Simon Kirkham played an important role in the growth of ice hockey officials not only in Britain but also in many other ice hockey nations.
During his 36 years as an official, he wore the striped jersey in over 1,300 games, including ten World Championships, 11 league championship finals weekends and several top international events. He became Britain’s Referee-in-Chief and travelled the ice hockey world as a Referee Supervisor for the world governing body.
He had a big advantage over many when he was born and grew up in Nottingham, one of the few British towns with a large ice rink. Both his parents were skaters and fans in the 1950s of ice hockey’s famous Panthers, so it was natural for him to start skating when he was only three-years-old.
When hockey returned to the old Ice Stadium in 1980, he started training and playing with Nottingham’s second team, the Trojans, under the guidance of former Panthers Les Strongman and Harry Todd, and new Canadian Mark Kasin.
After being recruited by Britain’s then Chief Referee Nico Toemen at a public skating session, in 1987 he became a linesman. Starting with junior games in the Midlands, he quickly moved up to the top leagues. Between 1991 and 2004, he officiated in 11 league championship finals weekends at Wembley, Manchester and Nottingham, eight of them as a referee.
His ref’ing career began in late 1993 after the tragic death of leading referee, Micky Curry, who was a great friend. Fittingly, at the end of that season he was awarded the Micky Curry Memorial Trophy as the Most Improved Official.
In 1996 he was the top whistler at the last ever British ice hockey games at Wembley Arena. He officiated both semi-finals and the final, which he described as “a tough weekend but very enjoyable.”
The next year, he ref’d the final of the first Superleague Play-off Championship, another memorable occasion when Sheffield Steelers won their third straight championship trophy in front of a crowd of over 14,000 in Manchester’s new Nynex Arena.
His abilities were recognised by Britain’s governing body and he was nominated to join the officiating ranks of the world governing International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). His first World Championship was in the Ukraine in the early 1990s and he continued to ref at both national and international levels until 2005 when he retired from his on-ice duties.
A year later, he was asked to take on the job of Referee-in- Chief, which involved looking after the officials for the Elite League and those who represented Great Britain at the IIHF.
In 2009 he joined the IIHF as a Referee Supervisor, which saw him travelling all over the world looking after the officials taking part in the various World Championship divisions. Among the countries he visited were the USA, Japan, Hungary, South Africa, New Zealand, Spain and Latvia, a total of 15 events until he retired in April 2023.
Simon John Kirkham was born in Nottingham on 27 September 1962. He was inducted into the Ice Hockey UK Hall of Fame in 2023.