Two graduates of the Western Hockey League’s Officiating Development program are slated to make their NHL debut this week.
Referee Graham Skilliter will make his NHL debut on Monday, January 28th, in Edmonton, AB, for the game between the Oilers and the Colorado Avalanche. Linesman Kiel Murchison will see his first NHL action on Wednesday, January 30th, in Vancouver, B.C., for the game between the Canucks and the Avalanche.
“Congratulations to Graham and Kiel on their first NHL assignments,” said WHL director of officiating Kevin Muench. “Like WHL players, WHL officials have the goal of making it to the highest level in the sport, and Graham and Kiel should be proud of the hard work and dedication they put in that earned them the opportunity to work in the NHL.”
Naturally, both Skilliter and Murchison are thrilled with the opportunity to move up to the NHL.
“I’m very excited…a dream come true,” said Murchison, who will make his NHL debut in his hometown.
“It’s exciting to get there, but I know it’s going to be a lot of work and learning to stay at that level.”
Skilliter, who worked six years in the WHL – two as a linesman and four as a referee – will be making his debut alongside three other former WHL officials, making it an All-WHL officiating crew for his NHL debut.
“It feels good,” said Skilliter. “It’s a full WHL Alumni crew I’ll be working with.
“I’ll be with Brad Watson, Jay Sharrers and Mark Wheler, so it’ll be three Saskatchewan guys and one B.C. guy working the game,” he added. “I think all three of those guys have been in the NHL since before I even learned to skate.”
Both officials spent key years developing their skills in the WHL in the League’s Officiating Development program. As much as the Western Hockey League prides itself on developing elite players, the League also offers one of the world’s best development programs for officials.
“The WHL was instrumental in helping me get to where I am,” said Murchison. “The officiating program and the supervision taught me so much that I needed to learn.”
Skilliter says his time in the WHL not only helped him develop as an official and prepare him for higher levels of the sport, but also helped him in many other areas of life.
“I can’t give enough praise to the officiating program in the WHL,” said Skilliter. “They make sure we are rounded professionals and not just good referees.
“The program prides itself on developing good people, and helping officials carve out a career path aside from just officiating,” he said.