Rookie NHL referee Kyle Rehman summed up his situation with one statement.
“It’s a pretty cool life,” the former Red Deer resident said this week, in reference to his first season of calling penalties in ‘The Show’.
“I’ve officiated 16 NHL games so far, although I’m still on an American League contract.
“But there’s a couple of NHL referees on the shelf right now, so probably just over 50 per cent of my games are in the NHL, so things are going really good.”
Rehman, reached at his Calgary home earlier his week and just one day after his wife, Jill, gave birth to the couple’s first child, daughter Reese, will soon be off on a series of assignments starting Tuesday in Toronto, where he’ll officiate an AHL game.
From there, he’ll work additional AHL games in Hamilton and Toronto, an NHL contest in Columbus and then, after a couple of days off, he’ll officiate an AHL contest in Rockford, Ill., and then a pair of NHL outings, including St. Louis at Calgary on Dec. 23.
It’s a hectic life, but also a “cool” existence. It will be even better when Rehman earns his permanent NHL stripes.
“I’m getting close,” said the WHL referee of the year for the 2005-06 season who became a professional official two years ago when he signed a contract to work primarily AHL games.
“I just take it one game and one season at a time, you know the old clichés.
“I feel really comfortable at the top.
“The biggest thing is just gaining the respect of the players and coaches. As officials we just want to show to the guys night in and night out that we’re going to be consistent with our standards. If they see you the next night or the at the end of the season, they can expect the same thing.”
Rehman, 29, played junior B hockey in Red Deer, where his parents still live, and credits some of his hometown officials for getting him started on his current path.
“I still have to look at my grass roots and the people who helped me start officiating minor hockey in Red Deer,” he said.
“I was fortunate in that I got to work some bantam AAA and midget AAA games during my first couple of years. That really got the fire lit.”
Rehman, who as a university student worked AJHL games in Olds, Calgary and the Edmonton area before moving on to the major junior ranks, also credits former WHL referee Kevin Acheson for helping him develop as an official.
“I met Kevin at an Alberta development camp in 2000,” said Rehman. “He was still working in the WHL at the time. I took his number and when I attended the University of Alberta he really took me under his wing.
“When I wasn’t working a game I made sure I jumped in the car with him and took off to wherever he was going. And when I had a couple of days off and it didn’t conflict with my schooling or officiating schedule, I was watching WHL games. I really credit a lot of where I got to from watching other guys. I’ve always said that I’ve had some good teachers along the way, but I think I’ve also been a good student of the game. No matter if you’re a player or a referee. If you want to get better and aspire to get to the top, you have to watch the best guys work.
“When I was coming through the WHL, Kevin Acheson was one of the top officials, so to have him to lean on and for him to guide me in the right direction, was great.”
Rehman, who also had kind words for WHL director of officiating Kevin Muench, continued to watch and learn once he moved to the pro ranks.
He offered up familiar names like Don Koharski, who retired as an NHL referee following the 2008-09 season, Rob Shick, Mick McGeough and Terry Gregson, as mentors.
“As the NHL director of officiating, Terry Gregson has some really good insight and has given me positive feedback. All of these guys have been great,” said Rehman.
“I feel very fortunate to have guys like that help me along the way.”
Rehman also feels fortunate in that he’s climbed the ranks in a relatively rapid manner.
“For me, the journey hasn’t taken as long as it has for some guys. I think it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time,” he said.
“A guy like Mike Hasenfratz has done an excellent job in the NHL but while he was coming through he worked 13 years in the WHL and two Memorial Cups.
He had to keep working at that level because there were no (NHL referees) retiring back then, plus the one-man system was in place at that time and since then more jobs have been created (with the two-man system).
“Being in the right place at the right time is important, but at the same time you have to take advantage of the situation you’re given and it takes a lot of hard work.
“Sometimes you’re still pinching yourself when you’re out there with the guys up top. It’s surreal some nights, but it’s a job and when you put on the your skates and step onto the ice you know you have to take care of business.
“I think if you get out there and work your hardest, coaches will respect that.
“They realize that mistakes are going to happen once in a while; you just try and minimize those mistakes.”
Calgary will remain as Rehman’s home base for the foreseeable future, but he’s open to the notion of a relocation, if necessary.
“I love it here and if I can stay here, great.
“But my wife and I would be excited about the opportunity to move somewhere else,” said Rehman, who appreciates the support he’s received from his spouse.
“She’s happy that I love my job and for a person who never really grew up with hockey, the sport has grown on her,” he added.
“She’ll watch games with me at home and when I’m on the road she’ll turn the game on. It’s kind of funny because now she’ll even ask the odd question as to what happened in a game. She’s watching and learning too.”