Russian referee set to make NHL history Monday night

Photo via IIHF 
Photo via IIHF 

History will be made in Monday’s game against the Oilers and the Red Wings. Referee Evgeny Romasko will be the first Russian referee in the history of the NHL to call a game in the league.

Romasko had called more than 30 AHL games in November and December before returning to Russia where he is a KHL referee.

From the IIHF:

But the NHL’s officiating department wanted him back, and the promise of a possible assignment in the world’s top hockey league was irresistible. Romasko grew up playing hockey as a defenceman, and played a couple of games in the second-highest Russian league for his hometown team THK Tver in his late teenage years before changing to officiating. He worked himself up and reached Russia’s top league during the KHL’s inaugural season in 2008/2009 where he officiated in 231 games.

It was after he became a major international competition referee in 2012 that he started to move up the ranks and get on officiating radars. He is just the second European referee to call an NHL game. Marcus Vinnerborg from Sweden was the first in Nov. 2010. He then returned to Sweden after two seasons in the NHL and AHL.

As for a scouting repot on Romasko, said IIHF officiating manager Konstantin Komissarov:

“His skating skills are very good. He’s a nice guy with a good character. You can rely on him,” Komissarov describes Romasko and compares him to another Russian in the NHL. “Like Ovechkin he simply enjoys to be on the ice. We wish him great success in his NHL career.”

The Ovechkin of refs. That could be interesting when it comes to diving calls. Just kidding.

Said NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom:

“(It) doesn’t matter if he’s Canadian or American or Brazilian. All the players care about is his work ethic. They’ll judge him on his own merit, not where he’s from.”

But it’s certainly not going to be an easy process, notes former NHL ref Paul Stewart to Hockey Buzz. Earlier in the piece, he said the NHL "blew it" with how it handled Vinnerborg.

Evgeny needs to be led by the hand rather than simply tossed into the water and expected to swim -- that was where the NHL messed up with Vinnerborg -- but he has excellent potential. Bar none, I think he is the best conditioned official in the world right now. He's a former VHL level defenseman for THK Tver and is both strong physically and an outstanding skater.

In that case, the league may be getting it right in Game 1 for Romasko. His partner will be veteran ref Paul Devorski. According to Scouting the Refs, Devorski’s first game was Oct. 14, 1989, and he has refereed Stanley Cup Final games and Olympic events.

Watch the game Monday night, not for the guys in blue and orange or red. But for the zebra with a No. 39 pasted on his back.

- - - - - - -

Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!