Kendrick Nicholson, welcome to the National Hockey League.

Nicholson, 32, was one of two referees signed by the NHL over the summer. The other, Garrett Rank, made his debut on Thursday. Now it’s Nicholson’s turn.

Kendrick Nicholson

Referee Kendrick Nicholson, then at the Memorial Cup

Nicholson will be taking the ice on Saturday, January 17, for Ottawa Senators vs. Carolina Hurricanes.  He’ll be working alongside veteran referee Paul Devorski and with linesmen Brian Murphy and Bryan Pancich.

“I am very excited and looking forward to the game Saturday night in Ottawa,” Nicholson wrote in an email to the Stratford Beacon Herald. “Traditionally as a first year official you are not too sure if you will get a game at the NHL level so to receive one in January of my first season is very exciting.  It is going to be a very special night for myself and my family.”

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 also worked the 2014 Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland.

Referee Kendrick Nicholson talks with Oscar Lindberg of the Hartford Wolf Pack

Referee Kendrick Nicholson talks with Oscar Lindberg of the Hartford Wolf Pack

Nicholson’s spent this season working games in the AHL.  He’s had his share of interesting moments there.  Nicholson was on the ice with NHL referee Dean Morton – then on a rehab assignment – when goalie Mike Leggio intentionally dislodged the net to prevent a 2-on-0 breakaway.  He was also on the ice when Trevor Gillies earned himself a 12-game suspension.  Most recently, he worked the Hamilton Bulldogs vs. Milwaukee Admirals on Wednesday.  Now he’s taking a big step up.

“Making it to this level was never a goal at first,” said Nicholson shortly after signing with the NHL.

“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.”

Once the puck drops, it’ll all become real.   Best of luck to Kendrick Nicholson in his first NHL game.