Vaughan Rody dons his linesman gear on June 6 at his home in Lake Stevens. Rody officiated in the National Hockey League for 22 years and worked his last game in April before retiring. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Vaughan Rody dons his linesman gear on June 6 at his home in Lake Stevens. Rody officiated in the National Hockey League for 22 years and worked his last game in April before retiring. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Lake Stevens man calls it career after 22 years as NHL linesman

Vaughan Rody, who officiated his final game in April, said he “lived a dream.”

It’s not often the individuals wearing the black and white stripes at sporting events receive a standing ovation. Indeed, in hockey it’s customary for the officials to be booed as early as 45 minutes before puck drop, when they take the ice prior to warm-ups.

So when Vaughan Rody received the crowd’s adulation at Climate Pledge Arena during his final game as an NHL linesman, it was an appreciation of Rody’s long service to the game.

“It was pretty amazing, actually,” Rody said. “I had about 25 people there and the (Seattle) Kraken put them up in a suite. Then they made a wonderful announcement five minutes into the game. It may have been the only time an NHL official has ever received a standing ovation in a hockey game.”

Rody, a longtime Lake Stevens resident, worked the final game of his 22-year career when the Kraken hosted the Colorado Avalanche on April 20. With the Stanley Cup Final between the Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning beginning Wednesday, Rody is finally able to watch as a fan.

Before the Kraken were a gleam in Tod Leiweke’s eye; before the Everett Silvertips began sending players to the pros; heck, even before Everett native T.J. Oshie moved to Minnesota to play elite high school hockey, Rody was Snohomish County’s connection to the NHL. The 54-year-old from Winnipeg, Manitoba, first moved to the area in 1992 while he was officiating in the WHL, landing first in Marysville before settling in Lake Stevens. Rody then got the call from the NHL in 1999 and had been working at hockey’s highest level ever since.

“You dream about this job since you were 14 years old, and you get an opportunity to live your dream,” Rody said. “You go through the years and the days are long but the years are fast, they fly by. At the end you’re kind of standing there and thinking about all the people who played such a pivotal role in my career, whether that’s my supervisors or my parents.”

Vaughan Rody looks down at his number, 73, which he wore during his entire 22-year NHL career, on June 6 at his home in Lake Stevens. The league will keep his number vancant for the upcoming season before allowing new refs to wear it the following year. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Vaughan Rody looks down at his number, 73, which he wore during his entire 22-year NHL career, on June 6 at his home in Lake Stevens. The league will keep his number vancant for the upcoming season before allowing new refs to wear it the following year. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

As a linesman, Rody’s main duties consisted of making offside and icing calls, dropping the puck for faceoffs, and stepping in to break up fights after they’ve run their course. Those duties differ from the referees, who are responsible for calling penalties. Rody could have tried to be a referee, thus earning the orange armband, but he had to make a choice at the beginning of his officiating path.

“When I was coming through there were two linesmen jobs for every one referee job,” Rody explained about his decision. “Math was never a strong point for me in school, but even I knew the odds were better if I chose one over the other.”

Rody’s greatest asset as an official was skating ability. Rody skates like the wind, as he’s capable of keeping up with the NHL’s fastest skaters.

“I think if I gave (the NHL’s fastest players) a three- or four-second head start they’d be able to beat me,” Rody quipped, quickly amending that 20 years ago he could stay right with the NHL’s elite.

“It’s the most important aspect of the game,” Rody added in a more serious tone. “If you look around the NHL there aren’t a lot of 5-foot-10 guys in the NHL, especially when I started. You had to do something unique to separate yourself, and not to brag, but skating did separate me from a lot of people. I think it’s one of the things that kept me around and really allowed me to have the career I had.”

Rody officiated some big games during his tenure, including playoff games, the All-Star Game, the outdoor Heritage Classic and international exhibition games in advance of the Beijing Olympics. The one thing that eluded him was the Stanley Cup Final.

The game report from Vaughan Rody’s 1,232nd and final NHL game hangs on a wall in his home June 6 in Lake Stevens. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The game report from Vaughan Rody’s 1,232nd and final NHL game hangs on a wall in his home June 6 in Lake Stevens. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Rody also shared the ice with some of the biggest names in hockey history. But the ones he thinks most fondly about aren’t necessarily the game’s biggest point producers.

“I was really kind of drawn to the character guys in the NHL,” Rody said. “Guys who had great skill, but were character players who stuck up for teammates and were honest players. People like Jarome Iginla, Patrick Marleau, Jamie Benn, Anze Kopitar. Maybe my favorite player ever is Dustin Brown, I always loved the way he played, stuck up for teammates and competed. Both of my boys played hockey and I’d tell them all the time that these are the guys you want to emulate because they play the game the right way.”

So why did Rody decide now was the time to hang up his official’s whistle? Actually, that decision was made five years ago. The NHL likes to keep officials’ careers at around 20 years. In addition, injuries have taken their toll as Rody lost two years because of injuries, one to his back that required spinal fusion surgery and one to his shoulder.

“It’s a young man’s game,” Rody said. “They want to keep careers around the 18-23-year range. Injuries start to come into play, and the game is played at such a fast pace that they don’t want people left behind. So they approached me five years ago and asked what I was thinking, I told them I’d like five years and they said they can give me that. Knowing I would be leaving put me in a good spot to put other irons in the fire.”

A message from Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn is written on a jersey congratulating Vaughan Rody on his officiating career. Rody said Benn is one of the players he respected most during his career. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A message from Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn is written on a jersey congratulating Vaughan Rody on his officiating career. Rody said Benn is one of the players he respected most during his career. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Therefore, Rody already has his next step up and running. Rody and his wife, Jody, own an Amazon delivery franchise that began during the coronavirus pandemic with five vans and seven employees and has since grown to 32 vans and 77 employees. That’s in addition to his Pro Edge Skating camps that he’s run out of the Everett Community Ice Rink for many years.

But in his heart Rody will always be a linesman.

“I think the thing I’ll miss the most is being part of a team,” Rody said. “The NHL Officials Association, we’re all like brothers. There’s 84 of us and we go to battle with them every single say. I’ll miss the camaraderie in the hotels, the joking and laughing while sharing the occasional Captain Morgan and Diet Coke after the games. The game itself I won’t miss, I had a good run and it’s time for someone else to have a run. But I will miss my teammates.

“I lived a dream. I was lucky enough to be a little kid from Winnipeg and get the chance to see North America and the world. I had some real great memories in this league and in this business, and as I look back now I’m filled with a bit of pride that a young guy from Canada could achieve a dream.”

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