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A few weeks ago, I received a call from USA Hockey. I was informed that I had been selected to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame's induction class of 2018. It takes a lot to render me speechless, but I was truly at a loss for words. I am very grateful to the selection committee for including me among so many of the sports luminaries.
My congratulations go out to my fellow inductees: David Poile, Red Berenson, Natalie Darwitz and to the family descendants of the late Leland "Hago" Harrington.
There's a joke in hockey circles that goes back to the days my U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer grandfather, Bill Stewart Sr., was coaching and refereeing in the NHL. It went like this: Want to spread hockey gossip in a hurry? The three fastest ways: telegram, telephone, tell-a-ref. After being told of my Hall of Fame selection, I was sworn to secrecy until the official announcement today from USA Hockey of the Class of 2018 honorees. Although I shared the good news with my family, I have kept it otherwise quiet until the news went public.
Being inducted in the Hall of Fame is something that I never dreamed would happen. I'm just a rough-around-the-edges kid from Dorchester and Jamaica Plain who would do anything to be at the rink. When I look at the company that I am being included with in the U.S. Hall -- the best officials, the great players, coaches, and builders of the game in our country -- it is humbling.
So many thoughts have raced through my head upon learning of my induction.
I have thought a lot about my late grandfather and dad. I think about my kids, McCauley and Maxwell, who are a bigger part of the reason I am still alive to see this day than I could ever explain to them. I think about how my wife, Lori, heeded Katie Couric's warning message on a "Today Show" broadcast and alerted me to the fact that I had all the symptoms for colon cancer. It was caught in the nick of time and I was saved to continue to live on in my life and to return to hockey.
I think about my teachers and coaches. I think often about my officiating mentors and those whom that I hope I have been able to pass along what I learned through the years. I think about my officiating teammates, especially the many amazing linesmen with whom I've worked, and about many of my teammates and opponents from my playing days. I think, too, of the scores of talented people with whom I was lucky enough to share the ice first as a player and then as a referee.
I think of all the wonderful people from all walks of life whom I've gotten to know over the years, both at and away from the rinks. Thank you all for friendship and kindness.
Lastly, I think about all of the learning experiences and example-setters over the course of my life. Many were positive. I even learned from those that were not-so-positive but each and every one shaped me in some way or another. This famous expression is a quotation from John Donne's "Devotions" (1624): “No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.”
I have always viewed myself as an ordinary man who found myself in unusual circumstances. I was never a star player, by any stretch of the imagination. I literally fought my way into playing in the World Hockey Association and National Hockey League because that was my ticket to living out my dream. Later, I made it back to the NHL in a striped jersey with orange bands. I refereed 1,010 games in the NHL before moving on the supervisory and administrative side of officiating at the collegiate, local and KHL levels. I believe that officiating is a noble profession.
Two decades ago, when I was told that I had an advanced stage of colon cancer, I bought a cemetery plot near that of grandfather, Bill Stewart Sr. who was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame 1983. Thanks to my doctors and nurses, the love and support of my family, my many friends in and out of all those rinks and my own will to fight, I am still alive to share a whole different type of real estate with Grampy: a spot in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.
A Class of 2018 inductee to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games. Today, Stewart is the director of hockey officiating for the ECAC. Visit his official website at YaWannaGo.com