Linesman Libor Suchanek will make his NHL debut tonight in Brooklyn, working a game between the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes. Suchanek will take the ice alongside referees Dave Jackson and Kendrick Nicholson and linesman Brad Kovachik.
“Of course, I’m looking forward to it, but the worries are there. I’m a little nervous, I will not be ashamed of it, and I have already had a [preseason game] in the famous Madison Square Garden, debuting in such a famous [arena] helped me,” said Suchanek.
Suchanek worked his first AHL game in February, after taking part in the World Cup of Hockey prior to the start of the 2016-17 NHL season. He did officiate a handful of preseason NHL games in September. The Czech linesman has been officiating in the AHL this season.
“The NHL has never been my dream, because I never knew I could get [to officiate in] it at all,”
said Suchanek. “I would say that it is a small miracle for a Czech [official].”
Suchanek becomes just the third European-trained official in the National Hockey League, joining current referee Evgeny Romasko and former referee Marcus Vinnerborg. Referees Frank Udvari and Malcolm Ashford and linesman Jerry Pateman were all born in Europe but began their officiating careers in North America.
Though Suchanek didn’t learn English in school, he’s studied the language for the past few years, with plenty of international officiating events to help get him up to speed on key phrases, including some unsportsmanlike ones.
“It is good that in such situations I usually know very well what I’m talking about,” said Suchanek. “I have already learned the few harsh words but the main thing is that when the player is angry, it is clear what he did not like.”
Suchank has to adapt not only to the language, but to a different game.
“It’s different, of course,” said Suchanek. “The players are in much greater contact and [officials] need to avoid them faster.”
Fighting, though, is a universal language.
“I’m already taught that when the players are in there, I do not interfere with it, except when they are down on the ice, the battle ends and my job is to tear the boys out.”
Prior to his debut, Suchanek will sit down with the rest of tonight’s crew to prepare for the game.
“Before the game, we will definitely discuss in more detail what we are going to do,” said Suchanek. “I try to watch the teams, understand how they play [and] what their players do on the ice. On the eve of the match, we will meet in a small meeting with the other referees and they will definitely give me some advice, what to do.”
Based on his quick ascension to the NHL – along with a strong showing in the preseason – Suchanek understands precisely what to do when he’s out there on the ice.
From the NHLOA:
A mechanical engineer by trade, the University of West Bohemia (Plzen, Czech Republic) graduate started officiating at 15 around his hometown in Czech Republic. After grinding his teeth for a couple of years, learning the craft of officiating in various amateur leagues at local rinks around the town of Plzen, Suchanek reached the Czech Junior Leagues (U18 & U20) in September 2007.
The following season, he continued to work the junior leagues but was also promoted to the Second Czech Republic National Hockey League, which is the third highest hockey league over there, under the top league (Extraliga) and the First Czech Republic National Hockey League also known as the WSM Liga since 2015. He reached the WSM Liga League in the fall of 2009 and spent four full seasons working at that level.
Suchanek then reached the top Czech Republic League by joining the Extraliga in the beginning of the 2013-14 season. His on-ice performance was acknowledged by the IIHF when he received his international license in 2014. He quickly worked his way up the international officiating ranks, his international resume include the 2015 U18 Division III World Championship (Taipei,Taiwan), the 2016 U18 World Championship (Grand Forks ND, USA), the 2016 Karjala Tournament (Finland & Czech Republic), the 2017 World Juniors Championship (U20) played in Montreal and Toronto, Canada and the prestigious 2017 IIHF World Championship Tournament hosted by Paris, France and Cologne, Germany.
Suchanek was also part of the officiating crew that worked the World Cup of Hockey in 2016 (Toronto & Montreal, Canada) when he officiated an exhibition game between Russia and Czech Republic. During his 12 year officiating journey to the NHL, he also skated in the Champion Hockey League, games between the best European teams (2014 to 2017) and the Euro Hockey Tour, a competition between European National teams (2014 to 2017).
His first real taste of North American Professional hockey came in February 2017 when he was invited to travel to Toronto, Canada to showcase his skills by working in three American Hockey League games while being evaluated by the NHL Officiating Department. His performance were rewarded in the summer of 2017 when he was hired under a minor leagues linesman contract by the National Hockey League at age 28.
Congratulations to Libor Suchanek and all the best to him in his NHL career.