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Saturday, October 1st, 2016

Marcus Vinnerborg first European-trained referee in NHL

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The NHL has finally looked to Europe when it comes to referees as Marcus Vinnerborg is the first official to be trained in Europe to work in the league. However, the 38-year old doesn’t see himself as a pioneer, he’s just happy to be working and learning from the world’s best and working in the best pro hockey league on the planet.

The native of Sweden had previously been refereeing in the Swedish Elite League as well as handling some major international tournaments, such as the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and numerous International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships.

Vinnerborg came to North America this fall and started working in the American Hockey League (AHL), where he officiated 10 games before earning his first NHL game on Nov. 16 in Dallas, to handle the Stars 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks 2-1. He then worked his second game a night later in Colorado’s 4-3 win at home in overtime against the San Jose Sharks.

The newest ref in the league said he’s living out a dream and he’s loved every second of his two games so far, adding that his fellow officials have all been quite supportive along the way. He said the NHL game is a little different than European contests as there’s more cycling and he’s learning new things all the time as well as getting used to the smaller ice surfaces in North America.

However, while he’s thrilled at working in the NHL, he’ll still be refereeing in the AHL as he has two games to work there this week. He also has to get used to announcing penalties over a microphone as well as the league’s system of video replay. Ironically, there were video replay calls in his first two NHL games. He asked for a review for a high-stick goal in his second game and it turned out he was right.

Vinnerborg got the chance to work in the NHL after the NHL’s director of officiating, Terry Gregson, spoke to him during the 2010 Olympics. Gregson then called him after the Swedish season ended and asked if he’d be interested to try out a season in North America, by starting in the minors and working his way up to the NHL.

He talked things over with his wife and daughters and decided to give it a go and settled in Thornburg, Ontario. The rest as they say…. is history.

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