Former Russian player Evgeny Romasko has become the league's first Russian referee and only the second European official.
Former Russian hockey player Evgeny Romasko became the first Russian to referee an NHL contest when he joined veteran official Paul Devorski on Monday night in Detroit as the Red Wings hosted the Edmonton Oilers.
According to Yahoo Sports, the 33-year-old Romasko signed a deal to be one of 12 officials working in the American Hockey League and vying for an officiating job in the NHL.
In recent years, the NHL has worked to expand its officiating corps, a goal that aligned with Romasko's ambitions.
"It was very difficult time for my country," Romasko said. "A lot of players finish career, we have the same reason. I felt I can't continue my career at a high level. I made a decision. Now I'm happy to be referee."
Romasko, whose family currently lives in the city of Tver, northwest of Moscow, will work three NHL games before returning to the AHL to officiate one game and then compete for a spot in that league’s playoff rotation.
His family will join him in North America before next season and he will either be a regular official in the AHL or NHL, depending on his performance.
Russian players have been a part of the NHL for more than a quarter century, since the former Soviet Union allowed Sergei Pryakhin to come to the league and young star Alexander Mogilny defected to join the Buffalo Sabres. Pryakhin, a right wing, played just 46 games for the Calgary Flames from 1989-91, while Mogilny was one of the first European stars in the league.
The Red Wings have been central to the growth of Russian personnel in the league, as one of the NHL's leading teams in importing Russian talent, with the famed Russian Five in the 1990s and the first Russian to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP, Sergei Fedorov, in 1993-94.