These are unprecedented times, which result in some interesting circumstances.
The National Hockey League has been working overtime to juggle its schedule in response to COVID concerns. The league has rescheduled nine games so far this season, with more undoubtedly on the way. Currently, 24 players are sidelined due to COVID protocol-related absences.
The NHL has also been forced to juggle its officials.
Travel has been reduced whenever possible, resulting in officials remaining in the same city to work a series of games between two teams. The North Division has an exclusive group of dedicated referees and linesmen remaining north of the border. Nonetheless, the league and officials are still working hard to cover their assignments while following COVID protocol.
With 13 games on Tuesday and 14 on Thursday, nearly all of the league’s full time officials need to be called into action. Unfortunately, it appears that not all of them are available.
Referees Kevin Pollock and Dean Morton last worked on January 23, Pollock at MTL/VAN and Morton at TBL/CBJ.
The lines are a bit more challenged to staff. Three linesmen have yet to take the ice this season: Derek Amell, Brian Mach, and Steve Miller. Liney Jesse Marquis hasn’t worked since January 19. Three others haven’t officiated since January 24: Scott Cherrey (EDM/WPG), Greg Devorski (BUF/WSH), and Bryan Pancich (LAK/STL). Whatever the reason – scheduled time, injury, or illness – the NHL has needed to get a bit creative.
Enter the AHL/NHL referees.
With the AHL season not yet underway, but ten additional minor league referees on NHL contracts, the league has tapped in to their bench.
Referees Brandon Schrader and Dan Kelly have both been called into action as linesmen this week. While it may be a bit unorthodox, it’s certainly a solid option — and a better one than trying to adapt to a three-man crew, particularly one with a lone linesman.
Kudos to the NHL – and to these officials – for doing their best and making it work.
Best of luck out there, boys. Stay safe.
Just remember to check your arms for bands before you call that penalty…