Last day of the season, first day of his NHL career.

Referee Conor O’Donnell will be making his NHL officiating debut today in Florida on the final day of the 2018-19 National Hockey League season as the Panthers host the New Jersey Devils.

O’Donnell will be joined on the ice by referee Dean Morton and linesmen Scott Driscoll and Derek Amell.

From the NHLOA:

O’Donnell, a Hamilton, Ontario native grew up playing hockey dreaming of making the NHL as a player. The former forward played four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with Brampton, Guelph and most memorably with the 2009 Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires. Once his junior days were over he used his OHL education fund to attend Nipissing University where he played four seasons (2010-2014) for the Lakers earning OUA All Star honours in his final two seasons. Following his University career Conor spent the following two seasons playing pro hockey overseas in Germany (Heilbronn) and France (Lyon) before returning to North America where he joined the Colorado Eagles (ECHL) for their 2016-2017 season. O’Donnell finished out the 2016-2017 season as a member of the Stoney Creek Generals (Senior A); making it to the 2017 Allan Cup Tournament in Bouctouche, NB.

He was invited that summer to attend the NHL Officiating Combine in Buffalo, NY. His former University coach Mike McParland, had encouraged him to keep an officiating career in mind during his University days and he decided to accept the invitation. His performance at the combine made a great impression on the NHL recruiting staff and he soon found himself working games in the AHL as a referee.

The NHL camp was O’Donnell’s first time in stripes. The Hamilton native was still a bit skeptical going in.

“I came to the camp not expecting much, to be honest,” he told

O’Donnell arrived at the 2016 combine in the best shape of his life, with one final season of playing in the ECHL ahead of him. He was intrigued by the weekend, by the idea of still getting to the NHL. He was invited, having never officiated a game, to the Toronto Maple Leafs rookie tournament, “my first time ever stepping onto the ice, putting on a ref jersey.”

A week after that, he was officiating in the AHL.

O’Donnell spent the 2017-18 referee in the American Hockey League.  During the off-season, he returned to the NHL Officiating Combine, where he was offered a minor league contract with with National Hockey League.  He’s worked entirely in the AHL this season — at least up until today.

Congratulations to Conor O’Donnell on his NHL officiating debut!