Pollock will referee the NHL’s 1,500th game after bad luck turned to good luck
When Kevin Pollock graduated from college with a degree in electrical technology, he thought he would get a job with Bruce Power near his hometown of Kincardine, Ontario.
A hiring freeze prevented that, so Pollock, who at the time had played a little hockey on the side, got advice from his mother Helen: Go to Mississauga and see if he could get a job on the field that he chose He could always go home after the hiring freeze ended.
“I wanted to continue umpiring, so I got into umpiring [Ontario Hockey Association] there,” said Pollock, who balanced the craft with his work in Mississauga.
“That was probably the best decision of my life because from there I climbed the OHA ladder to the [Ontario Hockey League] in the ECHL and then be able to be hired [in the NHL]. If it wasn’t for maybe a bit of bad luck with the hiring freeze and my mom giving me the advice to go to the city, who knows where I’d be today.”
Now Pollock will officiate his 1,500th NHL regular-season game when the Boston Bruins play the Buffalo Sabers at KeyBank Arena in Buffalo on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, NESN, ESPN+ SN NOW). The 52-year-old is eighth all-time among match referees, 13 behind Dan O’Halloran, who retired after the 2020-21 season.
Pollock is sixth among all referees and second among active officials with 215 Stanley Cup Playoff games, just behind Kelly Sutherland (216).
Pollock’s first game as an NHL referee was when the Nashville Predators defeated the New York Islanders 3-2 on March 28, 2000. He couldn’t remember the final score, but everything else was vivid.
“My mom and dad [Clarke] I was there, and I was pretty numb the whole game, in awe of being on the ice, in the NHL and working that game,” he said.
“I worked with three great guys, [referee] Dan O’Halloran, [linesmen] Pierre Racicot and Don Henderson. Pierre Racicot and Dan ended up being two of the greatest ever and worked so many cups and Donnie is just a great man. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with that night.”
Pollock learned to officiate through his father Clarke, who was an OHA official for 20 years.
“Not only did I sit in on the clinics he gave, but when I was 14 or 15 I started working with him in minor hockey games. He gave me a couple of hard pushes and assigned me to referee a senior men’s game when I was 16. he put some senior linesmen in the game with me to make sure everything would go well,” he said.
“He’s the guy that kind of steered me in the right direction and gave me that great foundation, so when I started umpiring in the OHA, even though I was young and maybe a rookie in that league, I was pretty experienced, and it was all because of him.”
Kevin and Clarke are respected in hockey circles, especially around Kincardine. So much so that the Pollock Division of the Provincial Junior Hockey League, the third tier of the OHA, was named after him.
“Probably 8-10 years ago, the OHA decided to name the divisions after people who were influential in hockey in those areas,” Pollock said. “My dad gets to present the trophy every year to the league champions. I said maybe when I retire, maybe I’ll go on the ice with my dad and present it with him.”
Pollock isn’t thinking about retirement just yet. Right now, he’s enjoying everything the NHL has given him, including the 1,500 game milestone.
“If you don’t have that passion and love for the game, I don’t know if you can possibly even work as long as I have, just being away and missing everything at home,” he said.
“I have a good family at home and my wife [Karie] he steers the ship, probably when I’m there and when I’m away. Just the love of the game; I am honored to work in the best League in the world. Sometimes I still pinch myself thinking that I’m on the roster and I get a chance to go on the ice and witness the great players we have.”
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