About the League
Roman Kolotunov, who was selected as the top referee of the jubilee Junior Hockey League season, spoke about his work in junior hockey, first officiating experience and much more.
- As many other referees, you began your hockey career as a player. What was it like?
- After graduating from junior hockey school, I was invited to play for Olimpiya Kirovo-Chepetsk. Although, I didn’t play in JHL for long – only half a season. It’s important for every player to have a good communication with his coach. Every player needs to be trusted. Unfortunately, we weren’t on the same page with my coach so I had to go back to Tver. I played my only full season for Tverichi in JHL-B. I even was invited to compete for Generation Cup with Team West. The fact that the game was held in Kirovo-Chepetsk was especially great it gave me an opportunity to re-visit familiar places. And the game turned out to be exciting, too. We we trailing behind but came back and won the game.
- Are you frustrated that you had to retire at just 21?
- It was a calculated decision. I even got in a fight with my father over it. He thought I was being foolish and that I would regret it. But I knew well what I was capable of and. I knew that I was a mediocre player. I tried to get on Tver’s VHL team but at the time CSKA [Moscow] were sending their players from their system over there so my only chance was to find another team. My wife and I were expecting at the time and I didn’t want to leave her alone or to drag her with me. Family issues were another reason why I decided to retire.
- But hockey officials have a lot of road trips too.
- Of course, I’m away a lot but I do my best to spend as much time at home as possible. I want to spend time with my family. It’s my priority.
- What was your longest road trip?
- In the 2017-18 season I went to China as a VHL linesman. I was away from home for 15 days. It’s just that Chinese visa isn’t multi-entry. You get it specifically for the dates you ask for. So to make the trip as productive as possible, we were sent there for four games straight because there are two Chinese teams in the VHL. So we would have a game and rest or move the next day. It was a very interesting experience. It took me a while to get in the rhythm on the first trip. I recovered only by the eighth day or so. Changing time zones was tough for me. It got easier on further trips.
- Tver is the hometown of many famous officials. For example, Evgeny Romasko and Sergei Kulakov.
- I know Tver officials. I run into many of them in VHL or at kid tournaments. Obviosuly, I don’t get to meet KHL officials as often. I first met Romasko at pre-season VHL games four years ago, before he went to the NHL. It was exciting to learn about his experience. He said that overseas they treat hockey officials differently and the whole hockey world is quite different.
- What was your first experience as a referee?
- The 2012-13 season was my last as a hockey player. And I officiated my first kid tournament games in August 2013. I had absolutely no experience. I constantly had to ask my colleagues for advice on various details. I grew more confident with time and in 2016 I already worked at VHL games as a linesman.
- After several years in VHL, you returned to JHL in the league’s jubilee season.
- I had a goal – officiate KHL games. But I knew that as a linesman I could work only in VHL at best. Linesmen have to be strong and tall. There were more and more linesmen who were taller and stronger than me. So I was offered to switch to refereeing. Obviously, I had to start at the bottom – JHL.
- The experience turned out to be a profound one as you got to work at Kharlamov Cup games.
- To be honest with you, I wondered for a long time why they picked me and not a more experienced official. As the matter of fact, I though my season was over after quarterfinals. To go so deep into the playoffs in the first year of refereeing is a great success.
- You officiated all Kharlamov Cup Finals games in Yekterinburg, including deciding Game 7.
- It’s great story to be a part of such a game. It’s great that the game turned out to be so intense and the intrigue lasted till the final seconds.
- The tension lasted right till the end. With 1.5 seconds remaining till the final buzzer Loko Yaroslavl forward Grigory Denisenko was sent to the box.
- It would have been peculiar if Avto [Yekaterinburg] players could shove the puck into the net. I think Loko would have been hard on Denisenko because he totally could have kept himself in check for a second. Obviously, the players are emotional, especially at such moments. Nevertheless, you can’t give in to emotions. After the game officiating inspector told us that we did a good job and neither coach had anything against us.
- How do you deal with criticism from coaches and players?
- We make mistakes like everyone. After all, it’s the team that is responsible for result the most. Whenever I’m asked to explain certain episodes after the game, I do my best to answer. Coaches and players are obviously very emotional at these moments so they can say something over the line.
- When the game ended, Loko went to celebrate, while Avto went to thank their fans. What did officials do?
- We didn’t switch off after final buzzer. We did everything to prevent brawls. But everything was calm, no one was aggressive. It was a surprise that at the closing ceremony they gave all officials souvenirs for participating in the final series. We headed to the dressing-rooms only after the cup was handed over.
- You were named the top official of the season. What did it feel like?
- It was the best case scenario to be named the top official in my rookie season. At the very least, it means that I’m on the right path. I do my best not to dwell on getting the prize because it very easy to get ahead of yourself and start thinking that you’ve made it.