Kevin Bragnalo heading south for national hockey championship

THUNDER BAY – Even though his name was put forward for the National Junior ‘A’ Championship, Kevin Bragnalo didn’t think he would get picked to go to Oakville.

“I’m involved in the high-performance group of officials so being picked was possible,” Bragnalo said.

“When the director of officiating, Colin Dzijacky, got back to me and said that I was one of the successful candidates for this event, I was completely blown away.”

Bragnalo feels his credentials of working the Telus Cup and other regional championships perhaps gave him an advantage on some of the other individuals that were recommended to Hockey Canada by Dzijacky.

“I have worked the high-level events, but I also referee Junior ‘A’ and ‘B’ hockey which includes league finals, and I work Lakehead Thunderwolves games,” Bragnalo added.

“Playoff games especially add more pressure and intensity to the job, which means getting the call right and being on our feet. Getting this opportunity is pretty cool.”

In addition to doing games in the Superior International Junior Hockey League as well as the Lakehead Junior Hockey League (LJHL), Bragnalo worked as a referee and a linesman during the Border Battle Cup at the Tournament Centre back in February.

He has been tapped to work as a linesman for the national championship.

Bragnalo, who works as a superintendent for Superior North EMS, has been donning the referee stripes for 23 years.

“I used to play Under-14 ‘AA’ hockey and after that season, I had some injuries but wanted to find another way to stay in hockey,” Bragnalo reflected.

“As an official, you watch the game a little differently. NHL officials that I watch included Kerry Fraser and these days it’s Wes McCauley.

“Locally, when I began as an official, Andrew Dillion was my supervisor and other supervisors helped me along the way. It's not just one particular person that helped me to get to where I am at today. My wife and kids support me all the time and my employer helped me get the time off to work the tournament.”

The Bill Salonen Cup Champions will make the trek down to Oakville to join the host Blades of the Ontario Junior Hockey League and the eight other league winners to compete for the National Junior ‘A’ Championship.

Bragnalo was asked about whether he could still work games involving the SIJHL champions.

“They're not particular about that,” he mentioned.

“Being a Hockey Canada official in Thunder Bay and in Northwestern Ontario, I travel to do games in Sioux Lookout, Fort Frances, Red Lake and I also work minor hockey games.

“It's a lot of fun and my wife is not a big fan of it because I'm always out, but she is the most understanding person I have and without her, I can't do any of this.”

Since the event was rebranded as the Centennial Cup in 2022, the SIJHL representative has gone winless in eight round robin games, failing to make the quarterfinals.

The event begins on Thursday, May 9.

Kevin Jeffrey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,