Making It Official
Two TPH Alumni pursue their goals of becoming NHL referees
Many hockey players desire to stay involved with the game once their playing days are over; some choose to join the coaching staff, others head towards the front office, some even chase their entrepreneurial dreams. Despite stepping away from competition, TPH alumni Austin O’Rourke and Jake Kamrass each decided that they weren’t ready to hang up their skates. Instead, the two forwards chose to wear the stripes and pursue careers as full-time referees.
Jake Kamrass was raised in Atlanta, Georgia – which begs the question – ‘how in the world did this guy learn to play hockey?’
“The truth is, my passion for hockey started when I was about 2 years old,” said Jake. “Having older brothers play travel hockey fueled my love for the sport.” It wasn’t long before Jake found himself on the ice, playing for the TPH Thunder. Once he reached high school, Jake decided to make the jump to the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
During his second season with the NAHL’s Topeka Roadrunners, he became one of the team’s leading scorers and was selected to the NAHL All-Star Showcase. His time playing junior hockey catapulted his career, allowing him to secure a scholarship to play Division I hockey at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. After three Hockey East Finals and three NCAA Tournament appearances, Jake graduated Magna Cum Laude from UMass Lowell. Kamrass then played professionally in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) and American Hockey League (AHL).
As he began to transition away from playing professionally, he reached out to veteran NHL referee and acquaintance, Dan O’Rourke, to express his interest in pursuing a career as an on-ice official. In 2019, Jake began officiating regional AAA hockey games as well as USHL games. In March of 2021, the American Hockey League offered him a job as a referee. Just a few months later, Jake went on to attend the 2021 NHL Referee Exposure Combine, where he solidified his desire to make a career out of officiating. Jake has refereed the entire 2021-2022 AHL season and aspires to become a future NHL referee.
Just three years younger is Austin O’Rourke, who is on a similar career trajectory as a referee.
“I played for TPH – Atlanta until I was 16,” said Austin. “It was great because we had a competitive team coming out of the south which really gave us some opportunities.” Following his time with TPH Center of Excellence – Atlanta, Austin went on to play Junior A hockey before accepting a scholarship to play at UMass Lowell. Upon graduating, Austin immediately traded his River Hawk’s threads for a sweater with black and white stripes.
“I attended the NHL Referee Combine this past summer, and I was lucky enough to have Keith Kaval with USA Hockey’s Officiating Development Program talk to me and help me jump-start my career. It was the perfect way for me to stay in the game and be on the ice after playing.” Austin added that a career as a referee was always in the back of his mind after watching his father, Dan O’Rourke, referee NHL games, including the Stanley Cup Finals. Similar to Jake, Austin has his sights set on climbing the ranks to one day becoming a full-time NHL official.
Whether your student-athlete is aspiring to be elite as a professional hockey player, referee or business leader, TPH Center of Excellence expands the amount of opportunities for a bright future. Take the next step by reserving your seat for the upcoming National Virtual Open House!