Kirsten Welsh will become the first female official in Ontario Hockey League history tonight in Mississauga.

Welsh will take the ice tonight as the Steelheads host the Guelph Storm alongside referees Jason Faist and Stephen Hiff, with linesman Justin Herrington.

“This is an incredible opportunity and I can’t really put into words what it feels like to be working in the Ontario Hockey League,” said Welsh. “Just being one of the first women to do this, it really opens that door to women in hockey who want to have an alternate avenue that maybe isn’t playing in the Premier Hockey Federation or playing on a national team.”

“Being an advocate and having this opportunity, I just feel so lucky. It’s an incredible process to be a part of. I’m so lucky I can be a part of something that is going to affect generations of little girls.”

Welsh attended the NHL Officiating Exposure Combine in 2019, after which she was selected to officiate the Buffalo Sabres’ NHL Prospect Camp, which included players from the Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, and Pittsburgh Penguins. She also worked the Elite 3-on-3 Women’s Exhibition Game as part of the 2020 NHL All-Star Game.  Welsh returned to the NHL Combine in 2021 prior to making the jump to the OHL.

“We first met Kirsten at the NHL Exposure Combine in 2019 and we were immediately impressed by her presence on the ice,” said OHL Director of Officiating Conrad Haché. “She approaches and prepares for each game in a professional way, is a great skater and has a tremendous desire to continually improve. These traits will not only make her a great OHL official, but also a great ambassador for our League.”

From the OHL:

Welsh, 24, resides in Freedom, Pennsylvania after graduating as captain of the Robert Morris University women’s NCAA hockey program where she patrolled the blue line from 2015-19, recording 91 points (34-57—91) over 128 regular season games. A graduate of the Whitby Wolves Women’s Hockey Program, her collegiate career included several awards and honours including being named the 2018 CHA Defender of the Year.

Welsh, who has spent the past year officiating throughout Pennsylvania covering NCAA Division III hockey as well as the NAPHL, Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League and Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League, will take the ice tonight in Mississauga for her first official OHL assignment at 7:00pm.

Welsh will also work Friday’s pre-season game between the Oshawa Generals and visiting Windsor Spitfires.  She will be a member of the OHL Officiating Team for the 2021-22 season.

“On behalf of the OHL and its member teams, I’d like to extend a warm welcome and congratulate Kirsten Welsh on the accomplishment of joining the OHL Officiating Team,” said Commissioner David Branch. “Kirsten has demonstrated an ability to officiate the game at a high level and we’re excited to see her break barriers as she continues her development as a linesperson in the OHL.”

The Robert Morris University grad is also slated to work the lines this season in the ECHL.

Congratulations to Kirsten Welsh on her OHL debut!