His latest foray in the game is yet another check mark off his hockey bucket list as he and four long-time friends are skating in the 60 & Over division at the 2020 Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey Championships.
“We wanted to wait until we were 60 because I was watching all these guys who are in their 50s and they’re a lot better and stronger and quicker,” LaRue said after his Spokane Jets teammates won their opening game, 17-8 against the DQs on Friday.
Skating at this year’s tournament, which was moved to the World Championship Derby Complex due to unplayable conditions on Dollar Lake, is a return to where it all began for LaRue. He was born in Savannah, Ga., but moved to Spokane when his father was stationed there in the Army.
“We grew up about six blocks from the pond where I started skating when I was 10 years old,” LaRue recalled. “That’s where it all started for me, so this is great to be able to come back and do it again.”
This is not the first time hockey has brought LaRue back to the great outdoors. In 2012 he earned the call to officiate the NHL Winter Classic in Philadelphia. Even though he was skating on one of hockey’s biggest stages, the memories that it invoked of days gone by made it one of his many career highlights.
“The outdoor experience in Philadelphia was fantastic,” said LaRue, who worked 1,222 regular season NHL games and another 58 playoff games including the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. “It reminds you of what it’s like when you’re a kid growing up. And then you have the good fortune of doing it in the NHL in front of a bunch of people, but it still has that small feel to it.”