Vaughn takes us behind the scenes for his trip to China with Dean Morton, Justin St. Pierre, and Darren Gibbs
Sunday September 17th
On the Morning of Sept 17th the group of 4 On-ice Officials and Rod Pasma from the NHL Hockey Operations department, lucky enough to be selected by Stephen Walkom (NHL Director of Officiating) to be tasked with dropping the NHL shield puck in China for the first time ever met in Richmond BC at the Millionaire Airport.
As referees Dean Morton and Justin St Pierre with linesman Darren Gibbs and myself waited patiently to proceed to the Charter the NHL had provided for the trip, we were starting to get very excited about what was in store for us.
The Vancouver Canucks team arrived and with their group was the Teams 2 Owners and their families, Roberto and Paolo Aquilini. I would be remiss to not mention how kind and engaging these 2 individuals and their families were, they went out of their way to greet everyone and make all feel Welcome.
The airport building is a private location where chartered flights board and venture out to their destinations, this was not unlike those, although we are used to traveling for the League and are treated very well while doing so, this had a feeling of being different and DIFFERENT it was.
The Airplane was a refurbished 777 Boeing airplane and 18 years ago before I was hired to the NHL I held the job of an Inspector on the 777 Plane out of Everett WA, I wondered to myself as I boarded this plane if we were to check the delivery log, would my Stamp and name be on it…
No matter, upon entering this marvel it was obvious to all, this was unlike anything we had ever seen, brought home by the ooh’s and ahh’s heard throughout the plane as we all boarded and excitedly found our seats. Each individual had their own sort of pod with a seat / bed and a roughly 24 inch TV screen for your entertainment.
Not sure if I mentioned the Full Bar and huge lounge room built directly behind the cockpit, oh ya, as well, you could order pretty much anything you could think of and everything was free of charge.
For the first time I think each of us felt the 12 plus hour airplane ride wouldn’t be long enough.
Monday September 18th
Upon our arrival in Shanghai China, the plane was again met by shuttle busses we all boarded and took to airport security, once there we all lined up, checked our way into the Country and back upon different shuttle busses that took us to the Ritz Carlton Shanghai in the Center of the City.
The Hotel was an extremely nice place that reminded me of a Hotel in Times Square New York with the lights and atmosphere, minus the Horn Honking, (it’s illegal to honk in Shanghai and drivers can be punished). It’s a bustling City with the same shops and stores we see everyday in North America.
As a Group the 4 of us decide to venture out for our first trip and besides not understanding or being able to read the street signs as well as almost being run over every 6 seconds by a scooter driver on his or her cell phone on the sidewalk we find our way around just fine and manage to even locate a Starbucks, we were looking for a “Timmies” (Tim Hortons, Canadian equivalent of Starbucks) but no such luck.
Tuesday & Wednesday September 19-20th
The trip included 2 days to acclimatize ourselves before the games were to begin so apart from heading to the gym daily and then going to the arena for a daily skate we explored the City of Shanghai and took in an authentic Dinner, where we tried many dishes that included Frog and Mutton tongue, let’s just say, not sure I for one will ever try either again.
Thursday September 21th
The excitement of what we all were going to be apart of was building, as we toured and skated the facility our every action was caught by a camera, photographers were everywhere and our participation was highly watched. As per our NHL mandate to ease into the new season we met with the coaches of both Teams and then the Canucks themselves, we addressed the New Rules regarding the slashing standard as well as the penalty for a missed coaches offside challenge and we discussed at length the Faceoff Standard we are going to adhere to moving forward, the meeting which took place in the Canucks locker room was very involved by everyone with a lot of dialogue between the 4 of us and the Team itself. After the meeting we jumped on the shuttle and headed back to the hotel to each prepare in our own fashion.
The atmosphere as we entered Mercedes Benz Arena was incredible, the rink staff was addressing some issues regarding fog and together we implemented a strategy in case it became an issue while the game was ongoing, thankfully, it didn’t.
Rod Pasma entered our room and conducted our pre game meeting and before you knew it, Mortee (referee Dean Morton) had dropped the opening Faceoff and just like that, the NHL accomplished another great feat, NHL Hockey in Asia. Once the game began it was business as usual, players played hard, fans cheered loud, and the Officials worked their tails off. Final score Kings 5 Canucks 2.
Friday September 22th
Friday was a travel day to Beijing and a trip to the Great Wall was something everyone looked forward to, our flight left at roughly 10 AM, we spent the morning chatting with our loved ones back home and still trying to figure out the time differences between the cities we all live in and the one we were visiting, 15 hours difference from China to Seattle WA.
The Wall was Amazing, Awe inspiring, a true wonder of the world, how something so impactful and large was built by hands of individuals without tools and machine power is mind boggling to say the least, our group of Rod, Justin, Dean, Gibby and I were joined by a wonderful talented individual we met on the trip who works for the NHL as Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Strategic Business Communications; Jennifer Neziol.
Insert a bit of self promoting here but while the NHL entourage of nearly 200 people decided to Gondola it up to the top of the Mountain, my linesman partner and I thought it would be a cool and memorable idea to walk the whole trail on the steps to the top….let me just say… if you ever have the choice…take the Gondola, unless of course the thought of cramping legs and the feeling of your skull being repeatedly smashed with a boulder for 43 straight minutes as your heart pounds into your head sounds intriguing to you.
Once we reached the top though, all thoughts of pain dissipated as we self evaluated our own lives and thought of the individuals charged with building this structure and what pain they must have endured.
The Wall was a Trip Highlight for us all but once again work called and we boarded the busses for the 2.5 trek into Beijing to get some well needed rest, puck drops in less than 15 hours and we had all encountered a trying travel day.
Saturday September 23rd
Our Morning in Beijing was standard operating NHL Officials procedures, self prepare both mentally and physically as we get ready to uphold the integrity of this Great Game of ours in front of Thousands of NEW NHL fans.
The Game itself was another fast paced event with some bubble players knowing full well this could be one of their final times to impress upon their teams decision makers their importance to their clubs.
Overtime, Shootout, Winner, Final Score…Not important…what was and is important is that our game is in a great state, it’s being represented by individuals who work like pros within their jobs to grow it no matter what their title is, this “crest” represents an NHL family and I know I speak for all of my teammates when I say I’m extremely proud of my brothers and sisters and the jobs each of us do to make sure we all leave this game better than we found it.