A pair of brothers from Red Deer had years of hard work pay off on Sunday when they officiated their first career American Hockey League (AHL) game.
Chad and Cody Huseby, who are 36-year-old twins, were linesmen in the inaugural Calgary Wranglers home opener against the Coachella Valley Firebirds at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“It was awesome,” Chad said. “It was our first taste of professional hockey. We had done just a few exhibition games a little bit before with some Flames and Oilers prospects games but it was our first game in the AHL. It was cool because it was the franchise’s opening game for the Wranglers as well. Being able to work with Cody has always been fun out there with him.”
They’ve been hired by the AHL to officiate a number of games for the remainder of the 2022-23 season and after that, it will be on a year-to-year basis.
The duo has officiated in hockey for 25 years and it all started in their hometown of Rocky Mountain House. They first began officiating minor hockey games in the community at 13 years old after their uncle Blair Andrew, who is also a longtime referee, asked them to give it a shot. They had no prior officiating experience but both played minor hockey and knew the game well. After that, they moved to Red Deer to go to college where they officiated games at all levels of hockey, including the Western Hockey League for the last 13 years.
“That’s what got us started was just kind of a part-time gig on the weekends to earn a little extra money to spend at the concession. Then it just evolved once we got done playing. That was an excellent way to stay involved in the game and now looking back on 25 years later I’ve met some of the best people through the game of hockey,” Chad added.
Cody was selected to referee in the 2022 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton, including the gold medal game last summer. Chad worked the same tournament in 2019 in Czechia as well as the 2022 Memorial Cup in Saint John, New Brunswick last June.
The brothers don’t always get to officiate games together but Chad said they will do a “fair bit” throughout the hockey season. He estimated if they do 30 games in the WHL they would normally work 13 to 14 games together.
Their journey to the AHL has been both a grind and a labour of love but they’re thankful for the mentors and coaches they’ve had over the years who have helped make them better.
“It’s a similar journey that players take. You have to cut your teeth at the lower levels and learn as much as you can. Then try to continually improve your game and try to bring your best effort every night. [You have to] hope that gets noticed by the decision makers and it’s a performance-driven industry,” he said.
“We’re always measured even though sometimes people don’t think that we’re held accountable. We certainly are and the officials that perform the best are the ones that get the top assignments and continue to progress.”
Their dream one day was to officiate in the National Hockey League but with careers and young families to call their own they’re content with where they are. They hope to be top officials in the WHL and continue to work professional games in the AHL.
What keeps them going in the industry is the brotherhood among hockey referees and that’s what Chad enjoys the most.
“It can be pretty lonely some nights especially when the fans, coaches, and players are on you. Some nights it feels like the only people that you have on your side in the building are the four guys wearing the striped jerseys,” Chad explained.