They say no one buys a ticket to a hockey game to watch the officials, but tonight might be a rare exception to that rule.
Evgeni Romasko, a veteran of the AHL and KHL, is set to become the first Russian to officiate an NHL game on Monday. He'll take the ice alongside veteran Paul Devorski in Detroit where the Red Wings will host the Edmonton Oilers (7:30 p.m. EST; SNW, FS-D).
He'll become just the second European-trained referee to officially take the ice in the NHL. Marcus Vinnerborg of Sweden was the first in 2010. He spent two years splitting his time between the NHL and AHL before returning home in 2012.
Despite limited experience at the highest levels, Romasko has a chance to make a bigger splash in North America.
“His skating skills are very good,” said IIHF officiating manager Konstantin Komissarov. “He’s a nice guy with a good character. You can rely on him. Like [Alex] Ovechkin, he simply enjoys to be on the ice.”
The knock on European refs has always been consistency and their different standard for calling offenses. Working his way up to the NHL mean will be part of the learning curve for Romasko, although he's not coming in cold.
The 33-year-old joined the KHL as an official during the league's inaugural season in 2008-09. He has 231 games of experience in that circuit, along with 31 in the AHL. That should help with his transition. So should the fact that there are several Russians on tonight's rosters who likely will go out of their way to ease him into the league. As for the others on the ice, they'll just be looking for a well-called match.
"[It] doesn’t matter if he’s Canadian or American or Brazilian,” said NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom. “All the players care about is his work ethic. They’ll judge him on his own merit, not where he’s from.”
Where he's from will be a story tonight. Here's hoping that after he gets this one under his belt, Romasko becomes just another guy in stripes who is out to get your team.