Former Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League defenseman Alec Austin is on the cusp of becoming a National Hockey League referee.
The 26-year old Austin, who played the 2011-2012 season with the Soo Eagles of the NOJHL, recently refereed games in the four-team, top prospects tournament that was hosted by the San Jose Sharks of the NHL.
Austin, who has been refereeing hockey since he was 12-years old, was invited by the NHL to attend a referee prospects camp earlier this summer. Of the 300 who were invited, Austin made it to a cut down of 50 aspiring officials and then was one of five that NHL director of officiating Al Kimmel chose to retain.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Austin recently drew his first assignment at the San Jose, NHL prospects tournament and is on call to work some games in the American Hockey League this season. The AHL is the top farm league for the NHL.
Much has happened for Austin since he spent part of the 2011-2012 NOJHL season in the Michigan Soo.
Besides his blossoming career as a referee, Austin attends law school in St. Paul, Minnesota and is engaged to be married. He also works as a family advisor for David Maciuk of JDM Sports and does some scouting for his old NOJHL team, the Eagles.
Austin has good memories of his time in Sault Ste. Marie and the bond he formed with Eagles general manager and coach Bruno Bragagnolo.
“Bruno was like a father to me and when I say that we had a love-hate relationship,” Austin told HockeyNewsNorth.com, with a chuckle.
“Seriously, Bruno has been a big help to me, not only as a player but since I stopped playing. He and Dave Maciuk have helped to open some doors for me,” Austin noted.
Austin said he often thinks of his “good time spent” in the NOJHL with the Eagles and his old roommate, goalie Luis Puig.
How does he plan on managing careers in law and hockey?
“If you like what you do, you can find the time,” he relayed.
Bragagnolo told HockeyNewsNorth.com that he is impressed by Austin’s “determination, dedication and work ethic.
“To get where he has got to both as a referee and being in law school says a lot about Alec,” Bragagnolo added. “As an organization, the Soo Eagles always try to help our players, both current and former, to achieve their goals in any way we can, big or small.”
PHOTO: Alec Austin, at work as a referee at a top prospects tournament hosted by the San Jose Sharks of the NHL.