National Hockey League referee Marc Joannette was honored for working his 1500th regular season game on Thursday in Montreal, as the Canadiens hosted the New York Rangers.

Family and friends – including retired linesman Pierre Racicot – were in attendance at the Bell Centre, as well as on the ice. Joannette officiated the game as part of a hand-picked all-Quebec crew of fellow referee Frederick L’Ecuyer and linesmen Jonny Murray and Michel Cormier.

Head coaches Martin St. Louis and Gerard Gallant presented Joannette with custom jerseys from their respective teams with “1500” on the back.

Thursday’s game was actually 1509 for the native of Verdun, Quebec.  Joannette reached the 1500-game milestone on February 12 in Philadelphia, working a game between the Flyers and Kraken.

“It’s been a lot of sacrifice and time away from home,” Joannette told the Montreal Gazette’s Herb Zurkowsky. “A lot of support from people around me these least 25 years. It’s been a long journey. To reach this milestone, it’s about those people that have been there for me. It means so much to me for them to be here today.”

“I never thought I’d make it all this way and last in this business this long. The emotional part is all about looking back. How far I came from and where I started.”

Joannette made his NHL debut on October 27th, 1999, working a game between the Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning; he took the ice alongside referee Kerry Fraser and linesmen Derek Amell and Tim Nowak.

The ref known as “Jojo” has also handled 172 playoff games, including three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals (2008, 2009, 2018). He was also selected to referee the men’s ice hockey tournament at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver as well as the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

From the NHLOA:

The Verdun, QC native started his officiating journey at the early age of 14 after his father, an organizer in the local minor hockey association, suggested he attend an officiating camp. It didn’t took long before he fell in love with the challenge and started wearing the black and white uniform that same season. He would continue his playing days until the age of 17 when he decided to turn his attention to officiating.

Joannette spent his first three seasons mainly working all levels of minor hockey in the Lac Saint-Louis region and in the west portion of the Montreal Island. His natural talent was quickly recognize at age of 18 when he made the officiating team of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) as a linesman, a league where he would spend a total of 11 seasons. He would eventually transition to the referee position in the QMJHL.

Joannette realized around the age of 23 that his passion could potentially land him a position with the National Hockey League when he was offered to join the defunct “NHL Officiating Trainee Program”, where he was assigned to work several minor pro and junior major leagues across North America learning the ropes and gaining valuable experience while still working the QJMHL. In the summer of 1998, after completing five full seasons in the “Trainee program”, the NHL offered him a full-time minor leagues referee contract, working primarily American Hockey League (AHL) games while gradually earning some NHL assignments. Joannette was promoted to a full time NHL referee status in the summer of 2000.

Joannette will be back in Montreal at least once more this season – for his final game. The 24-year veteran is set to hang up his whistle at the end of the season. His last match is set for April 4, when the Detroit Red Wings visit the Habs.

Let the farewell tour begin and the handshake lines commence. Congratulations to Marc Joannette on 1500 – no 1509 games – as he wraps up a terrific career.