From the minor hockey ice in Duncan all the way to the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Cowichan’s Graeden Hamilton furthered his career as a hockey referee on Dec. 26, officiating a Group A preliminary game featuring Sweden and Austria.
It was yet another stepping stone on his way to the NHL.
As with most ice hockey officials, his love for the game began by playing minor hockey. Unlike other referees, however, Hamilton decided at 14 that he would trade in his team jersey for the black and white officials stripes for good.
By the time he was 17, he was officiating VIJHL (junior B) games.
“Congratulations to Graedy Hamilton on a great performance at the World Junior Championships 2023 in Halifax,” said a post on the VIJHL’s website. “The VIJHL is proud to see another VIJHL alumni official shine in the hockey world.”
By 18, he was refereeing BCHL (junior A) games and by the time he was 19, Hamilton had made it all the way to the Western Hockey League.
In the summer of 2021, Hamilton went pro — signing his first ever pro hockey contract with the American Hockey League. He made his AHL debut Oct. 29, 2021 in front of a crowd of 4,000 at the Abbotsford Centre where the Vancouver Canucks affiliated Abbotsford Canucks faced off against the Los Angeles Kings’s affiliate Ontario Reign.
Hamilton has now officiated a BCHL Championship, the annual Gretzky Hilinka tournament, the Cyclone Taylor Cup, the National Aboriginal Championship, the Canada Winter Games, a World U17 Championship and more.
Hamilton’s work at the World Juniors in a Sweden/Austria pool game and another preliminary contest between Finland and Sweden was so well done, he and fellow Canadian Michael Campbell, who was his partner in the Sweden/Austria game, earned the right to ref the Czechia/Sweden semifinal. Following that, the pair went on to officiate the bronze medal game between the USA and Sweden.
Now with a World Junior tournament under his belt, Hamilton will go back to developing as an official at the AHL level and continue to work on his game until he gets the call to the NHL.