SUDBURY, Ont. – While games continue to be contested and champions are crowned every season, the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League continues its focus on development and advancement, be it for players, coaches, officials and staff members; this process remains paramount.
One such individual, who developed and honed his craft in the NOJHL is former player and official Kyle Lekun.
The 27-year-old Sudbury product actually began his association with the league a decade ago as a forward, skating in 53 career contests with the then Sudbury Jr. Wolves.
Moving on and working in the NOJHL over the past number of years as both a referee and linesman, Leken was recently hired as a referee by the ECHL, where he will begin his first year officiating in that professional league.
Lekun has also been selected to work an eight-team National Hockey League rookie tournament that gets underway today in Traverse City, Mich.
While part of the NOJHL’s officiating staff, Lekun was selected by Hockey Canada and the Canadian Junior Hockey League to work as a linesman during the 2017 Canadian National Jr. A Championship in Cobourg, Ont., in recognition of his on-ice accomplishments.
“The NOJHL is about development, not only developing players, coaches and staff, but officials as well,” offered league commissioner Robert Mazzuca.
“We also embrace the role of developing our officials for the next level and Kyle is a prime example of our program,” added Mazzuca.
“We wish him all the success that he has worked hard for.”
Someone who works closely with the commissioner, NOJHL director of officiating Stacy Jackson and the league’s refereeing supervisors is NHL officiating manager Dan McCourt.
The long-time NHL official has seen first hand what Lekun offers in wearing the stripes and likes his potential.
“It pleases commissioner Mazzuca and the management staff of the NOJHL to see one of it’s officials skip over a level in pursuit of his refereeing dreams, not unlike Chris Pontes before him, said McCourt.
“Like Chris, both he and Kyle are past participants of the NHL Officiating Combine,” supplied McCourt, who himself worked in the NHL for 25 years and worked some 1,700 games, before remaining in the league as a supervisor and officiating manager.
“I look forward to watching Kyle this winter, working in the (one referee) ECHL. In his pursuit of being successful at the next level, Kyle has taken a step out of his comfort zone to embrace new and exciting challenges.”
“I speak for all in the NOJHL when I say; Good Luck! The journey is, in itself, part of the reward.”
Continuing to earn recognition in all facets of the game, Lekun’s advancement is part of the NOJHL’s ever-growing list of those from the league that have earned themselves opportunities at the next level.
While nearly 40 players from this past season alone have achieved commitments to colleges, universities and major junior programs in Canada and the U.S., you also have the likes of Timmins Rock head coach Corey Beer returning to the Team Canada East coaching staff for this December’s World Junior A Challenge in Dawson Creek, B.C.
Joining Beer in B.C. will be J.J. Johnson of the Powassan Voodoos, as he will serve as equipment manager for Canada East.
Under Mazzuca’s guidance, the NOJHL aims to continue and expanding its development level process in all areas.
The beginning of the league’s 2019-20 campaign resumes tonight and through the weekend with all regular season games being available for viewing online at HockeyTV.com.
With files from Randy Pascal, sudburysports.com