Every month, the NHLOA will feature one of its officials in this Q&A series.
This month’s member is Graham Skilliter who just got promoted to a full time NHL contract this summer. With referee Don Van Massenhoven hanging up his skates after last season, the NHL needed to hired one of its minor league contract referees to a full time status to fulfill its 33 referees roster for the upcoming season. Graham has been on a minor league contract with the NHL, working mainly in the American Hockey League (AHL) for the past three seasons. Prior to joining the NHLOA staff, Graham worked the Western Hockey League (WHL) for 6 full seasons leading him to work the Ed Chynoweth Cup in his final year.
On a personal note, Graham attended SIAST schools in Regina and Saskatoon to become an Advanced Care Paramedic during his junior’s days. He also went to the Fire & Emergency Training Centre in Vermillion, AB to become a level II firefighter but when the NHL came knocking on his door offering him a chance to work the best league in the world for a living, he didn’t hesitate a second and decided to give it a try! His hard work and dedication along with his tremendous skills are being rewarded this year with this promotion to a full time NHL status. The NHLOA would like to congratulate Graham on this major achievement and would also like to wish him a long and successful career.
Click here for a great article on Graham:http://www.macleans.ca/society/graham-skilliter-is-the-nhl-ref-with-the-right-stripes/
Q: How old are you?
A:I am 30 years old.
Q: Where are you born?
A: Born in La Ronge, SK
Q: How old were you when you first started officiating? Why did you start?
A: I was 11 years old when I began officiating. I started because my dad officiated locally in Kindersley, SK. When he was working the lines in junior games, I was able to go into the dressing room and hang out with the guys. I looked up to my dad and them and that is why I was eager to start.
Q: Which year did you get hired by the NHL?
A: I got hired in 2011
Q: Are you a linesman or a referee?
Q: What is your jersey number this year? Any reason behind this number?
A: I will be wearing #24 this year. It is half of my minor league number (#48). I am happy that Stephen Walkom (NHL Director of Officiating) is allowing me to wear his old number.
Q: What is your nickname within the group?
Q: Who was your first training camp roommate?
A: I had two of them that year; Don Van Massenhoven and Kyle Rehman.
Q: Did you play hockey, and if so, for how long, or until what age?
A: Yes I played minor hockey right from pre novice to midget. Once I graduated high school I stopped playing, as officiating took over.
Q: Did you ever got sustained an injury while officiating a hockey game?
A: Yes in 2010 during a regular season WHL game in Kelowna, I was involved in a collision with a player while skating hard to the net. As a result of the collision I was briefly knocked unconscious, strapped to a backboard and transported to the ER in Kelowna via Ambulance. I sustained a non-displaced skull fracture and suffered a concussion as a result. I was kept overnight in the hospital in Kelowna and was sent home to Saskatoon the next day to recover. I was out approximately 2 weeks as a result of the injury. I came back to officiate the playoffs ending with the championship series.
Q: Do you have any superstitions?
A: I put all my equipment on left to right, IE: left skate then right skate, left shin pad then right shin pad.
Q: What leagues did you work before joining the NHL staff?
A: I worked in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, the Western Hockey League, the East Coast Hockey League, and a few games in the American Hockey League prior to joining the NHL staff.
Q: Who has helped you the most throughout your journey to the NHL staff?
A: This is very difficult to narrow down so I will not, and I am sure I have forgotten somebody. All these men had a significant impact on my career. My dad, James Mays, Wes Smith, Kevin Muench, Kevin Acheson, Darren Loraas, Ken Wheler, and Joe Ernst. My dad has always and still does coach me a lot as well he is a role model I look up to in all parts of my life. All the other men listed were very instrumental as well in my development to becoming an NHL official.
Q: What is the most memorable game you have worked so far?
A: So far my first game in the NHL! You only get one first game I guess! The support from teammates, family, and friends was unbelievable! The emotions are overwhelming, and I will never forget that night on January 28th 2013 with Colorado @ Edmonton. My partners that night were Jay Sharrers, Mark Wheler, and Brad Watson.
Q: Making the transition this year from being a minor hockey referee into a full time NHL referee, what will be the biggest challenge for you this year?
A: The biggest challenge is starting fresh. Being a rookie in the league means gaining the trust of the players, coaches, and my teammates to conquer this new level. The process is the same for all officials reaching a new level in order to obtain success but this time it will be on a way bigger stage! I am looking forward to this challenge and can’t wait for the season to start.
Q: What are of the major differences between the AHL and the NHL?
A: The speed and the skill of the players are definitely the biggest differences. The players in the “show” are so talented, they are true professionals. Also, every night in the NHL, you get to work in front of a large crowd and big atmospheres.
Q: Any advice for the young officials who would like to make the NHL team one day?
A: Have perseverance never give up and work as many games as possible. Every time you are on the ice is an opportunity to learn something and get better. Work hard and always keep a good attitude!