It’ll be a banner night for linesman Vaughan Rody tonight in Winnipeg. The veteran official will be honored on Monday in his hometown for reaching the 1000-game mark prior to puck drop between the Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets.
Rody will take the ice alongside linesman Lonnie Cameron and referees Ian Walsh and Tom Kowal. Rody actually officiated his milestone game last season – a February 19, 2017, tilt between the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks.
Rody made his NHL debut in 2000, working a game between the St. Louis Blues and then-Mighty Ducks in Anaheim. His first playoff appearance came two seasons later. He’s also suited up for the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, as well as the Heritage Classic that same season.
It’s been quite a career for the veteran official, who’s been wearing the stripes since age 14.
“I realized I wasn’t going to make it anywhere as a player and thought maybe I could remain involved in the game somehow,” Rody said. “It’s a long process, playing and refereeing are completely different. When you’re playing you’re so puck-focused and when you’re officiating you’re not puck-focused because 75 per cent of the penalties happen away from the puck.”
Despite numerous bumps and bruises along the way, including a back injury that required spinal surgery and saw him sidelined for over a year, Rody never lost his appreciation for his job on the ice.
“Every day is fortunate,” Rody once said. “When I put my jersey on before every game, quite frankly, I wouldn’t trade places with anybody. I think I have the greatest job in the world.”
Rody’s thrilled to be able to celebrate this milestone in front of a packed house in Winnipeg that will include family, friends, and many players and officials he’s coached along the way.
“To be able to do this back home where you started,” Rody told the Winnipeg Sun. “This game will give me a chance to say thank-you to guys who gave me a start.”
One person Rody would certainly love to thank will be there in spirit.
“My dad used to wear this grey fedora,” he told the CBC. “I bought 38 tickets [for tonight’s game], and 37 people we invited … and the one ticket that I don’t want anybody sitting in that seat is my dad’s. I’m going to go down there, just me and his hat a little earlier before the game,” he said.
“I’m going to make sure his hat is sitting where I can see it when I’m on the ice.”
From the NHLOA:
Rody, like most of the Canadian kids, played hockey growing up dreaming of making the NHL. His playing career ended at age 17 and by then he was already into his third season as a hockey official. He started out at the age of 14 working for six and seven year olds to stay involved in the great game of hockey and earning a few bucks. He quickly climbed the officiating ranks of the Manitoba Amateur Hockey Association.
Then at the age of 24, he took a leave of absence from his job in Winnipeg and, hoping to increase his chance to make the NHL Officiating Team, accepted a Full Time WHL Linesman job and moved to the Seattle area to begin working the Western Hockey League. The WHL job paid sparingly so he also took a job at Boeing as an Inspector on the 777 program. His shifts would start at 5:18AM and end at 1:18PM, he then would drive to his games at various locations throughout Washington State and return late that evening for work the next morning.
He would go on and work a total of 10 years in the WHL and 6 at Boeing before getting the long due phone call from the National Hockey League offering him an NHL full-time linesman contract at the age of 30. Rody made his NHL debut in Anaheim, CA on October 8th, 2000 when the St. Louis Blues were in town to play the then Mighty Ducks. His on-ice performances were quickly acknowledged and rewarded when he was selected to work the Stanley Cup Playoffs after just two full NHL seasons. He made his first playoffs appearance on April 18th, 2002 in Denver, CO, officiating a game between the hometown Avalanche and the visiting Los Angeles Kings.
Then a decade later, on November 2013, while skating in a game in Raleigh, N.C., Rody got bumped from behind by a player on an innocent play in front of the net hitting his left side. He knew right away that something was not right but continued working for another two months, going thru pain and discomfort trying to save his season. He would find himself on the surgical table in February 2014 to repair a herniated disk, a procedure called laminectomy, in which they remove part of the vertebral bone. A few weeks later now pain-free and hitting the gym full-speed to get back at work, he had his eyes on a special assignment; he was assigned to work the 2014 NHL Heritage Classic in Vancouver B.C., a great chance for his kids to see him work a showcase game. This is when it went from bad to worse for the man who wears jersey number 73. Spinal fluid had seeped from his spine and one of his discs collapsed leaving him with a rotary listhesis, having no other choice but to have to go into surgery again for a spinal fusion in July of 2014 just to be able to walk, if the spinal fusion wasn’t enough, he faced the challenge of having his spinal fusion infected in the surgery which caused Vaughan to spend 6 Weeks in the Seattle/ Everett Disease Center where he underwent his 3rd back surgery and ongoing intravenous IV antibiotic treatments to try and clear the infection up.
After a long recovery and a challenging rehab, Rody made it back to the show on February 13th, 2015 a little over a year after he last skated in an NHL game in Vancouver. Things only got better from then as he was assigned to work the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville the following season. Then, in the fall of 2016, Rody was assigned to another NHL Heritage Classic game, one that he would actually end up working, this time in his hometown of Winnipeg, MB making this even more special.
Congratulations to NHL linesman Vaughan Rody on 1000 games!