The latest official to be joining the ranks of the NHL crew is Kendrick Nicholson. Nicholson got his start as a linesman in 2003, working the 2008 Memorial Cup and the 2009 World Under-18s. He picked up his orange armbands and made the move to refereeing shortly after. He’s refereed two OHL finals, the 2013 Memorial Cup, and the 2014 World Under-18 Championship.
He worked in the AHL as a referee last season. He’s also seen time in the AHL as a linesman prior to making the switch.
Kendrick Nicholson never thought about where officiating might lead when he started working minor games in his hometown of Milverton as a teenager 17 years ago.
“When you sign up to do minor hockey Saturday and Sunday mornings in Milverton, you never expect to wake up in Italy or Finland to officiate a game,” the 32-year-old former Stratford Culliton said this week. “You don’t sign up for that, but it’s definitely a benefit.”
Now his career is taking him to the next step — the National Hockey League.
He’ll leave his job with Coca-Cola next week and prepare to work American Hockey League games with the chance for one or two NHL games this season.
“Making it to this level was never a goal at first,” said Nicholson. “It was just a way of trying to stay with the game. It’s kind of crazy. You talk about it with your wife and parents and you talk about it for a few years and you always hope it happens. And then now that it has happened, it’s still sort of surreal.”
“I’ve been lucky to have some really good supporters and support staff to give me the opportunity and to help me along with the coaching and the knowledge,” he said.
“I wasn’t really sure where I stood in the grand scheme of things as far as talent-wise. After a couple of years in the OHA, I didn’t really know how to progress and then got a call out of the blue one day from Ted Baker, who was the director of officiating for the OHL, and got invited to training camp as a linesman, so obviously I took advantage of that.”
But after six seasons as an OHL linesman, Nicholson began to feel that his opportunity to move to higher levels might be limited, in part because of his smaller size compared to those who were getting moved up.
He had continued to referee OHA games while an OHL linesman and “was still young enough to make the switch and take a run at it.”
“I didn’t mind the transition (from linesman to referee in the OHL). I found it almost to be a completely different game. I find a linesman is a little bit more from the waist down of a hockey game and the referee you’re watching more waist up. It was almost like starting a whole new league again.”
Nicholson’s will spend the majority of his 80-game contract covering AHL games, with “hopefully an NHL game or two thrown in there.”
— Jesse Cole (@JesseCole6) August 24, 2014
Congrats to Kendrick Nicholson on making the jump to the NHL!
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