For most hockey players, your chances of making it to the National Hockey League after you’ve already celebrated your 29th birthday are quite slim.
And yet, that’s exactly what is happening to former University of Alberta Golden Bears forward Travis Toomey this season. But Toomey isn’t going to the NHL as a player. Instead, the Leduc native has signed a contract to be a linesman in hockey’s top league.
Toomey graduated from university with a kinesiology degree four years ago. Soon after, he began working as a coach at Serdachny Power Skating and Hockey International, a place where he worked on his skills before winning two national championships with the Golden Bears.
“I wanted to improve my skating,” he told Global News on Wednesday. “I was able to do that… so much so that by the time I was playing here at the U of A, that was a strength of my game.
Toomey said he essentially fell into officiating by chance after playing the role of referee during a three-on-three game at the power skating school.
The former player realized he had a new way to use his perfected skating skills.
“Being back on the ice and in the game as an official was a lot of fun and turned into a passion of mine that thankfully has turned into something that now I get to make a career,” Toomey said.
He went on to work as a linesman for the female Bantam AAA games, then the Alberta Junior Hockey League and eventually, the Western Hockey League, where he helped call games for two seasons.
Last month, Toomey signed a two-way contract to be a linesman that can be deployed to work games in the both the NHL and the American Hockey League.
On Wednesday, Toomey commented on the somewhat ironic turn of fate in his hockey career given his history as a player.
“Now, in a scrum, I go from being an agitator to a peacemaker.”
Watch below: (From June 2018) One Saskatchewan linesman made his debut at the Memorial Cup this past week- becoming one stride closer to cracking the NHL. Cami Kepke has more.
Toomey’s NHL debut is expected to be on Sept. 16 at Rogers Place when the Edmonton Oilers host the Winnipeg Jets for a pre-season game.
–With files from Global News’ John Sexsmith