This afternoon in Denver, Colorado referee Brad Watson will be working his last NHL game when the Chicago Blackhawks visit the Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. The Regina, Saskatchewan native will be leaving the ice tonight with a final count of 1,393 NHL Regular Season Games and an impressive 214 NHL playoffs games. He will be joined on the ice for this special game by fellow referee Wes McCauley while veteran linesmen Greg Devorski and Steve Barton will be completing the officiating crew.
Watson who was hired by the National Hockey League in the summer of 1993 under a minor league contract started his officiating journey at the age of 16 in small town rinks of Saskatchewan. His road to the NHL included stops in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL), the Western Hockey League (WHL), the International Hockey League (IHL) and the American Hockey League (AHL). During his amateur journey, he was selected to work 2 Memorial Cups (1986 in Portland, OR as a linesman & 1992 in Seattle, WA as a referee), the 1989 World Junior Hockey Championship (Anchorage, AK), the 1991 Isvestia Cup in Russia representing Canada as a referee and the 1992 Spengler Cup (Davos, Switzerland). Before joining the National Hockey League under a minor league contract, Watson also spent 3 seasons in the defunct NHL trainee program traveling across North America working games in different professional and semi-professional hockey leagues. He would go on and work a total of 6 full seasons under contract before being promoted to a full-time NHL status in the summer of 1999. He made his NHL debut on March 7th, 1996 at the old Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh when the Ottawa Senators where in town to play the hometown Penguins.
Over his 26 years career with the NHL, Watson has built an impressive resume. The man wearing jersey number 23 for one more time tonight, was selected to work over the years; the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, the 2008 NHL All-Star Game (Atlanta), the 2010 Winter Olympics (Vancouver), a total of 4 Outdoor Games (2014-Los Angeles, 2016-Denver, 2017-St.Louis & 2017-Ottawa) and most recently he made his second trip to the Spengler Cup (Davos, Switzerland) in December 2018. To top it off, Watson earned the ultimate assignment to working the Stanley Cup Finals eight times during his career (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2013 & 2014). The 2006 Stanley Cup Finals was a special one for Watson as another Regina native and good friend, the late Mick McGeough was also part of the officiating team that year.
On behalf of the NHLOA, we would like to congratulate referee Brad Watson on a tremendous career and wishes him the best of luck in his futures project!
Well done “Whip”!