Referee Garrett Rank had a busy season on the ice, but it’s his off-ice game that’s keeping him even busier these days.
Hired by the NHL in 2014, Rank made his NHL debut on January 15, 2015, working a full AHL season with a handful of NHL games. For 2015-16, the Elmira native handled 77 games – 31 in the NHL and 46 in the AHL – and was chosen to work the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs.
While he’s moving up in the world of hockey officiating, Rank has already established himself as a solid golfer, winning the Toronto Star Amateur in 2011, the 2012 national championship with the Waterloo Warriors, and medaling at the USGA Public Links Championship in 2013. He was runner-up at the 2012 USGA Mid-Amateur, just missing out on an invitation to the Masters in Augusta. He also earned stroke-play medalist honors in the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and advanced to the Round of 32 in the 2014 U.S. Amateur. This is Rank’s 11th U.S. Golf Association championship.
Though he’s focused on the links, he’s also playing an important role on the ice – officiating in the AHL playoffs.
“It’s the conference finals and two pretty good teams,” said Rank, of the Toronto Marlies and Hershey Bears, battling for a trip to the Calder Cup Finals. “They played a close game the night before. The third period, they entered tied and I knew eventually it was going to go to overtime. I was just hoping they weren’t there for four or five overtimes. I love work, love hockey, love golf, love competing so I’m enjoying the best of both worlds right now.”
Garrett Rank is no different than the rest, other than the fact he couldn’t call in sick on Saturday night. Rank is a rising hockey official who had an assignment to officiate Saturday night’s American Hockey League Calder Cup matchup between the Toronto Marlies and the Hershey Bears in Hershey, Pa. – about a 3 hour, 15 minute drive from Mamaroneck. So Rank played early Saturday, shooting 65 with partner Patrick Christovich, one of the country’s top mid-ams, then drove to Hershey, put on his whistle and skates, called his game – which went into overtime, of course – then got back to New York shortly before 2 a.m. to get whatever rest he could for Round 2.
Rank, 28, and Christovich, 37, played well, shooting 5-under 65 on the West to easily advance to Monday’s Round of 32 match-play session. You can bet Rank was the only player in the field who had soaking-wet hockey equipment drying out beneath his car in the parking lot of one of America’s most esteemed clubs.
(The equipment was well hidden, and hey, that’s a secret.)
The way that Rank sees it, he’s able to enjoy the best of two worlds. He loves hockey, loves officiating, and that’s his regular job. And when he gets some time off, he’s able to grab his clubs and head to the golf course. That’s his second passion. He’s been good enough to make the final of the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur and advance to match play in the 2015 U.S. Amateur.
So how’d he feel out there Sunday?
“Fine,” he said. “I consider myself in pretty good shape, and fake being ‘an athlete,’ you could call it. You know what? You get some good food after the game and I got seven hours of sleep, so it wasn’t too bad. A little bit sore today in the hips and legs, but other than that, I was fine.”
Rank, who makes his home in Elmira, Ontario, said he plays some of his best golf when he’s a little on the sore and groggy side, as one might be after skating up and down a sheet of ice for three periods and an overtime session.
“You’re not really thinking too much out there (on the golf course), and it’s a good thing when you don’t think, right?” he said. “You just stay out of your own way. It lets you be an artist instead of a scientist, right?”
Rank worked 31 NHL games this season and 46 AHL games, and hopes to learn later this summer that he’ll be elevated to a full-time post with the NHL. At times, the job doesn’t allow for the golf – he has had to miss the last couple U.S. Mid-Amateurs to be in training camp – but he’s pleased to be playing as much as he is. Sunday, his game appeared to be in pretty good shape, too.
He was asked to name his bigger thrill: His first NHL assignment, or his first Canadian Amateur victory.
“I’m not going to lie, my first game was really emotional,” Rank said. “My dad passed away a couple years prior to that, and I know he would have been really proud and pumped for that experience. The Canadian Amateur is always a fun thing to do well at, because of the perk of getting to play the Canadian PGA Tour events.
“I don’t know. They’re totally different animals, but both really cool experiences.”
The U.S. Amateur Four Ball Championship runs through Wednesday.
The AHL officials are set for tonight’s Western Conference Final, with the next game of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday. With the rotation of officials through the Conference Finals, that should keep Rank off the ice until at least Thursday, giving him some time to focus on his golf game — something the Marlies and Bears are both hoping to avoid.