You never forget your first.

NHL referee Garrett Rank will be suiting up for his first National Hockey League game on Thursday, January 15.   Rank will be wearing number 48 as he takes the ice for Minnesota Wild vs. Buffalo Sabres.  Joining him on the ice will be veteran referee Paul Devorski along with linesmen Brad Kovachik and Brian Murphy.

NHL Referee Garrett Rank

NHL Referee Garrett Rank (#48)

Rank, who signed an NHL contract over the summer, has been working this season in the AHL. The native of Elmira, Ontario, has been officiating for 13 years. He started out as a Level I official at age 14. Rank worked his way up from Junior B to the OHL and, ultimately, now, to the National Hockey League.

“I’m not sure many kids growing up dream of one day being an NHL referee and Garrett didn’t, at least not at first, but my Dad always loved being a ref and wanted Garrett to become one,” Garrett’s brother Kyle told TSN’s Bob McKenzie. “Dad was always refereeing games and when Garrett followed in his refereeing footsteps, it was really special for him. That’s why (Garrett’s first NHL game) is going to be so special.

Hockey is not Rank’s only passion. He’s also an accomplished golfer. Over the summer, he’ll be teeing off at the RBC Canadian Open, a PGA Tour event. While he hasn’t given up on golf, he’s making officiating his number one priority.

“I’m going to give [officiating] an honest shot and an honest run. This is a great job and a great way to make a living,” said Rank.

Joining the NHL

Rank was signed over the summer after leaving a strong impression on the league’s officiating supervisors.

“We liked how he carried himself as a referee. Some guys are naturally inclined to be refs and Garrett seems to have that quality. You can see he’s accustomed to pressure, how he’s handled it as a golfer. I don’t think missing a hooking call in a hockey game can be as difficult as coming back from missing a three-foot putt in golf for a championship. There’s a real laid-back confidence to Garrett. He’s just starting out, there’s still a lot of work for him to do to make his way, but he’s off to a very good start.”

– NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom, speaking to TSN

Fans in the Stands

Rank will have support in the stands at the First Niagara Center on Thursday. A busload of friends and family will be crossing the border from Ontario to watch his NHL debut.

His biggest fan, though, won’t be there. Rank’s father, passed away suddenly last January.

“This is what he wanted for me,” Garrett said to TSN. “He wanted me to be an NHL referee. It will be so emotional, so exciting to have all my family and friends there. I always feel like my Dad is out there with me and I know he will be [on Thursday].”

Rank will make his debut surrounded by friends and family, and supported by an amazing crew of officials. Best of luck to the newest NHL zebra to hit the ice.


For a terrific, in-depth read on the Rank family,
don’t miss Bob McKenzie’s article over at TSN.