Don Koharski hung up his stripes as an NHL referee 11 years ago. He finished his 32-year National Hockey League career with 1,882 regular season games, 262 playoff appearances, and 11 trips to the Stanley Cup Finals. Off the ice, Koho spent 10 years as an officiating manager before stepping back to a part-time role in coaching and mentoring officials at the NHL level.
Koharski recently joined Scouting the Refs co-host Todd Lewis and MIHOA’s Andy Hudson to talk stripes.
Koho talked about the brotherhood of officials, working Stanley Cup Finals, selection of playoff officials, changing culture, supervising NHL referees and linesmen, the prime directive for officials at all levels, and his favorite donut. He offered advice for young officials – “grow a thick skin and have a short memory” – encouraged focusing on the details, and touched on how NHL officials are staying sharp for the possible restart to the NHL season.
“Our officials will be ready to go. They train at home,” said Koharski.
“We’ve been doing a fun thing on Mondays and Tuesdays with our guys through video and our guys are getting rules quizzes, they’re getting videos. We’re working a lot on their fundamentals and mechanics. [They’re] helping [NHL Director of Officiating] Stephen Walkom and his staff – us, our team – build a library of things that we can have [to refer to] for when we do go back.”
“They’re asked to keep their fitness level. Dave Smith, our fitness guy [is] sending out things constantly on different workouts [and] cardio [exercises].”
Koharski started his NHL career as a linesman before picking up the bands for his fourth season in the league. He handled the finals in 1986 (MTL/CGY), 1987 (EDM/PHI), 1988 (EDM/BOS), 1990 (EDM/BOS), 1991 (PIT/MIN), 1992 (PIT/CHI), 1996 (COL/FLA), 1998 (DET/WSH), 1999 (DAL/BUF), 2000 (NJD/DAL), and 2002 (DET/CAR).
Koho was selected for two All-Star Games: 1992 in Philadelphia and 2000 in Toronto. He also handled the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and the 1987 and 1991 Canada Cup Series.
Check out the rest of the MIHOA interview series, as well as other great officiating content over at the MIHOA YouTube channel.