Article by Adam Kirshenblatt – NHLOA Correspondent
The path to the NHL goes through the minor leagues.
This holds true if you’re a player or if you’re an official. This year the retirement of Rob Martell, Greg Kimmerly, Dennis Larue, Mike Civik, Brad Lazarowich, and Andy McElman, led to a number of promotions available to the NHL. Six NHLOA officials that were on minor league contracts received the ultimate reward of being promoted to a full time NHL status, these officials are: Shandor Alphonso (linesman), Devin Berg (linesman), Ryan Gibbons (linesman), Jon McIsaac (referee), Kendrick Nicholson (referee) and Garret Rank (referee). While these officials were promoted to the highest officiating rank in the world, new faces needed to be hired to replace the vacant NHL officiating minor league team positions. These new hired officials were the best at what they do in the minor leagues, junior leagues and professional leagues around the world and now have a shot at developing their craft under a NHL Minor League contract. Minor Leagues employees for the NHL have a 80 games contract for the upcoming season. They will be splitting their duties between the American Hockey League (AHL) and the National Hockey League (NHL).
Ryan Daisy (linesman)
Daisy is from Mansfield, Mass. but went to school at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. He played hockey until his sophomore year of high school where he decided to focus on other aspects of the game. He began refereeing local high schools in Connecticut during his junior year of university.
The 28-year-old linesman was then invited to a USA Hockey Officiating Development Camp and caught the eye of NAHL’s Coordinator of Officials, Chris Allman. He was hired on the spot and worked in the NAHL until he graduated. After his senior year he was promoted to the USHL where he spent one year, and then promoted again to the ECHL, spending three years learning to officiate professionals.
Last season he spent the entire year in the AHL where he was selected to work the 2016 Calder Cup Final.
Pierre Lambert (referee)
Lambert is from St-Hubert, Que. where he played hockey until he hit the Junior A ranks. His father convinced him to become a referee in order to learn to be a better skater but found he enjoyed officiating more than playing.
He began his career officiating at the Midget Triple A level before joining the QMJHL at 22-years-old. He spent three seasons in the “Q” and worked the 2013 President Cup Final. Lambert was then promoted to the ECHL where he spent three year, refereeing the Kelly Cup Final in each of them.
Last season the 28-year-old officiated in 68 games in the AHL before receiving his call up this summer.
Peter MacDougall (referee)
McDougall is from Lumsden, Sask. and he played hockey at the junior, college, and professional levels. After playing junior in his home province, he was accepted to Canisius College in Buffalo where he would play four seasons. In his time at Canisius, he amassed 396 penalty minutes in 128 games played. After he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree, he played two seasons in the Southern Professional Hockey League before focusing on becoming a referee.
Once becoming a ref, MacDougall went right back to the SPHL where he spent two years learning the craft in Columbus, Georgia. From there he graduated to the ECHL where he worked out of Indianapolis for one year.
Last year, the 30-year-old worked 74 games in the AHL being based in Rochester, NY. and expects to continue there in his split time between the NHL and AHL this season.
Kory Nagy (linesman)
Nagy expected to make the NHL, but never expected it to be as an official. The Walsingham, Ont. native played four years in the OHL and was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the fifth round (142nd overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He spent five years as a professional hockey player, splitting his time between the ECHL and the AHL.
Prior to the 2014-15 season, he was property of the Toronto Maple Leafs and was training for the upcoming season when he was approached by NHL officiating manager, Al Kimmel, to see if he wanted to give it a try. Nagy attended the Officials training combine that summer while training for the Maple Leafs. During training camp, the intended to send him to the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. Nagy decided that his dream of playing in the NHL was out of reach and he wanted to focus on officiating as a new career path.
As someone new to the profession, Nagy, with help from Kimmel, officiated any game he could possibly get. His first year he officiated minor league hockey games in the morning and ECHL or AHL games at night. The following season, he would bounce around the ECHL, AHL, and SPHL just to get as many reps in as he possibly can.
The 26-year-old’s work paid off for him as he was hired by the NHL this summer.
Chris Schlenker (referee)
Schlenker is from Medicine Hat, Alta. and he played in the WHL for four years with the Regina Pats. After his WHL career was over, he played professional hockey in Germany for a year before returning home to become a police officer.
The 31-year-old has been a member of the force for 10 years but the game never truly left him. When a friend asked him to be a linesman for one of his games as a favour, he jumped at the chance. In order to pursue a career in officiating, Schlenker had to balance his police work with the game.
He began his officiating career with one year of senior hockey before he was able to return to the WHL. Schlenker worked three years in the WHL where he found support from fellow referee, Devin Klein, a 20-year veteran of the WHL and a police officer like Schlenker.
Last season, Schlenker was awarded the Allen Paradice Memorial Trophy as the best referee in the WHL and was named to the officiating crew for the 2016 Memorial Cup. As well, he got his feet wet refereeing professionals by working 60 games in the AHL.
Furman South (referee)
South is from a small town just outside of Pittsburgh called Sewickley, home to just under 4,000 people. He played hockey since he was a child through to Junior A where he played for the EJHL’s Bay State Breakers. His play with the Breakers and his academic aptitude led him to be offered an NCAA Division 1 scholarship at Robert Morris University where he graduated with a Biology degree.
The 28-year-old had a choice to make after that, he was accepted to medical school but he didn’t want to leave his hockey life behind. After trying coaching, he found that officiating was something that came natural to him. He went to the NHL Exposure Combine where afterwards he had he had the opportunity to work within the USA Hockey junior program.
South decided to pursue the officiating option and moved his way up through the NAHL, USHL, AHL, and now the NHL in just three years since he had to make career decision.
Cameron Voss (referee)
Voss grew up in the suburbs of St. Paul, Minn. and played Division III college hockey at the University of St. Thomas. As a goaltender, equipment was expensive. When he was 12-years-old, his dad suggested he referee to earn money to help pay for his equipment, which ended up being an activity the father and son did together.
After his playing days were over, Voss began focusing on his refereeing where he started officiating Tier 3 hockey and Minnesota Junior Hockey, The following summer he moved to New England to learn how to referee in the 3 man system while continuing to work Tier 3 hockey.
He then joined the NAHL and the USHL for two years where he met 30-year-veteran NHL linesman, Dan Schachte, who convinced him to move and work college hockey. The 29-year-old then worked Division 1 college hockey which opened the door to officiate in the AHL. He has done both for the last two years before being called up this summer.