A South Surrey hockey official – and a former member of the Surrey Eagles – made his debut in the American Hockey League ranks last week in Pennsylvania, and it might not be long until he’s a fulltime member of that professional circuit.
Former BC Hockey League defenceman Troy Paterson, 25, was the referee for a Nov. 22 game between the Hershey Bears and Springfield Thunderbirds – the minor-league affiliates of the NHL’s Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers, respectively. Since then, he’s officiated in two more AHL games, in Syracuse, N.Y. and Lehigh Valley, Pa.
Prior to his call-up to the AHL, Paterson – son of former Surrey Eagles’ owner and Peninsula businessman Ronnie Paterson – had been officiating in the junior ranks, including the BC Hockey League and Western Hockey League.
The younger Paterson was still travelling the east coast – off to his next assignment – and unavailable for comment as of Wednesday morning, but his dad, who travelled to Hershey to watch his son’s debut, was understandable proud, especially considering it’s only been three years since Troy traded in his stick for referee stripes.
“It’s a difficult craft, but Troy has worked extremely hard and he’s continued to grow – and (the pro ranks) have really accelerated him,” Ronnie said.
“(The AHL call-up) was a great opportunity for him, and I know he’s really enjoying it.”
Troy played in the BCHL from 2010-2013. He spent three seasons with the Cowichan Valley Capitals, before being traded to his hometown Eagles a few weeks prior to the 2013 trade deadline, as the Birds were loading up their roster for a run at an RBC Cup title.
Paterson’s homecoming lasted less than two games, however – he suffered a season-ending knee-injury on his first shift of his second game with his hometown team. The injury marked an end to his junior career, and though he did spend one season with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire – an NCAA Div. 3 team – he never played a game, having redshirted due to his injury, which took “three or four” surgeries to correct.
After his one season at college, he retired, only to discover soon after that the National Hockey League was looking to the college, junior and minor-pro ranks for potential new officials. Intrigued, Paterson soon found himself at a development camp in Buffalo, N.Y.
He’s been refereeing junior – and now AHL games – ever since.
“It’s funny, as child – I think he was about 13 – Troy refereed a Surrey Eagles’ intra-squad game one day, but that was the extent of his experience,” Ronnie laughed.
“But when one door closes, another one often opens, and that’s really what’s happened here. It was a devastating injury, but it’s created this for him… Troy has always been a great student of the game, and he’s been very passionate about it, so this is another avenue for him to stay involved.”
If his rapid development continues, Troy – who suffers no ill effects of his knee injury, according to his dad – could one day find himself officiating at the National Hockey League level. He has four more AHL games – all in California – on his schedule for December.
“I chuckle sometimes, because as a player, he used to always challenge the referees, and now he is one,” Ronnie said.
“My wife is enjoying watching him, too – she says now he gets to be on the ice the entire game.”