The ECHL announced on Tuesday that referee Sean MacFarlane has been named the recipient of the 2020-21 Ryan Birmingham Memorial Award.
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 incredibly honored to receive this award after the stressful and challenging season that we were all faced with this season,” MacFarlane said. “I want to say a big thank you to Mr. Kelly, Joe Ernst, Stephen Thomson and the rest of the ECHL for all the sacrifices that were made to ensure we had the opportunity to play hockey this year.
“To my colleagues that voted for me, thank you! I wouldn’t enjoy this job without your hard work and effort every night,” he added. “It’s truly a blessing to do this as a living with all of you. This award will be something I will cherish for the rest of my life, so again, thank you! And most of all I can’t thank my family enough for all the years of love and support, without you I wouldn’t be anywhere I am today. Officiating can be a grueling and lonely career at times and because of your dedication and support to my career I’m able to find motivation to do my best every season.”
The 2020-21 season was MacFarlane’s fourth as a referee in both the ECHL and the American Hockey League. Earlier this year, he worked the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Under-18 World Championships in Texas after previously officiating the IIHF World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic in 2019-20 and the Gold Medal Game for the U-18 World Championships in Sweden in 2018-19. MacFarlane was selected as one of the referees for the 2020 Warrior Hockey/ECHL All-Star Classic in Wichita and also worked the 2019 Kelly Cup Finals. A native of Spokane, Washington, MacFarlane spent time in the United States Hockey League and Southern Professional Hockey League, working the USHL’s Clark Cup Finals in 2016 and 2017 along with the SPHL’s President Cup Finals in 2017, prior to joining the ECHL.
“I would like to congratulate Sean on being nominated by his teammates for the Ryan Birmingham Award,” said ECHL Manager of Officiating Stephen Thomson. “Sean’s continued passion and dedication for the game shows night in and night out and sets a great example for the young officials entering the ECHL. It's because of that dedication and commitment to the League and our Officiating Team that earned him this award from his peers.”
The ECHL will present the award to MacFarlane during the 2021-22 season.
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 had 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.
There were 37 former ECHL officials who worked as part of the NHL officiating team in 2020-21 with referees Reid Anderson, Jake Brenk, Francis Charron, Tom Chmielewski, Mitch Dunning, Trevor Hanson, Beau Halkidis, Ghislain Hebert, Jean Hebert, Marc Joannette, Pierre Lambert, T.J. Luxmore, Peter MacDougall, Michael Markovic, Wes McCauley, Jon McIsaac, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Graham Skilliter, Furman South, Justin St. Pierre and Ian Walsh. and linesmen Steve Barton, Ryan Daisy, Julien Fournier, Brandon Gawryletz, Trent Knorr, Matt MacPherson, Brian Mach, Jesse Marquis, Bevin Mills, Kory Nagy and Bryan Pancich.
During the 2019-20 season, 44 of the 68 referees working in the American Hockey League, came from the ECHL while 109 of the 187 linesmen in the AHL in 2019-20 worked games in the ECHL.
Ryan Birmingham Memorial Award Winners2020-21 Sean MacFarlane2019-20 Andrew Bruggeman2018-19 Patrick Richardson2017-18 Charlie O’Connor2016-17 Scott DeBaugh2015-16 Camden Nuckols and Oliver “Butch” Mousseaux2014-15 Scott Senger2013-14 Travis Jackson2012-13 Brad Phillips2011-12 Jason Rollins2010-11 Paul Carnathan2009-10 Ray King2008-09 Michel Voyer2007-08 David Jones