Last night (March 9th), in the Detroit Red Wings’ 5-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers at Joe Louis Arena, a rookie official by the name of Evgeny Romasko made history by being the first Russian referee to work a game in the NHL. But why would he choose Detroit as his spot to make his debut?
According to Bill Roose, Romasko grew up playing hockey in Russia and idolized former Red Wings defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov. So even though he’d only seen videos of Joe Louis Arena online growing up, it’s always been a “legendary” building to him, and he was more than pleased to make his NHL officiating debut in Detroit.
“I think this stadium has a great story,” Romasko said prior to becoming the first Russian-born official to ever work an NHL game.
“When I played hockey I had a dream to play in NHL,” Romasko said in broken English. “Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to play. I finished my (playing) career 16 years ago and now I got the chance to work in the NHL. It’s great. I’ve had in my life just three days when I was happy like here – first and second day was with the birth of my children and this is my third happiest day of my life.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Russian hockey idol Pavel Datsyuk plays for the Red Wings as well, as he’s very much loved back in his home country. Romasko’s first NHL penalty call was against the Red Wings’ Marek Zidlicky, when he high-sticked Edmonton Oiler Rob Klinkhammer 4:52 into the first period.
Romasko has worked games in the KHL and AHL so far this season. He’s slightly gotten to know some of the Red Wings’ prospects down in Grand Rapids, as two of his AHL-officiated games were for the Griffins. With his first NHL game being so special, not only to him but to the sport of hockey in Russia as a whole, here’s hoping he officiates many more NHL games in the years to come.