Russian-born referee Romasko makes NHL debut

Referee Evgeny Romasko, right, watches in the first period of an NHL hockey game as Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) waits for a face-off against the Edmonton Oilers. (Paul Sancya/AP)

Evgeny Romasko became the first Russian-born referee to work an NHL game Monday night when the Detroit Red Wings hosted the Edmonton Oilers.

Romasko drew high praise from NHL senior vice president and director of officiating Stephen Walkom before landing his first opportunity in the NHL.

“We’re looking for someone that has that great hockey sense,” Walkom told NHL.com. “He needs to be a fantastic skater. We want you to work 1,000 games in the NHL, which is pretty much a career, and it’d be great if you naturally had presence in the game.

“[Romasko] is one of those guys that the scouts unanimously said he just has that. And that good skating gives him real good presence in the game. We had our guys watch him quite closely. He had some pro experience so he was lucky he wasn’t a guy coming from junior hockey, so our scouts decided let’s get him on a minor-league contract so we can watch him a little closer and we can begin the process of him working for us on full-time basis. We got through that and he just had to go out and perform.”

Romasko took a minute to pose for a photo with Oilers winger, and fellow Russian, Nail Yakupov following his NHL debut. Veteran NHL official Paul Devorski wasn’t about to let a great photo opportunity pass him by, so he joined in the occasion wearing nothing but a pair of towels.

Edmonton Oilers on Twitter

Good luck with clearing that image from mind’s cache.

Yakupov and Romasko are familiar with one another, and the former first overall pick was happy to see the native of Tver, Russia land an NHL gig.

Via The Edmonton Sun:

“Yeah I know him, I know him a little bit and my dad knows him, so we talked a little bit out there, but not too much,” Yakupov said. “I think it’s really good, it’s the best moment so far for Russian referees. To have a Russian referee in the league, I’m really excited for it. We are proud of this guy.”

Romasko officiated nearly 300 games in the KHL and has experience at the World Junior Championship and World Under-18 Championship, as well as working 32 AHL games. He will work alongside Devorski for his next two games.

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