter Laviolette in his playing days) or as a GM (George McPhee, Don Sweeney, Jeff Gordon, Brian Burke) or a player (too many to mention, but Johnny Gaudreau is a great example), an owner or NHL league executive. I could mention many other names, but you get the point.

I will add, too, that college hockey also benefited the careers of some notable NHL officials such as Wes McCauley, Chris Rooney and Brian Murphy. It's one of, if not the top, training grounds for future pros.

The Molson ads may say, "It's a Canadian game" or Don Cherry can say that 'til he's "Blue" in the face but it's time to face facts: U.S. college hockey is now an equally bonafide way to go for all aspects of the pro game.

There are many, many great hockey players out there. However, they're all one severe post- concussion episode or one unsuccessful rehab from a torn ACL away from being unable to play. If they have a college degree, they at least have another avenue to compete in the game of life. Who knows, maybe they'll even take up officiating and find an entirely different path to the professional hockey ranks.

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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 serves as director of hockey officiating for the ECAC.
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