ECHL Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Ernst presented referee Jason Rollins with the 2011-12 Ryan Birmingham Memorial Award prior to Saturday night’s ECHL game in Greenville.
The award honors an On-Ice Official for his contributions and dedication to the league officiating staff and is determined in voting of ECHL On-Ice Officials. It is named in honor of ECHL linesman Ryan Birmingham who tragically lost his life in an automobile accident in May 2007.
“I am honored to be selected by my fellow officials as the 2012 recipient of the Ryan Birmingham Memorial Award,” Rollins said. “I have had the good fortune of working with many great guys over my years in the ECHL, including Ryan during the 2006-2007 season. Ryan brought a sincere heart along with a genuine passion to work and loved the game each and every night. I would like to thank the ECHL officiating staff for this nomination as I have always enjoyed working with new and familiar faces each season.”
Rollins, who is the first referee to win the award, worked his 500th game as an ECHL referee on March 27, 2012 in Greenville, becoming just the fourth referee in the 24-year history of the ECHL to reach the 500-game milestone. He worked his first ECHL game as a referee during the 2000-2001 season in Greensboro, N.C., and worked the 2007 All-Star Game in Boise and has also worked the 2007 and 2008 Kelly Cup Finals.
“Jason is a very well-deserving recipient of the Birmingham Award,” said ECHL Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Ernst. “He is dedicated to the game of hockey and the ECHL and is always willing to help our younger officials become better. I am very pleased for Jason as he represents what the Birmingham Award is all about.”
The 2007-08 edition of the ECHL Rule Book was dedicated to the memory of Birmingham, who was featured on the back cover, and ECHL on-ice officials wore a commemorative patch on their left shoulder that has 60, which is the number that Birmingham wore, and the initials RJB.
Birmingham began his officiating career when he was 12 years old in the Southgate Minor Hockey Association and worked his way into the USA Hockey Junior Officiating Development Program in 2003. Birmingham was hired as a full-time linesman by the ECHL in 2006 and worked 83 games in the regular season and four games in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, including his final game, Florida at Charlotte, on April 17, 2007.
Twenty-six former ECHL officials are scheduled to work as part of the NHL officiating team in 2012-13 with referees Darcy Burchell, Francis Charron, Ghislain Hebert, Jean Hebert, Marc Joannette, Trent Knorr, Mike Leggo, Dave Lewis, T.J. Luxmore, Wes McCauley, Jon McIsaac, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Graham Skilliter, Justin St. Pierre and Ian Walsh, and linesmen Steve Barton, Matt MacPherson, Brian Mach, Tim Nowak, Bryan Pancich and Jay Sharrers.