A veteran of 1,000 National Hockey League games as a linesman, Ryan Galloway is quick to remember his hockey roots ─ the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
“I was 18 when I worked as a linesman in the MJHL,” said Galloway from his home in Minneapolis. “It was a pretty special time. It’s a great league and it really allowed me to develop myself as an official. Back in those days there were three teams in the city (Saints, Blues and Canadians). I really got to work a lot of games. Great learning experience.”
“I had some fantastic people along the way who mentored me and helped me get to where I find myself today. The calibre of players in the MJHL then and now is excellent. The MJHL is a great league for a young official to develop themselves.”
Galloway, who hails from Winnipeg, will be honoured before family and friends this Friday at Bell MTS Place in recognition of his 1,000th game. Officially, he worked his 1,000th game recently in Phoenix, but the NHL typically tries to bestow such an honour in the recipient’s hometown if possible. Galloway will be presented with a keepsake, tiffany crystal, engraved with the date of his 1,000th game and the teams involved.
“The MJHL is very proud of Ryan Galloway and his accomplishment,” MJHL Commissioner Kim Davis said. “We wish him the best of luck going forward. His career from junior hockey to the NHL has been a symbol of dedication and professionalism that is unmatched. Any official wherever he or she may be would be wise to emulate Ryan’s approach to his craft.”
With 1,000 games now under his belt, Galloway vividly remembers his first, regular-season game. “It was in Chicago,” he said. “But, my first NHL experience took place during a pre-season game in Winnipeg when I first wore the NHL crest.”
“I really can’t believe where the time has gone. I’ve had the great fortune of meeting some fantastic people, doing a job I love and working the best league in the world. The pace of the game is so quick; if you’re not two steps ahead of the play, you’ll quickly be three steps behind.”
Having worked 1,000 games, one can only imagine what Galloway has heard on the ice over the years. “Surprisingly, we’re (officials) moving around all the time and don’t really hear too much of the players’ conversations.”
“Everything on the ice is happening so quickly. It’s very physically demanding.”
Galloway, 45, works about three to four games per week. In total, he’ll work 75 games a season. He’s also had the good fortune of working first-round playoff games, which he described as extremely intense. Working every second night, the job becomes very demanding quickly. A gifted skater, Galloway also has the physical size (6-foot-2, 205-pounds) to handle the daily grind of dealing with NHL players.
“There’s not much fighting anymore,” he said. “But sometimes you still have to separate the players and defuse situations. The players are so big, so fast and so strong. The skill level is incredible.”
Galloway first pulled on the officials’ striped jersey when he was 12. “My brother were both refs so of course I wanted to follow them and do what they were doing.”
Galloway quit playing hockey when he was 15 and turned his focus on being the best official he could be. He went to clinics, attended on-ice sessions and worked games. He’s quick to remember the many people who helped him along the way: (former MJ ref) Rob Haithwaite, Ian Heather, Don Smith, Earl Ormshaw and former ref in chief, Don Kuryk, to name a few.
“The MJHL was the perfect development league for me,” he said. “There were a lot of very good players (too many too remember) and of course some coaches who helped me develop my thick skin,” he said with a laugh.
Ironically, the departure in the mid-nineties of the beloved Winnipeg Jets 1.0 paved the way for Galloway to professional hockey.
“I started working games in the International League, which was home to the Manitoba Moose,” he said. “I also did university games, Western League and the Manitoba Junior.”
Galloway was invited to attend NHL officials’ identification camps and his career launched. Due to travel demands, he would eventually move to Minneapolis.
Of those 1,000 games, one comical moment stands out. “It was Hockey Night in Canada in Toronto. A Saturday night. A very big deal. During one play, the puck was in the corner but then it disappeared. No one on the ice really knew where it was. I then noticed (former Leaf) Darcy Tucker in the corner, tugging on his pants.”
“The puck somehow got under his kidney pad. So I skated up and pulled the puck out. During the stoppage in play I took a look up at the big screen and there’s a replay of me with my hands down Tucker’s pants. The crowd all started laughing. It was a bit embarrassing.”
Known for his calm demeanor and excellent communication skills, Galloway took the pant/puck experience all in stride. And as they say, 1,000 games later he’s still retrieving pucks and doing what he loves best: working hockey games.