Later this month, when the hockey world’s attention shifts to the annual World Junior Hockey tournament, Wolverines fans may recognize a familiar face. However, instead of donning the red and white Team Canada jersey, Kyle Kowalski will be wearing the black and white stripes, working as an official.
Kowalski, 34, an Edmonton, Alberta native, played two seasons for the Wolverines. His first in 2004-05, where he racked up 28 points in 46 games. He then followed up with 24 points in 41 games the following year. However, it was a move off the ice that helped kick start Kowalski’s reffing career, “I actually dabbled into reffing in Russell, a little bit on the Minor hockey side. That was kind of how I got started; a local guy in Russell got me involved. My father, Kevin, too, was an official, so that motivated me as well.”
After wrapping up his playing career in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Drumheller Dragons, Kowalski returned home and enrolled in school at Grant MacEwan University. As Kyle pursued his bachelor of commerce degree, injuries prevented him from playing at the collegiate level. After completing his degree and spending a few years away from the game, Kowalski felt he was missing something, “I was missing hockey, but more so I was missing the guys and the locker room camaraderie. I joined some friends here locally, reffing for some side cash, and it just progressed. I started working my way up the leagues into the AJHL and then into the Western Hockey League.”
Kowalski has spent the past eight years working on the Western Hockey League officiating crew, along with holding his position at the Royal Bank of Canada, working as a Comercial Account Manager. “I’ve travelled all over the country and Western States officiating, and it’s been an amazing journey. I have been lucky to have RBC support my officiating career as well.” His reffing career has also allowed him to stay in close contact with the family he billeted within Russell, Kim and Curtis Bell. “They were pretty awesome and have had a pretty big impact on my life… When I get a reffing trip out to Brandon, they have made the trip down, and we have been able to meet up and say hi. They are incredible people,” Kowalski said.
The Wolverines would like to congratulate Kyle on his call to officiate at the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships and wish him continued success beyond this prestigious honour.
*Interesting note, in 2001, before any affiliation with the Wolverines, Current Head Coach and General Manager Taylor Harnett coached Kyle on the SSAC Lions U15 team.