Ice Hockey UK official Liam Sewell is continuing to make a name for himself as a referee in North America.
The Hull-born official is a first-year ECHL referee this season and he has already been called up to officiate in the AHL, the second tier of North American hockey beneath the NHL.
But how did his love for ice hockey come about?
“I was hooked the moment I watched my brother, Matthew, play,” Sewell said. “I remember thinking about the speed of the game and I knew that I needed to at least try and learn how to skate.
“I always played both football and hockey when I was younger, but because hockey wasn’t as popular in Hull, I quit at a young age to play more football.
“When I was 14, I decided I wanted to start playing hockey again and it didn’t take very long to get back into the swing of things because I never stopped skating.”
That reintroduction to hockey was the impetus for Sewell pursuing his officiating career.
“When I decided I wanted to play hockey again, my dad thought it would be a great idea to go in the footsteps of my older brother Philip, who was officiating in the EIHL at the time,” he said.
“I had my heart set on concentrating getting back playing again, but I was sold on giving officiating a shot.
“I did both for a little while but when I knew I’d have better opportunities in officiating. It was an easy decision to continue it full time and I’ve never looked back.”
Sewell is in his 11th season of officiating. The first six of those were spent in the United Kingdom, working youth and junior hockey, as well as EIHL games.
This is his fifth season working in the United States. Prior to joining the ECHL staff this season, he spent the previous four seasons with the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program.
His time with USA Hockey included a stint with the United States Hockey League, where he was selected as one of the referees for the 2017 Clark Cup finals.
Additionally, he has earned an assignment for the 2018 IIHF World Championship Division I Group B in Lithuania.
Sewell, who is the first native of the United Kingdom to serve as an on-ice official in the ECHL, does not take that distinction lightly.
“When I first started my journey in the US, I never thought I’d be given the opportunity to skate in the ECHL,” he said.
“It is an honour and a privilege to be a part of the ECHL’s officiating staff and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work in the league.”
ECHL manager of officiating, Mike Pearce, said: “We are excited to have Liam working for us this season as I feel the ECHL presents the best opportunity for him to develop as an official.
“Liam has made great sacrifices leaving the UK in pursuit of a career in officiating.
“Having spent four years working in the USHL and SPHL and now this season getting the opportunity to work in the ECHL and be supervised by both ECHL officiating development coaches and NHL officiating managers will certainly benefit him in his officiating career.”
Sewell is also hopeful that this extensive experience will lead him to becoming the first UK referee to be hired by the NHL.
He added: “I know the NHL has, over the past couple of years, looked to hire officials out of Europe.
“We’ve seen Marcus Vinnerborg from Sweden, who was the first European to be hired into the NHL and more recently Evgeny Romasko from Russia. But, no-one from the United Kingdom has ever reached the NHL.”
Based on his dedication to his career to this point, one shouldn’t put it past Sewell to become the first on-ice official from the UK to reach the NHL.
Article reproduced with the kind permission of the ECHL.