History will be made at Joe Louis tonight as Evgeny Romasko — No. 39 in your programs — will become the NHL’s first-ever Russian referee.
Romasko, along with Paul Devorski, will call the Oilers-Red Wings game in Detroit. The assignment comes after the 33-year-old spent some of this season in the AHL; previously, he also worked the KHL and a number of international games, drawing impressive reviews from NHL head of officiating Stephen Walkom and ex-referee Paul Stewart.
“There were some phenomenal referees at the IIHF European camp I was at — when they went to play hockey, you could tell that lots of them had hockey [playing] experience because they were yelling for the puck,” Walkom said, per the Edmonton Journal. “But one guy stood out. Geno was off the radar but he’d worked junior and minor pro hockey.
“He was a phenomenal skater. He had a game presence about him.”
Stewart echoed those sentiments.
“Bar none, he’s the best conditioned referee in the world right now. He’s a former defenseman who’s strong physically and is an outstanding skater,” he wrote on Hockey Buzz. “The raw materials and work ethic are there. He’s willing to put in the time with the miles of travel between games in the American League to make it happen (NHL).”
While Romasko will be the league’s first-ever Russian referee, he won’t be the first European. That distinction went to Marcus Vinneborg, who joined the NHL during the 2010-11 campaign and retired in June of 2012.