The Six Degrees Of Separation

A Step-By-Step Look At Lou Vairo’s Impact On The Hockey World

Most of us have heard of the “Kevin Bacon Game,” where the goal is to link any actor to Kevin Bacon through their roles in movies, TV shows or commercials in no more than six steps.
The game is based on the six degrees of separation, which refers to the idea that everyone is no more than six steps away from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in six steps or fewer.

USA Hockey Magazine wanted to show how small the hockey world can be by linking a number of different hockey people to USA Hockey’s iconic coach, Lou Vairo, in six moves or less. These individuals and locations were randomly selected from around the United States with the idea of linking hockey people of different backgrounds and locations back to USA Hockey’s national office in Colorado Springs.

Youth Player, Kevin Chilton

Oak Park, Calif.

Kevin Chilton is a defenseman with the 1 California Titans, which was crowned the 2010 North American Prospects Hockey League champions. The Titans skate out of the 2 Iceoplex rink in Simi Valley, Calif. One of the Iceoplex’s investors is super agent 3 Pat Brisson, who has been instrumental in the growth of hockey in Southern California. Before becoming an agent, Brisson was an up-and-coming hockey player, spending one season playing for the 4 Tilb

urg Trappers in a professional league in Holland, where his coach was 5 Lou Vairo.

Female Player, Gretchen Tarrant

Colchester, Vt.

Junior Player, Mike Chiasson

Omaha Lancers

Mike Chiasson, a defenseman for the 1 Omaha Lancers in the USHL, is the son of 2 Steve Chiasson, who played in the NHL from 1987-99 with the Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames and Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes. During the 1995-96 season with the Flames, the elder Chiasson played with 3 Corey Millen, who played center on the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team, coached by 4 Lou Vairo.

Gretchen Tarrant, a 15-year-old player on the Rice Knights High School team in Vermont, is the 1 daughter of 1988 Calgary Flames draftee, Jerry Tarrant, who played four years at the University of Vermont under head coach 2 Mike Gilligan. In 2006, Gilligan was an assistant coach with the 3 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team, which was coached by 4 Ben Smith. Before leading the U.S. Women’s squad to the first Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey in Nagano, Japan, Smith was an assistant coach with the 5 1998 U.S. Men’s Select Team that won the IIHF Pool “A” qualifying tournament in Klagenfurt, Austria that earned the American men a spot in the 1998 Olympic tournament. That team was coached by 6 Lou Vairo.

Inline Player, Zach Anderson

Odessa, Fla.

Zach Anderson played on the 1 Florida team that won the State Wars Roller Hockey National Championship in 2008. The State Wars Roller Hockey Championship was created by 2 Tim McManus, who coached the Mission Snipers to a NARCh title in 2008. One of McManus’ players was 3 Kyle Kraemer, who was a member of the U.S. squad that won a gold medal at the 2010 IIHF World Inline Championship. The general manager of that team was 4 Dan Brennan, who works at the USA Hockey National Office with 5 Lou Vairo.

Referee, Paul Wilkinson


Minnesota transplant Paul Wilkinson is a registered coach, adult player and referee. He has officiated pro hockey for 12 years, in addition to working seven USA Hockey National Championships. Paul has also played in 1 a men’s league in Houston with Poul Popiel, Don Larway and Glen Irwin, who all played with 2 Gordie Howe as a member of the Houston Aeroes. Howe’s son, 3 Mark, was a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team that won silver in Sapporo, Japan. One of Mark’s teammates was 4 Henry Boucha, who helped create the NHL’s Diversity Task Force with 5 Lou Vairo.

Disabled Player, Joe Howe

Washington, D.C.

Joe Howe, a member of the 1 NOVA Cool Cats special hockey team, became friends with 2 Olaf Kolzig when the Washington Capitals goalie would shop at the Annapolis, Md., Safeway store where Howe worked as a bagger. Kolzig surrendered his first NHL goal to 3 Paul MacDermid of the Hartford Whalers on Oct. 11, 1989. MacDermid would play for four teams in his NHL career, including the Winnipeg Jets where he was teammates with rookie sensation 4 Keith Tkachuk, who played for the 1992 U.S. National Junior Team that was coached by 5 Walt Kyle, who played for the Austin Mavericks during the 1975-76 season for 6 Lou Vairo.

Coach, Doug Kirton

Coach/Hockey Director Sno-King
AmateuR Hockey Association in Seattle

After a successful Junior hockey career with the Orillia Travelways in Canada, Doug Kirton earned a scholarship to 1 Colorado College where he played from 1986-90. Before entering Colorado College, Kirton was selected by the 2 New Jersey Devils in the 1986 NHL Draft, where 3 Lou Vairo was an assistant coach during the 1985-1986 season.

Adult Player, David Zak

Anthem, Ariz.

David Zak plays for 1 The Bottomfeeders in an Adult League in Peoria, Ariz. There he frequently played with 2 Tim Watters, who enjoyed a 14-year NHL career. After he retired, Watters took over the head coaching job at Michigan Tech University, where one of his assistant coaches was 3 Marc Boxer, who is the manager of Youth and Junior Hockey for USA Hockey in Colorado Springs, where his office is next door to 4 Lou Vairo, the Director of Special Projects.

Rink Manager, Steve MacSwain

Palmer, Alaska

Steve MacSwain was a freshman in high school when Lou Vairo told a packed room of Alaskan youth hockey players, “There is a great big world of hockey and you should go attack it.” That’s exactly what MacSwain did, playing Junior hockey with the 1 Dubuque Fighting Saints and then at the 2 University of Minnesota before embarking on a long professional career. In 1982, MacSwain attended the National Junior Camp in Colorado Springs where he was a roommate of 3 Chris Chelios. Chelios made the team and would go on to play for 4 Vairo on the 1984 Olympic Team. MacSwain, who didn’t make the squad, said that Vairo had a lasting impression on him. “He may be the only coach who ever cut me that I still talk to and hold in the highest regards.”

College Player, Torey Krug

High School Player, Justin Holl

Minnetonka, Minn.

Justin Holl was a star defenseman for 1 Minnetonka High School this past season before being drafted in the second round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the 2 Chicago Blackhawks. One of Holl’s assistant coaches at Minnetonka was 3 Dave Jensen, who was a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team that was coached by 4 Lou Vairo.

Livonia, Mich.

Torey Krug, captain of the 2010-11 Michigan State University team played in the USHL for the 1 Indiana Ice, which is owned by 2 Paul Skjodt. Skjodt played professionally with the 3 Indianapolis Checkers of the International Hockey League and was a teammate of 4 Monty Trottier, whose brother Rocky played for the New Jersey Devils during the 1984-85 season when 5 Lou Vairo was an assistant coach. Also, Krug’s teammates on the Spartans are Dean and Jake Chelios, whose father, Chris, played for Lou on the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team.

NHL Player, Erik Cole

Charlotte, N.C.

Erik Cole was drafted by the 1 Carolina Hurricanes in 1998 after playing college hockey at Clarkson University where he was coached by 2 Mark Morris. Morris played minor league hockey for the New Haven Nighthawks with 3 Ralph Cox, who was one of the last players cut from the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team where 4 Lou Vairo was an advance scout and confidant of Herb Brooks.

NHL General Manager, Ray Shero


Ray Shero was a talented Junior player who was injured at the 1 1981 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp, which was run by 2 Lou Vairo, who was head coach of the squad. He would go on to play four seasons at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. Vairo was also roommates with Fred Shero, former head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, during a trip to Moscow to study the Russian hockey system. Fred Shero was Ray Shero’s father.



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