A quick glance at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge alumni list reveals a
who’s-who of hockey, an impressive list of past, present and future stars
unrivalled among other events.
Names like Bure, Sundin, Niedermayer, Ovechkin, Kane and McDavid plied
their trade at the U17 level, experiencing the international game for the
But the players aren’t the only ones who use the tournament as a
jumping-off point to bigger things.
For the handful of officials who earn the right to work the World Under-17
Hockey Challenge every season, it is an opportunity to see how they fit in
among the best in the country, and work towards the same goal as the
players – the National Hockey League.
This season, 16 officials – 11 referees and five linesmen – who have worked
the U17 event since the start of the Officiating Program of Excellence
(OPOE) in 2003 are under contract with the NHL, with another dozen or so
working their way up through the American Hockey League.
The list includes:
Reid Anderson (Hockey Alberta) – 2014
Francis Charron (Hockey Quebec) – 2004
Trevor Hanson (B.C. Hockey) – 2008
Ghislain Hebert (Hockey New Brunswick) – 2005
Jean Hebert (Hockey New Brunswick) – 2006
Pierre Lambert (Hockey Quebec) – 2010
T.J. Luxmore (Ontario Hockey Federation) – 2009
Jon McIsaac (Hockey Nova Scotia) – 2008
Garrett Rank (Ontario Hockey Federation) – 2014
Kyle Rehman (Hockey Alberta) – 2004
Graham Skilliter (Saskatchewan Hockey Association) – 2004
Devin Berg (Ontario Hockey Federation) – 2014
Trent Knorr (B.C. Hockey) – 2010
Matt MacPherson (Hockey Nova Scotia) – 2005
Kiel Murchison (B.C. Hockey) – 2005
Andrew Smith (Ontario Hockey Federation) – 2016
“It was a great experience working international hockey, seeing kids play
from different countries and being able to interact with your peers,” says
Rank, who, in addition to his 2014 appearance as a referee, also worked as
a linesman at the 2011 U17s. “Those are the guys you’re growing up with,
the guys you’re competing with in the officiating world. It just gives you
a stepping stone to see where you’re at.”
The selection process for the officials isn’t too far from that of the
Referees and linesman are scouted within their home provinces, and most
work in the Canadian Hockey League prior to seeing U17 action, which can
then lead to other international assignments, or even the pros.
Rank, for example, didn’t waste any time climbing the ladder. After working
the gold medal game in Cape Breton in 2014, he was in the AHL that year and
made his NHL debut in January 2015. He got the call for the Calder Cup
Final in 2015 and 2016 before joining the NHL full-time at the start of the
He credits his time in the OPOE for preparing him for the next steps.
“Ultimately, [the OPOE] is there to identify the best officials across
Canada,” Rank says. “From there, you learn from the best and interact with
other officials who are strong. It doesn’t hurt that you are working the
best hockey in the country, and you get the experience of working
For more information on the Officiating Program of Excellence, visit HockeyCanada.ca.