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After Coming Out, Gordie Mitchard Found Comfort & Support In Officiating Community


By Heather Rule


Becoming an Official was ‘One of the Best Decisions’ for Mitchard

Gordie Mitchard grew up playing hockey, though his dad kept encouraging him to give officiating a shot. It’s nice to have an extra couple hundred bucks, his dad would say. Nineteen-year-old Mitchard finally decided to try his hand at being a referee.

“If I like it, I’ll stick with it,” Mitchard recalled thinking. “And it really, truly turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.”

As part of the Junior Officiating Development Program, Mitchard traveled to various cities to work games at different levels and leagues. Mitchard, now 28, refereed youth and high school games before advancing to work games in the North American Hockey League, United States Hockey League and some in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

The benefits for Mitchard’s work as a referee went well beyond a paycheck or finding a new way to be part of the game. While Mitchard enjoyed playing hockey, the mental battles of being around 20 or so hyper-masculine teammates wasn’t easy, and it was difficult for him to cope with being different.

Due to the demands of traveling, officiating allowed for a lot of alone time. He might drive six hours to an arena, have his head in the game for three hours on the ice, get a bite to eat afterward with the other officiating crew members and then it was back to some more solitary time.

These experiences led him to speak his own truth when he came out to another referee, who is also gay.

“I took advantage of that windshield time to think about who I was, and reffing allowed me to have a lot of time to self-reflect,” Mitchard said. “I think I appreciated that as I was kind of trying to navigate how I was feeling internally."

When Mitchard played hockey as a preteen it was pretty common to hear “gay” used in a negative sense as well as a derogatory term for the LGBTQ+ community. It was easier to dismiss those instances earlier on until he became more comfortable with his internal feelings and more confidently gay. That’s when it struck him on a personal level.

“You ever have that feeling when you buy a new car, you all of a sudden start noticing that same car driving down the street?” Mitchard said, adding that’s what it was like for him being gay and hearing those terms. “So when I accepted myself, I think I became maybe hyper-sensitive to those words.”

The homophobic language and culture didn’t change much as he reached his teenage years and it proceeded into his college career at the University of Iowa.

But over the course of his officiating career, Mitchard also saw change. When he reached the North American Hockey League, homophobic language was not allowed. At the training camps, Mitchard recalled everyone being on the same page, noting that this type of language was overused and needed to stop to help change hockey’s culture.

Eventually, it was there in black-and-white in the rulebook. Homophobic language was not allowed. For Mitchard, it was the beginning for him to feel more comfortable.

USA Hockey has a zero-tolerance policy again language that is offensive, hateful or discriminatory in nature anywhere in the rink before, during or after the game.

“To know that even the non-gay, straight people that are reffing alongside me in this program are going to enforce this rule,” Mitchard said. “It was a start to change this culture.”

Still, Mitchard acknowledges that hockey in general has more to strive for in this regard.

“Things like Pride Nights and rainbow logos are awesome,” he said. “But I think we still have a long way to go internally in the locker rooms, potentially coaching staffs and players to change that shift.”

He has also enforced the rule, remembering one game in a relatively quiet arena without many fans. A team captain aggressively used an anti-gay slur for everyone to hear, so Mitchard called a penalty. The call wasn’t because Mitchard, who wasn’t out at the time, was angry. The league allowed Mitchard to make it known through his work that language like that was no longer acceptable.

He simply removed the player from the game, just as the rulebook outlines.

Before the next hockey season, Mitchard was hanging out with some fellow referees. He remembers them asking another referee, who was out, about his boyfriend and when they’d get to meet him. Mitchard called the experience “eye-opening” because the questions weren’t targeted at a weakness with the goal of exploitation.

“It was just sincere care that he was just like everybody else,” Mitchard said. “And that was huge for me.”

It left no nervous tension for Mitchard to come out at that time.

Once Mitchard was out and posted about his relationship on Facebook he heard from other people, including some other referees, who came out to him. That meant everything to Mitchard, who had to step away from officiating in 2018 because of health issues. He’s helped mentor some of these people and help them navigate steps like telling friends and family.

“Not only was it reassuring of the friendship that I had built with these people prior to coming out, but it was then reassuring going forward that they had the trust within me to hold onto their potentially biggest secret of their life,” Mitchard said.

He wants other hockey players and referees who may be struggling with coming out to know that they are loved and respected.

“And it’s hard. It’s hard to believe that,” Mitchard said. “But hopefully my story can reach people that need to hear it.”

(Originally published at



By Josh VanDyke


JACKSON – Patrick Campbell never met a stranger in his life.

The friendly presence of the former Jackson Lumen Christi standout was evidenced by his ability to strike up a conversation with anyone he came across. That kind of welcoming attitude helped him become a team captain on the Titans’ hockey team and a valuable member of the Lumen Christi boys golf and tennis programs.

The bright light to many has since dimmed, however, as complications that arose due to liver failure took Campbell’s life last week, leaving the entire Lumen Christi community in a state of mourning.

“It’s a huge loss for the entire Jackson area, especially the Lumen Christi community,” said Lumen Christi varsity hockey coach Mike Wartella. “For me, personally, it really hurts because I lost someone that I considered a friend. You don’t really expect someone that young to be taken away from you so abruptly, so it’s a painful time for a lot of people and my heart goes out to his family.”

Wartella attended a celebration of Patrick’s life at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Michigan Center on Tuesday in what was just a small glimpse into what he meant to the local community.

“It was just a tremendous turnout,” he said. “You can tell he meant so much to so many people and he touched a lot of lives. It’s just always a sad day when you have to say goodbye to a 24-year-old who had a full life ahead of him.

“He was the type of kid that, when he saw you, he always made sure he came over and said hello. We would chat for a few minutes every time we ran into each other and he was just the type of kid who could strike up a conversation with anybody. He was a great kid to have in any locker room and he will be missed by so many.”

Campbell played two years on the Lumen Christi varsity hockey team, scoring 57 goals in 52 games and adding 45 assists for 102 points. His senior year, Campbell tallied an impressive 38 goals and 24 assists in just 24 games to finish second all-time in program history for goals scored in a single season. He was voted team captain and offensive MVP by his teammates and earned second team All-State honors, as well as All-Conference accolades for his tremendous season.

He also set the program record for most assists in a single game with six against Holt in 2014 and his 62 points that season are seventh all-time in program history.

“Patrick was one of the best offensive players we have ever had,” said Wartella. “He was a big, strong kid at 6-foot-2, and he had one of the strongest shots from the blue line that we’ve ever had. He was also a great leader. He was one of our captains that season in 2014 and things didn’t go quite the way we had hoped to start the year. We struggled a little bit offensively, our goalie got hurt the second or third game in, so we were 1-6 through December.

“Our first game back from Christmas Break was against Okemos and we were down 2-1 with two or three minutes left and we were shorthanded, so things weren’t looking good. We managed to turn them over in their own zone and get a shorthanded goal to tie the game up and Pat immediately looked back at me and said, “Coach, we’re going to win this game’ and I started to believe that myself.

“A few shifts later, he was out there on the penalty kill and he stole the puck at the blue line and skated through the defense and scored with a minute left in the game to win it for us. That win really turned our season around. We ended up going 13-5 the rest of the regular season, but that was just a small example of what Pat was all about. He was always confident in himself and his teammates and that really motivated the rest of the team whenever he spoke up or made a big play on the ice.

“Everyone knew when Pat had the puck on his stick, special things were going to happen.”

Campbell went on to play hockey at Adrian College but would also make time to swing by a Lumen Christi hockey practice or game to chat with his younger brother, Owen, and instill some words of wisdom with the current players in the program.

“I got to see Pat quite a bit this past year or two because he was always coming around to games and practices. He always had great things to say to the current roster of guys to help boost them up a little bit and stay motivated during the longer grinds of the season.

“He pushed his brother quite a bit, along with Owen’s friends, because he wanted to see them keep working hard and improving on their games. He was a really good influence to have around the program and a lot of our current guys really looked up to him, because they knew he was a great player and a great teammate during his time at Lumen.”

Campbell is survived by his parents Neal and Marcy (Dunigan) Campbell, two brothers, Bradley and Owen Campbell; grandmothers, Janet Dunigan and Emma Campbell, and several aunts, uncles and cousins.

“We lost a good one,” said Marcy Campbell, Patrick’s mother. “He lived a great life and always brightened up whatever room he was in. As parents, it’s crushing. He’s also got two brothers and they are devastated too. His funeral was incredibly touching. You would have thought he was a celebrity with the way people were talking about him and how many people came to show their respects.

“It was amazing to see how many people cared about Patrick and we feel blessed that so many members of our community have reached out over the past week to offer their support.”

Sports were always a part of Patrick’s life, according to his mother, and helped turn him into the young man he eventually became.

“He was honestly an athlete by nature,” said Marcy Campbell. “He was riding around on a bike at age two and it just seemed like everything came easy to him. He grew up playing baseball and hockey and he was honestly just as good at both sports. When he went to Lumen Christi, he wanted to play golf. So, he dropped baseball and picked up golf.

“He always loved sports and competition in general. Even after his high school golf career was over, he and his friends would compete at high-stakes golf scrambles and he’d bring in a good chunk of money just by winning those tournaments. I think what he loved most about sports though was the locker room and the players he competed with. He was always a very social kid and he just loved being around his friends and making people laugh.”

(Originally published at

Honoring The Legacy of Larry Brzeczkowski

From Niagara ACHA Hockey

By Niagara ACHA Hockey


Honoring The Legacy of Larry Brzeczkowski

Earlier this month, former Head Coach Larry Brzeczkowski tendered his resignation to Niagara University after an illustrious 26-year career on Monte Eagle Ridge. The impact he’s made on the NU community and the several hundreds of players who have battled under his command is simply indescribable. Despite everything that he was able to build, accomplish and duplicate as the second-most winning coach in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, the affluence of character he radiates on a daily basis will forever solidify his legacy behind the bench at Dwyer Arena.

Director of Recreation and Club Sports, Derek Puff had this to say about his longtime friend and co-worker:

“We will miss Larry greatly. He bled purple for 25 years and poured his heart and soul into building the ACHA hockey program into what it is today. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for him and the work that he has done in his time at NU.”

Brzeckowski graduated from Buffalo State College with an ACHA National Championship and a scoring title in 1993. He would later parlay the success he established as a player into a program that has grown to incredible heights under his reign. It is no secret that the respect he’s garnered from players, coaches and even officials directly stems from his seemingly never-ending selfless approach to the game.

For 26 straight years, he has put the physical and mental well-being of his players at the forefront of every season. In doing so, he was able to generate a lifetime worth of memories for each and every Purple Eagle to lace up in our room.

When diving into the analytics, Larry essentially defines what it means to be a successful collegiate hockey coach. In a single career, he created a program that once rostered 13 players a night and evolved it into a premier destination for collegiate athletes hailing from all over the globe.

From 2013 through 2017, Brzeczkowski bossed the bench in 5 straight NECHL Championship games, securing 3 of them. When referencing individual game performance, he fell just 1-goal shy of securing a victory against a #1 seed in 2014 (Arizona State).

In order to take an ACHA Division 1 program to new heights, breaking into the National Tournament is a must. Brzeczkowski would accomplish this feat on 4 separate occasions in the last 7 years, alone. He would eventually break through to the semi-final round with a 7-2 victory over the Robert Morris Colonials on Thursday, March 5th, 2015.

Fast-forward to the 2019-2020 season, He would lock-up his 4th Northeast Collegiate Hockey League Championship in just 7 years. The victory punched the team another ticket to their 5th ACHA National Tournament appearance since 2013.

With all of the accolades mentioned above, none are more impressive than his 345 wins in ACHA play. He currently ranks second only to University of Rhode Island Head Coach Joe Augustine on the all-time wins list ... someone he considers a great personal colleague and friendly foe.

Despite all of his on-paper accomplishments, the countless amount of victories he’s secured in the hearts of so many is what he will always be remembered for. Larry has served as a father-figure, player representative, spokesperson, role model, friend, sponsor and colleague to an infinite amount of people throughout his career with the Niagara University Purple Eagles. His philanthropic nature will live on through the charitable donations the team will continue to make on an annual basis. The most notable foundation being that of Suneel’s Light - An organization dedicated to funding the research currently being conducted to help eradicate Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy from the world.

Larry Brzeckowski bleeds purple. He is the heartbeat of our team and will go down as the single most important person to ever come through our program. The team will host a game in his honor, each and every year, beginning this season. We are currently working with Larry to determine an exact date and time.

Larry, from all of us ... Thank you. We love you. You gave us everything ... everything.

(Originally published at


During Pride Month, and on this NHL Pride Day as a proud member of the NHL’s Declaration of Principles, the ACHA celebrates love, equality & inclusion for all.



USA Hockey CEP Modifications to Safely Complete Your Certification for 2020-21


USA Hockey has developed procedures to allow for safe coaching certifications while dealing with Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines. Please click the link below to find out how you can remain in compliance for the 2020-21 season.

Go to 2020-21 Coaching Certification Information

Cougars hopeful, but cautious

From The Sault Star

By Peter Ruicci


For the hockey teams at Sault College, a recent announcement by the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) was surely good news.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACHA, an athletics association which regulates operations and promotes quality in collegiate hockey south of the border, plans a typical start to the 2020-2021 season.

Earlier this month, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) announced the cancellation of all varsity sports until at least Jan. 1, 2021.

“The ACHA announcement is a positive for us,” agreed Mike Hall, who coaches the Sault College men’s team, the only Canadian entry in the ACHA.

The Cougars women’s team, coached by Brianne Veale, is one of three Canadian women’s entries.

“I’m hopeful, but there are a lot of things that have to fall into place before we can start playing this season,” Hall added.

At the top of that list, the Canada – United States border, closed to non-essential travel since March 21,  would have to open.

All of the Cougars games, home and away, involve competition against American teams.

“But that’s only one piece of the puzzle,” Hall added.

Canadians returning home are expected to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“That would be a huge issue for our students and staff,” Hall noted. “I can’t ask our players to go away to play games for the weekend and then, if school is in session, not to attend for two weeks.”

There’s also the question of Sault College’s plan for the fall.

Will students study on campus, on-line or a combination of both?

On-line studies would likely preclude any plans for the school to ice hockey teams.

Meantime, among the reasons for optimism is this: The ACHA permits schools to set their own schedules.

“Basically, you can start playing whenever you’d like,” said Hall, who, if necessary, could elect to have the Cougars begin play in November, December, or even January.

“Starting a little bit later is a possibility. We just have to make sure we complete the minimum 18-game requirement in order to quality for regionals and national championships,” he added.

Asked about the big picture, Hall agreed he and Veale and their players are presently in a holding pattern.

In 2018-2019, the Cougars men’s team won the ACHA Division 3 championship.

Last season, they were four days away from departing for the ACHA’s D-2 championships in Texas, when the coronavirus pandemic brought a halt to the season.

“That was certainly hard on the players,” Hall said. “With all the talk about a second wave (of COVID-19) this fall, I don’t know what the right thing to do is.”

The coach wondered whether “we should try to have a season and maybe see it cancelled. Or is it better to not have a season at all?”

The 2020-2021 Cougars men’s team can potentially return the vast majority of its roster.

However, the one big loss is indeed that.

Star forward Ryan Vendramin, a dominant force in the ACHA, will not return.

“At some point, all good things come to an end,” Hall said. “In my estimation, everyone is replaceable. But certainly not to the skill-set level of Ryan.”

Still, the coach added, the club figures to return a “great core group.”

Asked if he has an inclination as to how the school feels about its men’s and women’s teams competing this fall, Hall said he’s not sure.

“I can’t speak for the school,” he added. “But their priority will be the safety of the students and staff. If that can be done safely, I think they’ll support it. If it can’t, I think they won’t support it.”

(Originally published at

SECHC freezes Ice Dawgs’ hockey season until 2021

From The Red & Black

By William Newlin


Competition in the South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference will be frozen this fall. On July 27, the organization of 17 hockey clubs, including the Georgia Ice Dawgs, decided to postpone the start of its 2020-21 season until January.

“I was very upset, obviously,” rising sophomore Ice Dawgs member Dylan Spicer said. “I wanted to play and so did all of my teammates. We’re all just hopeful that it will continue in January, so I guess that’s all we’re looking forward to now.”

Last season, the Ice Dawgs finished 15-11-2 over games spanning Sept. 13-Feb. 1 and placed third in the February SECHC tournament. Their six-team SECHC East division also includes Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State and Tennessee.

As a club sports team, the Ice Dawgs fall outside the purview of regulatory bodies such as the NCAA and SEC, which delayed its soccer, volleyball and cross country seasons to Aug. 31 and its football season to Sept. 26.

Instead, SECHC teams must follow the club sports guidelines of their respective schools. According to the SECHC statement, some member schools have canceled fall club seasons altogether, a key factor in the decision to postpone. 

“By delaying the start of the season, this will give the SECHC and its teams time to re-evaluate many things like scheduling, budget and status with their respective universities,” SECHC commissioner Justin Bradford said in the conference’s statement.

In its “Plan for a Phased Return to Full Operations” last updated on June 9, UGA said its club teams will abide by the same safety protocols developed for varsity sports.

The document categorized both intramural and club sports as facing a high risk of modification to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19. According to the document, mitigation strategies include disinfecting equipment, screening participants, limiting the number of players and spacing out game times.

Georgia’s Department of Recreational Sports assistant director Michael Husted did not go into more detail about what the club sports landscape will look like this fall.

In an email, Husted said teams have sent practice schedules to the department and will have the opportunity to practice with modifications, although he said it was the department’s understanding that club teams around the state have travel restrictions in place.

“There is a different impact on clubs depending on if the club is a contact vs. non-contact and if the club is larger or smaller. The guidelines might vary slightly, however, all clubs need to adhere to all local, state and university guidelines,” Husted said in the email.

Spicer said that in a recent team meeting, Ice Dawgs coach Brian Daley told his athletes the team will hold tryouts in late-August and practice throughout the fall. As of now, Spicer said he’s not aware of what the safety protocols will look like on the ice.

The Ice Dawgs' plan is to play a shortened spring season and potentially compete in both the SECHC and American Collegiate Hockey Association championships next spring, the sophomore said. The ACHA pushed its championship from the end of March to mid-April to let teams make up games lost in the fall. 

“This is not the season we planned,” Spicer said. “I’m just going to look forward to winning it all in the second semester if it does happen.”

(Originally published at

Disaster Relief for M2 Iowa Head Coach & family


Yesterday, the Head Coach of M2 Iowa, Kevin Brooks, lost his home due to a tornado.  Everyone is safe but was a close call for Kevin and his dog.  They have insurance but will take awhile to rebuild etc. 


MACHA has started a gofundme for the Brooks family and asked the ACHA to send this message out to all ACHA folks who can possibly help in this time of need.  


The Hockey world, and the ACHA, are close community.  Let's meet and exceed the goal of $10K.


GoFundMe link:


Update from ACHA Executive Director Craig Barnett - August 18, 2020

AUGUST 18, 2020 - ACHA Executive Director Craig Barnett provides an update to ACHA membership regarding the upcoming 2020-2021 season! 


Watch the update on the Main Page of the ACHA website or at

Would you like to join ACHA?