Referee Dan Kelly will make his NHL debut tonight, but not exactly as he planned.  The rookie ref will be taking the ice tonight as a linesman.

Kelly, 30, was hired prior to the start of the 2019-20 season.  He would have likely worked his first game – as a referee – back in March or April of that season, had it not been cut short by the Coronavirus.

Now, due to a busy officiating schedule amidst COVID concerns, Kelly is being called upon to fill in on the lines.



The native of Morrisonville, New York, will take the ice for tonight’s game between the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers tonight alongside linesman Devin Berg and refs Pierre Lambert and Frederick L’Ecuyer.

His first NHL game will come wearing the stripes with his former organization on the ice.  While Kelly never played an NHL game, he was signed by the New Jersey Devils in 2010, spending six seasons working on the farm with the Albany Devils. Kelly was teammates with current Devils players Damon Severson, Pavel Zacha, and Scott Wedgewood.

The former defenseman also suited up for the San Jose Barracuda in 2016-17, totaling 15 goals, 56 assists, and 651 penalty minutes in 405 career games in the AHL.  Once his playing career wrapped up, Kelly spent one season behind the bench in a coaching role before making the jump to officiating.

Kelly took part in the NHL’s Officiating Exposure Combine in 2018, soon wearing the stripes in the Ontario Hockey League during the 2018-19 season, as well as in the AHL.

He spent five seasons as a player in the OHL, all with the Kitchener Rangers, where he also served as captain.

The rookie referee hasn’t seen a regular season action, but he did work a few NHL preseason games back in 2019, including one where he inadvertently relocated one of the teams.


Kelly wears #45 as a referee.  Tonight, though, he’ll likely be sporting #85 – the designated number for the backup linesman.