NHL Referee Tom Kowal worked his final National Hockey League game on Saturday, officiating a game between the Florida Panthers and Boston Bruins.
Kowal has taken the ice for 1,106 NHL games – 1,094 in the regular season with 12 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. His NHL debut came on January 8, 2000, in a game between the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes.
This afternoon in Boston, MA the NHLOA will see for the third day in a row, another one of his veteran member lacing up his skate for the last time. Referee Tom Kowal is set to retire today when he will leave the ice after working a game opposing the Florida Panthers and the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden. He will be joined on the ice for this special game by fellow referee Brad Meier while Brian Murphy and Darren Gibbs will be working the lines. Puck drop is scheduled for 1PM.
A Burnaby BC native, Kowal started officiating hockey games at a young age after his dad talked him into it in order to learn a little bit more respect for the game. He quickly realized that it was also a great way for a young man to get free ice time while earning a few bucks. He worked his way up through all levels of amateur hockey around Vernon BC. and his communication skills made him a quick prospect for higher levels. At the age of 18, he left his hometown to pursue his dream of being an NHL referee. The Western Hockey League (WHL) then hired him, a league he would end up working for a total of 10 seasons. Then the big call came in when the National Hockey League offered him a NHL Minor Leagues Referee contract in the summer of 1998 at the age of 30. He made his NHL debut on January 28, 2000 in Raleigh NC when the New Jersey Devils were in town to play the hometown Hurricanes. After a few seasons in the minors, Kowal was promoted to a NHL full-time referee status. During his 20 years journey under contract with the National Hockey League, Kowal had the honor of being selected to work the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in the same city where he made his NHL debut; Raleigh NC. He also worked the 2014 Heritage Classic held at the BC Place in Vancouver, a game that featured the Ottawa Senators and the Vancouver Canucks. He reached the 1,000 NHL Regular Season Game milestone on January 19, 2017 in Calgary AB when he skated in a game between the Nashville Predators and the Flames. Kowal will be leaving the ice this afternoon with a final count of 1,094 NHL Regular Season games while also been selected to work 12 NHL Playoffs games.
The man wearing uniform no.32 is the last official scheduled to retire this season. His departure will be felt greatly among the NHLOA group as he has been one of the most respected member among his peers since he came in. The NHLOA would like to congratulate referee Tom Kowal for his tremendous career and would also like to wish him the best of luck in his future projects.