Stephen Walkom, the NHL's director of officiating, is leaving his position to attempt a comeback as a referee.
"Nothing can replace the excitement of being in a loud NHL arena and in the center of the action," Walkom told ESPN's John Buccigross on Tuesday night. "I missed the action terribly and feel I can serve the game and the NHL best in that capacity right now. I thing I would have regretted not coming back for the rest of my life if I didn't do this. That's how much this means to me."
Walkom, 46, held the management post since taking over for Andy Van Hellemond in August 2005, the summer after the 2004-05 lockout. Walkom's primary job was to create a "standard" of officiating to help open up the game by enforcing existing rules. There was no immediate word on who would replace Walkom.
"When I was a kid I wanted to be Bobby Orr and when that didn't work out being an NHL official was the next best thing," Walkom told Buccigross.
"This is a golden era of NHL talent and to be on the ice with these great players is an honor, yes, but it's also just exciting and fun. I feel like a kid again. I haven't been this excited in a long time. I love the game and I love working with the best officials in sports."
As an NHL referee, Walkom officiated more than 600 regular-season games and 84 playoff games (including two Stanley Cup finals appearances) beginning in 1990 and participated in the 2002 Olympics and 2004 World Cup of Hockey.