Bryan Lewis, former director of officiating for the NHL, is the referee-in-chief for men’s hockey at the OUA.
In his current role, Lewis supervises OUA officials. He usually attends one or two university men’s hockey games a week, arriving an hour early to meet with the coaches and officials.
Lewis sits with an unobstructed view of the ice so he can make notes about the game — such as the start time, penalties and big hits.
“This is what I call my videotape, so at the end of the night, if something happens, I’ll have it down here,” he says of his notes.
Lewis also evaluates referees on many criteria including their appearance, face-off technique and game control.
Lewis began his hockey career as a player when he was a young child. He said he first started as a referee when he was 14 or 15 for children half his age. He said it was nice getting extra time on the ice, and he found that really enjoyed it.
When he couldn’t make a junior A team by 21, Lewis decided it was time to become a referee.
“I’m going to put down my hockey stick and pick up a whistle,” he said.
A few years later he was invited to a training camp for officials in Detroit because the NHL had doubled the number of teams in the league.
He signed a professional contract to start as a referee in the minor leagues: the Central Hockey League (CHL), the American Hockey League (AHL), and the old Western Hockey League (WHL).
Lewis worked his way up to the NHL, where he officiated in 1,023 regular season games and 30 playoff games, including nine Stanley Cup Finals games.
He retired from being an on-ice official in 1986 to take a job as a referee supervisor for the NHL, which including scouting officials. Three years later, the director of officiating suddenly died, and Lewis was asked to take over.
He then became responsible for scheduling referees at all NHL and AHL games, as well as some CHL games.
He would attend games himself, and evaluate the officials like he currently does for the OUA.
Lewis stepped down as the director of officiating for the NHL in 2000 to spend more time with his family.
“I wasn’t very good at what I thought I should be doing,” he said.
His wife had had a battle with breast cancer, and he said he wanted to be a better husband and father.
After retiring from the NHL, Lewis got involved in politics in his hometown. He’s currently running in his fifth municipal election as the Ward 2 councillor in Halton Hills.
Lewis also worked for the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) as the director of officiating for two years.
He left there to work for his son, Duane Lewis, in the CHL instead, while working for the OUA at the same time.
He retired from the CHL after the end of last season because his son was no longer there.
Lewis became involved with the OUA because of his connections with the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA). He was asked to help with officiating, and he said he would.
“I was very much intrigued by the calibre of hockey,” he said.
Four years later, he says he’s still enjoying it and currently has no plans to stop.