Bryan Lewis, director of officiating for the National Hockey League, has been in hockey for nearly 40 years as a player and official. The more hockey he sees, the better he likes it.
"I have what I believe is the greatest job in the world," said Lewis, who was an active official for 18 years and has been in the off-ice capacity for the past five years.
This is his second year as director of officiating. It takes him to games nearly every day of the week.
"I live just outside of Toronto where our office is," said Lewis. "I spend a couple of days a week in the office and the rest on the road. I watch games in the NHL, American, International, East Coast and Junior A and B leagues, so I'm kept very busy."
A typical week for Lewis began Dec. 9 when he worked in office in Toronto. On Dec. 10, he flew from Toronto to Chicago to St. Louis and watched a game in the St. Louis Arena. On Dec. 11, he flew from St. Louis to Dallas to Phoenix, where he watched a Phoenix game in the IHL. From Phoenix, Dec. 12, he flew to Los Angles to watch the Kings and Dec. 13 he flew from Los Angeles to Vancouver, British Columbia, to observe a Canucks game. From Vancouver, Dec. 14, he flew back to Toronto to watch a Junior B game in which his son Duane, 17, a right winger, was involved.
"It can be a grueling grind, the traveling and all, but I believe I have the best job in hockey," Lewis said. "I have an interest in every game I watch. At the NHL games, I observe and take notes; at the minor league games, I watch young officials and give them constructive criticism, if necessary; and at the junior games I'm looking for young officials that can one day move up the NHL.
"With expansion on the horizon we have to keep on the lookout for young talent. It is my job to coach these young linesmen and referees just like the coaches in the AHL or IHL do with the players in these leagues. We have to be able to communicate with all of our officials, from referee Andy Vanhellemond of the NHL down to say Luke Galvin of the AHL. We try not to turn the young ones loose. I'll sit with them after a game and go over my notes on the game. Make suggestions and give praise where it's justified."
Lewis said the travel is tough on his family. "But they have been very supportive," he said. "My wife, Elaine, comes from a hockey family -- her father owned a Junior A team in Ontario -- so she knows what it is to be a hockey wife. My daughters, Janelle, 20, and Allison, 12, are also hockey fans. My son is a pretty good player and I wish I could see him play more games, but I'm on the road so much. My wife is at every one of his games, however."
In addition to his traveling and observing hockey games, Lewis spends time on the day-to-day operations of his department. "I make assignments, set up perspectives, oversee the events of the department and take care of expenses," he said.
* The Washington Capitals are in their longest winless streak of the season, 0-7-1, but general manager David Poile is not panicking.
Asked if a trade or some other shake-up was in the offing, he said: "I don't plan any changes at this time. We're going to go along with what we have and hope this thing [the winless streak] will turn itself around. Possibly later in the week we'll sit down and evaluate things.
"A stretch like this is very frustrating for everyone involved. No one likes to lose. We all hope we can start doing the things it takes to win. Right now it seems that everything we do goes wrong."
* Jody Gage of the Rochester Americans is just one point out of fifth place on the AHL's all-time goal-scoring list and is nearing 10th place on the point-scoring list. Gage has 375 goals, one behind Harry Pidhirny, who played in 1,071 games. Gage also has 290 assists for 775 total points.
Willie Marshall, former Baltimore Clipper, leads the AHL in games played (1,205), points scored (1,375) and goals scored (523).
* At the halfway mark of the season (20 games), the Skipjacks are ahead of last year's attendance. Baltimore has drawn 65,554 to the Baltimore Arena, while during the same period a year ago the Skipjacks drew 65,088.