Long-time National Hockey League referee Ian Walsh has retired due to injury following the 2022-23 NHL season.
The Philly native suffered a knee injury that saw him sidelined for the 2022-23 season. Following a lengthy recovery from knee replacement surgery, the veteran official has hung up his skates.
Walsh, who officiated 1,321 regular season and 30 playoff games, made his NHL debut on October 14, 2000. His first appearance came alongside his future boss, then-referee Stephen Walkom, with linesmen Dan McCourt and Brad Kovachik. He was honored for reaching the 1000-game milestone in his hometown of Philadelphia back in 2017.
All the best to Ian Walsh, who retired this month after 24 years as #NHL referee following knee replacement.
Injury prevented proper send off, but congrats are in order after 1,324 games. Not bad for a kid who began reffing to pay his hockey bill. You made Philly proud, #29. 👏 pic.twitter.com/4kalMGomzv
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) August 15, 2023
Along with working the Sochi games, Walsh named the 2012 Winter Classic between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers – in his hometown – as his favorite assignment.
From the NHLOA:
Walsh, a proud alumnus of the USA Hockey Development Program, started skating at the age of six years old and played hockey until the Midget level. He first picked up a whistle at the age of 15 working games around his hometown of Philadelphia. His dad, Bill, suggested to him that it would be a great way to make some money and stay connected to the game he loved. His dad was also an official and the area’s assigner so he made sure he put himself with Ian during that inaugural season.
In years soon to come, Walsh officiated with certain select guys his dad paired him with, now referring to it as a ‘mentoring program before there was actually a formal mentoring program.’ “It definitely paid dividends,” Walsh said. Walsh really got into officiating and made it a goal of his during an Eastern Regional USA Hockey Officiating Camp he attended at the age of 19, a weekend filled with on-ice sessions, classroom and seminars geared toward improving officials performance. The following two seasons, Walsh moved on to work in the United States Hockey League (USHL), considered back then to be the top junior league in the country, now the only nation’s Tier I junior league. He continued his ascension to the top in the next two seasons by reaching first the Central Hockey League (CHL) and then the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).
In the summer of 1996, Walsh was identified as one of the 25 on-ice officials by the NHL for their now-defunct trainee program, having him working games in the ECHL, International Hockey League (IHL), all three Canadian Major Junior League (WHL, OHL & QJMHL) and the American Hockey League (AHL). He was part of this trainee program for three seasons logging a lot of driving and air miles and countless hotel nights working more than 100 games in each of those seasons. His hard work and on-ice performance were rewarded in the summer of 1999 when Ian was hired by the NHL under a minor league referee contract.
On April 16th, 2009, Walsh became the first referee from the Atlantic District to work in a Stanley Cup Playoff game when he called Game 1 between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings game in the Western Conference Quaterfinals at the old Joe Louis Arena. NHLOA Alumni Pat Dapuzzo – who is also a product of the Atlantic District – had previously worked the NHL Playoffs, but as a linesman. Well-respected by his peers, he has been voted to serve on the NHLOA Executive Board since 2015.
Walsh’s departure leaves a second referee slot open for the 2023-24 season, as referee Marc Joannette retired prior to the end of the season.
Sending all the best to referee Ian Walsh in his retirement!