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'This is where my journey began': Winnipeg NHL linesman retires after 22 years

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Winnipeg-born linesman, Ryan Galloway, has officially put on his stripes for the last time.

In a full-circle moment, the St. James native worked his last professional game on Monday night at the Canada Life Centre, when the Winnipeg Jets skated to a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

“It was a special night of emotions of happiness, sadness, of the end of 40 years of doing something I've absolutely loved, but I’m excited for the next chapter and where it’s going to take my wife Rhonda and I,” said Galloway.

Around 200 friends and family were in attendance to celebrate Galloway’s momentous 1,406th game, where he was honoured by both teams for his storied 22-years in the league.

“Both the Kings and the Jets presented me with a signed jersey from the entire team,” said Galloway, “Two of the classiest men that we have in hockey, Anze Kopitar and the captain of the LA Kings, and Adam Lowry, the captain of the Winnipeg Jets both presented me with one of their signed sticks. The Winnipeg Jets organization gave me a nice framed game puck and game sheet from last night. Just wonderful items that I’m going to treasure for a very long time,”

After the excitement of the game, Galloway’s nearest and dearest continued the celebration with a reception which was attended by nearly 300 people.

”All these people that have been along on the journey with me,” he said, “I've been on their shoulders, they've, carried me, and it was just incredible, the support that both my wife and I have been given.”

Despite his deep affinity for the game, about 5 years ago, Galloway said he signed a succession planning agreement with the League, something he said has enabled him to go out on positive note.

“My heart and head still, you know, loves the game and still feel I could do it. But my body’s starting to tell me otherwise. These players still stay the same age and we keep getting older so it’s tougher and tougher to keep up with the game. It was just time.”

Galloway said he first fell in love with officiating at the age of 12, and started off his career working “five, six, and seven-year-old hockey.”

“I used to get paid with a hot dog and hot chocolate at the outdoor rink after the games and just progressed up through the ranks,” said Galloway, adding he then worked every level of hockey in the province including the Western Hockey League.

His first NHL game was an exhibition one here at home, between the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers in 2002.

“I always count that first game in Winnipeg as (being) my first game in the NHL, and I was incredibly fortunate to be able to celebrate my 1000th game in Winnipeg… and I was able to be here for that first game, when Jets 2.0 came back. It was very exciting.”

MANY CHANGES THROUGH THE DECADES

After more than 20 years in the sport’s top league Galloway’s witnessed lots of changes within it.

“The focus on fitness, the focus on athleticism, on skating, that's been a huge change as far as the expectations and what is required to do this job,” he said, “Technology obviously, has been a huge, huge change…When I first started, we used to get a VHS tape brought down to the dressing room after the game. And that's when we would watch the game and review our work, and our calls. And now we've got HD cameras that are on the blue line that are picking up every play.”

As for what this next chapter holds for him, Galloway says he’d like to get more involved with Hockey Manitoba and the Junior Hockey League, and provide some coaching and guidance to the next generation.

In true Manitoba fashion, he’s also looking forward to spending some quality time with his wife at their Betula Lake cottage.

“It’s going to be really nice just to be able to get to the cottage and not have a schedule of when we need to leave,” he said saying it will be nice to exercise without having to work out professionally.

When it comes to reflecting on the end of his professional career in the NHL, the fact that he got to celebrate the momentous occasion in his hometown of all places, was not lost on him.

“It was as incredibly special night being able to celebrate here in Winnipeg at home. This is where my journey began. And it was fitting to be able to have it wrap up and end in Winnipeg,” said Galloway.

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