Last season, Evgeny Romasko became the first Russian-born official to referee an NHL game.
After splitting time between the NHL, AHL, and KHL last season, Romasko has made the jump to North American hockey full-time. Romasko’s worked eight games this season, with his ninth slated for December 18, when the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the Washington Capitals. That will bring his NHL total to 22 games.
He’s also suited up for 20 AHL games this season, 15 with a partner and five as the solo referee.
Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) gives us a look at Romasko’s adjustment to the AHL and NHL, including life at home, his officiating mentor (who offers a memorable quote about ‘the dick switch‘, and some in-game details:
When the final horn sounds on the Capitals’ 5–2 win, Romasko steps off the ice and returns to his locker room, third in line. Rob Shick, a former NHL referee, comes down from the press box and delivers the postgame review. “Hey boys,” he says, opening the door. These critiques are a regular element of the officiating life, and important for up-and-comers like Romasko. Just as he studies English, Romasko rewatches his games on an iPad. How was his positioning along the boards? Did he miss any calls? Should he have whistled the ones he did?
The eyes of the league are always watching, and ex-officials like Devorski are floating around to evaluate the rank and file. Romasko has received solid marks thus far. As a salaried AHL employee and one of 13 officials (nine refs, four linesmen) who have a hybrid contract, he still works mostly minor league games, but NHL assignments—and NHL money—come in spurts. He had flown to Philadelphia after working a Blue Jackets game in Columbus. The next day, he will leave for Dallas, then San Antonio. In all likelihood, Walkom says, Romasko will referee between 20 and 30 NHL games this season. Given his level of experience and the expected rate of permanent gigs opening up, he could sign a full-time NHL deal in two to three years.