The USHL announced Wednesday the hiring of former NHL referee Dennis LaRue as Director of Player Safety, as well as an agreement between the NHL, USHL and USA Hockey that will help grow the talent pool for USHL officials.
“Adding Dennis LaRue to our staff is an incredible opportunity to add years of valuable NHL experience to back our placing importance on player safety ahead of the new season,” said USHL President and Commissioner Tom Garrity. “We believe our officiating initiative will add great value to officiating at the USHL level and beyond by developing more talent for the overall officiating pool.”
As the Director of Player Safety, LaRue will serve as the Chairman of the Player Safety Committee. LaRue will also administer player supplemental discipline for all games in accordance with the league’s player safety initiative. The player safety initiative is a cumulative penalty system designed to track, intervene and establish standards for supplemental discipline in instances of dangerous play, particularly for repeat offenders.
Since the player safety initiative was put in place, fighting has decreased by more than 70 percent, checking from behind has decreased by 59 percent, major penalties have decreased by 47 percent, and suspension has decreased by 34 percent.
“I am grateful to Commissioner Garrity and the USHL for giving me the opportunity to work with them in this important area of the game,” said LaRue. “I’m confident that my on-ice experience provides me a useful and insightful perspective and I am excited to work with the rest of the committee to continue the good work that they have done over the past several years.”
LaRue, a native of Spokane, Washington, joins the USHL after serving as an NHL referee for 1,222 games, the most by any American referee and ranked eighth overall all-time as of his retirement in 2016. LaRue began his NHL career as a referee in 1991 and went on to officiate the 2009 Stanley Cup Final, becoming only the second-ever American to referee a Stanley Cup Final. He also officiated the 2012 NHL Winter Classic, 2003 NHL All-Star Game and the Olympics in 1988, 2002, 2006, and 2010. LaRue was just the third referee ever to work four separate Olympics and was later honored with the USA Hockey Distinguished Achievement Award in 2011.
“Along with the USHL and USA Hockey, we applaud Dennis LaRue’s addition as USHL Director of Player Safety,” said NHL Vice President of Business Development and International Affairs Kevin Westgarth. “Dennis’ illustrious career as an NHL referee will serve the league and players well, and serve as a beacon for the next generation of American officials. Combined with the increased recruiting efforts and opportunities offered, we expect to fill and expand the development pipeline for on-ice officials in the United States.”
Officials are involved in a new initiative between the NHL, USA Hockey and USHL focused on the recruitment and development of officials. With the agreement, there will be an increase in the USHL officiating prospect pool by recruiting players from the American Collegiate Hockey Association, Junior Tier III and NCAA Division III levels. By doing so, more high-level players will be introduced to the world of officiating and will receive support during their officiating development process. In turn, this will increase the amount of USHL games officiated by a four-man crew and will also allow NHL Officiating Exposure Combine prospects to develop within the USHL.
ABOUT THE USHL
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 18th season as the nation’s only Tier I junior hockey league in 2018-19. The USHL had 55 players selected at the 2019 NHL Draft, and more than 400 players on team rosters in 2018-19 committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.