Fri Sep 28
Written By: Watts, Jesse

As many star players in the WHL graduate and move up to the professional level, so too do Western Hockey League officials. 

The WHL is proud to recognize referees Trevor Hanson and Trent Knorr, and linesman Kiel Murchison who were all recruited by the National Hockey League.

“We are very excited for Trevor, Trent and Kiel,” commented Kevin Muench, the WHL’s director of officiating.  “Through their hard work and commitment, they have earned the opportunity to sign an NHL contract and officiate at the highest level.”

Well known as a top development league for future NHL players, the WHL is also a top developmental league for officials.  Many referees and linesmen have gone on to lengthy careers as officials in professional leagues after learning and developing in the WHL.

For the three most recent graduates of the WHL’s Officiating Program, it’s clear that their development in the WHL had a major impact on getting them where they are today. 

“The best thing that happened to me was getting the opportunity to work in the Western Hockey League,” said Knorr, who started out his officiating career in the WHL as a linesman.  “The time and dedication put into this program is second to none.

“At the end of the day, their main concern is to see us, as officials, succeed,” he added.

Muench and his staff of supervisors are dedicated to providing the highest level of instruction, education and feedback for WHL officials.  Officiating development camps are held during the offseason where new officials are recruited and evaluated, and officials are in regular contact with Muench and other officiating supervisors.

“There is always feedback,” said Hanson on what makes the WHL officiating program so effective in developing quality officials for the next level.  “There is a great staff of supervisors who are spread out throughout the League and, on any given night, Kevin is either in the building or watching online.

“The level of professionalism and the level of communication is always high, whether it’s getting video clips or phone calls, so it helps keep all of us on the same page,” added Hanson.

Much like the players, officials are scouted and evaluated by the NHL’s officiating department.  Bob Hall, the senior officiating manager with the NHL, says the Canadian Hockey League – the WHL, the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League – is a primary feeder for the NHL in regards to the recruitment of future NHL and AHL officials.

Several factors, Hall says, help make the WHL such a strong development league to produce top-level officials who can handle working at the NHL level.

“(The WHL) is an environment that has huge crowds, great venues, a lot of pressure, and a highly-skilled and competitive level of hockey,” said Hall, who worked many games in the WHL before a 10-year officiating career in the NHL.

“One of the main advantages of the WHL is that it is so big, geographically, that it really teaches guys how to self-manage,” he said.  “Just getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ can be very distracting, and you have to learn how to get yourself ready to work a game after traveling for hours, and through some tough weather conditions at that.

“You have to be able to shut everything else down and start focusing on the game, think about who is playing, which players to watch, what could happen, and get mentally prepared.  This is an advantage that guys coming from the Western Hockey League have,” added Hall.

As with many graduate players, strong ties are formed between officials and the League.  While players will speak fondly of their time in the WHL, graduate officials also take great pride in their WHL roots.

“The WHL is second to none in developing top officials for both the NHL and IIHF events,” said Murchison. 

Hanson agrees.

“We are proud of where we came from, and we want people to know that the WHL is a great development ground for players and officials,” said Hanson.