Interview with Keith Kaval
On the most recent episode of the Team Stripes Podcast, we got to talk with Keith Kaval. Keith has one of the most impressive officiating resume’s you will ever see – having worked the AHL, KHL, ECHL, NCAA, OHL, WHL, among others.
In our interview, Keith talks about how he started out as a goalie, and tried to make it as on the playing side before switching to refereeing. He even worked his first games still wearing his goalie skates. Once he ended his playing days, he made the commitment to work through the ranks as a referee.
He recalls going to an officiating development camp in Vermont along with some of the top officials in the US. He was noticed at this camp, and his career took off from there. He got promoted to working junior leagues, including the USHL, and got to work the Clark Cup. He moved up to the Central Hockey League under the direction of Wayne Bonney. He talks about having to earn respect from the teams and fellow referees when he was moving up the ranks. During his time in the Central Hockey League, he got to work with referees like Frederick L’Ecuyer and Gord Dwyer. He eventually reached the ranks of ECHL and the AHL.
Keith also has had a lot of success working in the IIHF, having worked in high-profile tournaments such as the World Juniors and the World Championships. He recalls working one of his first games and seeing Radko Gudas laying the body and tossing his weight around. He got to work several medal games along the way – which he considers a very special memory.
One game in particular that sticks out to him was the Gold Medal Game in the 2011 World Juniors between Canada and Russia. This game, as many Canadian fans may remember, was where the Russians made a huge come back to take the Gold. His World Junior success led him on a path to multiple World Championships and eventually to the KHL, becoming the very first North American official to do so.
While Keith was only in the KHL for a short time, he shares some great stories in this interview. He talks about the culture shock, the travel, and addresses some of the rumours surrounding the KHL. Keith talks about how it was difficult to find anyone that spoke English – even when running into some stores like Starbucks.
This experience gave him some perspective and appreciation for the difficulty of European and Russian officials adjusting to life in North America, such as Evgeny Romasko, who is a Russian referee currently working the NHL and AHL.
Keith has also gotten involved on the management side of officiating – and is currently the Director of Officiating for the North American Hockey League (NAHL) and the NA3HL. In our interview, he talks about what he looks for in prospective referees and offers his thoughts on ensuring the proper development of officials in the professional ranks.
Listen to the full interview on the Team Stripes Podcast below: