All-Star Weekend A New Experience For Lehigh Valley's Off Ice Officials

Thursday, January 26, 2017
The McDevitt family is excited to share the All-Star experience together this weekend.
Lehigh Valley's 'All-Star' Off-Ice Crew Scoring 2017 AHL All-Star Classic

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

ALLENTOWN - When the Lehigh Valley Phantoms play on home ice at the PPL Center, a crew of 13 men and women are in charge to 'score the game'.

Scoring the game, however, means a lot more than just keeping tally of which team scores.

These off-ice officials keep track of a ton of stats - simple ones like goals, assists and plus/minus as well as more complex ones like time on ice for each of the 36 skaters participating in the game. This is all done on the fly, and hockey fans should be aware there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

"It gets stressful," Meghan McDevitt, the Phantoms' real-time scoring official said when asked about keeping up with everything going on during the course of a game. "There's a lot of information all at once, it happens really quickly."

Meghan, her father Steve - who is usually a statistician or penalty timekeeper - and the rest of the Phantoms' All-Star off-ice officials should probably expect a busy weekend when the PPL Center hosts the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic January 29-30th. In Monday's three-on-three on tournament especially, the goals will likely come in bunches.

Under the direction of Chris Fair - the supervisor of off-ice officials at the Phantoms' home games - almost all of these 13 individuals who help keep track of everything during Phantoms' games for the American Hockey League (AHL) are residents of the Lehigh Valley or were in some way associated with the team in a prior capacity in Philadelphia or Atlantic City for the few games the Phantoms played in Boardwalk Hall.

"This isn't just a Monday night game for us," Fair, an Easton, PA native, said of the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic. "The folks assigned Sunday and Monday are our top performers, and have earned their "roster spot" much like the players, coaches, and on-ice officials have."

McDevitts Excited to Share All-Star Experience As A Family

Steve McDevitt was an on-ice official, working his way up the USA hockey ranks from youth and high-school games to the collegiate level before a knee injury during a college game three years ago put his on-ice officiating career on hold.

Luckily for him, an opportunity arose in off-ice officiating with an incoming AHL team as the Philadelphia Flyers relocated their franchise to the Lehigh Valley.

"I said I would be interested in doing off-ice officiating," Steve recalled in conversations prior to the Phantoms' arrival in Allentown. "Chris remembered that and when the opportunity arose, he threw my name in the ring. I've been with off-ice officiating crew since the inaugural season."

Steve's eldest daughter, Meghan, had an interesting breakthrough into the field.

"We were heading out for a game and my dad was involved and he was an official," Meghan recalled. "It was a pretty snowy night and a few guys couldn't make it, so I kind of just jumped in and got involved that way."

Since then, Meghan has been responsible for real-time scoring at PPL Center.

"All the stats you see during the games, I'm responsible for compiling them and putting them into LeagueStat throughout the game," Meghan explained.

Steve's younger daughter, Emily, is also a part of the All-Star crew that will be working the AHL's premier event this weekend. Emily will work the Skills Competition on Sunday, while Steve and Meghan will be handling some of the All-Star Challenge duties on Monday night.

"It's a great honor and it's nice that my hard work throughout the season is recognized," Meghan said of being selected to work on All-Star weekend, adding, "I'm especially excited because it's pretty cool to be able to this with my dad. Not a lot of people get that opportunity, so it's a pretty special thing for me."

Phantoms' Off-Ice Officials Continuing Experience

In their third season as an AHL franchise, the Phantoms are hosting the league's premier event for the first time. Much like how the organization is learning and gaining experience on the fly, the off-ice officials are too.

"The overwhelming majority of our crew has 3 seasons of AHL experience or less - all in Allentown," Fair said. "For them, All-Stars is a new experience."

That's not to say the crew in Allentown isn't qualified. Considering the Phantoms have scored more goals so far this season than any other team in the league, perhaps these off-ice officials are more prepared than any to host the All-Star Challenge where there figures to be plenty of goals scored.

"I think if you look at this season in comparison to the last and the year before, our group has certainly gotten quicker and more accurate as the seasons have gone on," Fair explained. "I have the utmost confidence that our group will be fine, but at the same time everyone is certainly aware of the extra pressure for sure."

Indeed, there will plenty of extra attention focused on the Phantoms' organization as the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic on Sunday and Monday will be televised to some 100 million households throughout North America, including national audiences on Sportsnet and Sportsnet ONE in Canada and more than 20 regional networks across the United States.


Post a Comment