National Hockey League referees Chris Schlenker and Pierre Lambert have been promoted to full-time referees in the NHL for the 2018-19 season. The duo split time last year between the NHL and American Hockey League. Linesman Libor Suchanek also moves to a full-time NHL official.
Referee Chris Schlenker
Schlenker, 34, has worked 59 NHL games since joining the league. The Medicine Hat, Alberta, native made his NHL debut on October 24, 2016. Schlenker transitioned from playing the WHL to officiating there. After four seasons with the Regina Pats and Prince Albert Raiders – as well as one season in Europe – Schlenker made the switch to officiating. He was awarded the Allen Paradice Memoral Trophy as the league’s best referee in 2016, working the WHL Finals as well as the Memorial Cup that season. Schlenker made his professional debut on October 17, 2015, working a game between the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and Albany Devils. Schlenker went on to referee the AHL’s 2017 Calder Cup Finals.
“You just keep your head down and keep working, control what you can control and hope the rest takes care of itself,” Schlenker said of his career two years ago at the WHL’s awards banquet. “The last five years it’s kind of gone from junior A to the Western Hockey League and the American League this year. I’ve been pretty fortunate to be in the position I’m in and I’ve had lots of help along the way.”
Schlenker averaged 3.3 penalty calls per game in 2017-18, right around the league average. His 9.9 PIM per game, were over the league average of 8.7, thanks to a higher number of major penalties and fighting majors than some of his peers.
In addition to his years on the ice as both a player and official, Schlenker is also a former police officer, having spent 10 years with the Medicine Hat Police.
“There are only two things you can really control,” Schlenker said. “One is attitude; the other is effort.”
Schlenker’s certainly shown the league that he has both in earning his promotion to a full-time spot.
Referee Pierre Lambert
Lambert, 30, first hit the ice in the NHL on November 17, 2016, working a game between the Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning. He now has 37 National Hockey League games under his belt. Lambert, from St-Basile-le-Grand, Quebec, has been officiating since age 14, working his way up from Midget Triple A to the QMJHL (2010-13), ECHL (2013-14), and AHL (2014-17). He’s handled the QMJHL’s President’s Cup Final along with three straight ECHL Kelly Cup Finals.
“It is hardly surprising that Peter signed a contract with the National Hockey League, having stood out wherever he went,” said Quebec’s provincial head referee, Peter Moraitis. “This is, for him, the culmination of an arduous path, demanding countless sacrifices. Through recent years, Peter has demonstrated passion, dedication and hard work. Today, this shows it was definitely worth the effort! On behalf of Hockey Quebec, I am particularly proud to celebrate this achievement and I take this opportunity to warmly congratulate Peter and wish him success in the ranks of the NHL.”
Lambert was easy on the whistle in 2017-18, averaging 2.9 penalty calls per game, slightly below the league average. Only four officials called fewer minors.
Lambert’s success continues as he moves to a full-time schedule in the National Hockey League.
Linesman Libor Suchanek
Also promoted to full-time was linesman Libor Suchanek. Suchanek worked a 40/40 schedule last season, spending 40 games in the NHL and another 40 in the AHL. Suchanek, from Stod in the Czech Republic, became the first European-trained linesman to work an NHL regular season game on November 16, 2017, manning the lines for a game between the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders.
“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].”
With extensive international experience with the IIHF, Suchanek was tapped to work an exhibition game during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. A three-game AHL tryout followed in 2017, with Suchanek joining the NHL’s summer camp during the offseason and picking up his first minor league contract. It’s apparent the league has liked what they’ve seen with Suchanek, having bumped him up to a full-time NHL linesman for the 2018-19 season.
Schlenker will wear #3 this season, while Lambert will move to #37. Suchanek will continue to sport #60.
Congratulations to Chris Schlenker, Pierre Lambert, and Libor Suchanek, and continued success in their National Hockey League careers.