Linesman Brad Kovachik will join the ‘1,500 Club’ when he takes the ice at Buffalo’s KeyBank Center.
Kovachik, 47, will be recognized for officiating 1,500 regular season NHL games prior to tonight’s opening faceoff between the Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’ll be joined on the ice by fellow linesman Steve Miller and referees Ian Walsh and Tim Peel. Linesman Derek Amell will also be in attendance – and on standby for the game – as will officiating supervisor Don Van Massenhoven.
“He goes about things with a lot of class and dignity,” Edmonton Oilers coach Ken Hitchcock told the Globe and Mail. “When he calls a game, you know it is going to be under control. He is one of the few officials that can calm down a bench.”
The veteran linesman worked his milestone game earlier this season, but opted to celebrate it closer to home. Kovachik hails from nearby Fort Erie, just over the Canadian border.
Kovachik, who wears #71, made his NHL debut on October 10, 1996, officiating a game between the Los Angeles Kings and Philadelphia Flyers. He suited up alongside Ron Asselstine and referee Stephen Walkom – now Kovachik’s boss as the NHL’s Director of Officiating – in his debut.
“It’s pretty incredible to look back from the time I started in my first NHL game, you wonder if you’ll get a second NHL game,” Kovachik told the Woodstock Sentinel Review. “As years roll by you don’t pay attention to numbers until it gets to a certain point. One thousand flies by and here we are at 1,500 already.”
Kovachik has manned the lines for some memorable games during his 23-year career, including two Stanley Cup Finals (2014 and 2017) as well as the 2012 NHL All-Star Game. Internationally, he worked the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Still, he’s got his sights set on continuing to rack up miles in the NHL.
“I’m looking forward to doing this for quite a few more years,” Kovachik said.
From the NHLOA:
Kovachik was born and raised in Woodstock, Ontario, a city located about an hour west of Toronto. The former centerman, played his youth hockey there dreaming just like any other Canadian kids of making the NHL as a player. He would go on and play until the junior levels dressing up for the Woodstock Navy Vets in the Provincial Junior Hockey League of the Ontario Hockey Association in his final three seasons (1989 to 1992).
His officiating journey started at the early age of 12, working local games at the old Woodstock Perry Street Arena on the weekends to earn a few bucks. Nine years later, Kovachik was hired by the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) as a linesman. He worked the OHL for a total of three seasons and was selected to work the prestigious Memorial Cup tournament hosted in Peterborough, Ontario in his last season. His on-ice performance during the tournament earned him the ultimate assignment of working the championship game between the host team, the Peterborough Petes and the Granby Prédateurs. The National Hockey League (NHL) offered him a minor leagues linesman contract that summer.
He made his NHL debut in Phialdelphia on October 10th, 1996 when the Los Angeles Kings were in town to play the Flyers. His teammates that night were referee Stephen Walkom and linesman Ron Asseltine. It only took him only one season as a minor league linesman under contract before being promoted to a full time NHL linesman status in the summer of 1997.
Since his debut with the National Hockey League, Kovachik as been assigned to several major and important assignments; 2004 World Cup of Hockey, two outdoor games (the original Winter Classic in Buffalo (2008) & the 2017 Stadium Series in Pittsburgh), 2012 NHL All-Star Game held in Ottawa, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia and has been selected twice to work the NHL Stanley Cup Finals (Los Angeles vs New York Rangers (2014) & Pittsburgh vs Nashville (2017).
Congratulations to linesman Brad Kovachik on 1,500 games!
Updated 3/2/19 with video from the pre-game ceremony