by Chris Lethbridge

Almonte resident Tyson Stewart, 25, has quickly become a professional hockey referee after a successful playing career in the juniors.  After attending the NHL combine in 2019, Tyson worked for both the American Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League in the 2019-20 season.

As the sports world came to halt in March, so too did his first season, just before the playoffs were about to start.  “It came as a shock to me, on March 11 I was in Laval and was told it may be my last game of the year.”  The COVID-19 pandemic spoiled his first opportunity to referee playoff hockey at such a high level.  Tyson was notified on May 9 that the AHL playoffs had officially been cancelled.

Tyson started skating at 3 years old and played minor hockey for the Mississippi Thunder Kings, Silver Seven, and Ottawa Valley Titans.  At 17 years old he played most of the season with the Almonte Thunder junior B team and had 49 points in 31 games.  His next 3 seasons were spent in junior A with the Carleton Place Canadians.  During that time, the Canadians won back-to-back league and regional championships.

“We were a powerhouse,” Tyson described his time with Carleton Place.  “The year of the first championship we had the best record ever in the CCHL for a season (54-6-2) and it was a lot of fun.  We made it all the way to the National Championship game two years in a row, obviously it didn’t go how we wanted it to, but it was pretty cool.  We just recently had a group call with 10 or 15 members of the 2013-14 team and were able to reminisce and tell old stories.”

When Tyson was 21, he played his final year of junior hockey with the Ottawa West Golden Knights.  During that season he started officiating AA and AAA games for the Peewee, Bantam, and Midget levels of minor hockey.  The following year he was a linesman in the juniors and after just one season advanced to become a referee.

The NHL reached out to Tyson’s Referee in Chief prior to the 2018-19 season and he recommended that they come watch him.  A positive report from the initial scout led to Al Kimmel, director of officiating for the NHL, attending one of Tyson’s games in February 2019.  Kimmel was pleased and Tyson received an invitation to the NHL combine.

“I didn’t expect anything to happen until later that summer, but in June I got a call that they wanted me to get a visa and start working for the AHL.”

Outside of the OHL and AHL Tyson has worked university games, the World U17 Challenge, and the Canada Winter Games.  He currently sits as a level 5 official with Hockey Canada and is excited about more doors being opened once he reaches level 6.

“The NHL is the dream, but they only employ 34 referees.  So outside of pursuing the NHL I want to work towards my level 6 which would allow me to travel all over the world and ref hockey at events such as the World Championships and the Olympics.”

Tyson highlighted the rinks of the Laval Rocket and Colorado Eagles as the best atmospheres he has experienced so far.  He is also in the local 47 sheet metal union and works for HVAC company Modern Niagara.