By Michael Barrett, Illinois Referee-in-Chief & Supervisor of Officials
One of the goals of IHOA is to provide officials with every opportunity to advance in their officiating career and move to the highest levels of the game. The IHOA members range in age and experience from the newest of the new to seasoned veterans with multiple hash marks on their sweaters and everyone in between.
With this in mind, I would like to take a moment to recognize two of IHOA’s very own officials: Cameron Conner and Robby Shintani.
The first official is a relatively new official to the officiating ranks and is showing great promise towards an officiating career. The official I am discussing is Cameron Conner.
Cameron (pictured front row on the right) is currently 17 years old and a senior at Huntley High School. He plays ice hockey with the Kings High School Hockey team and he started officiating at 15 years of age when he and a friend registered to attend a seminar. As luck would have it for the IHOA community, Cameron registered for one of the final available spots at the West Dundee seminar.
Cameron attributes his desire to officiate to something related to his playing career. Cameron says that while he was playing hockey he saw very few young officials, so he decided to become a member of IHOA. His desire to be on the ice for longer periods of time and more often were also reasons he decided to start officiating.
As a young and new official, Cameron started out with the notion of progressing in his officiating career and also “making a few bucks along the way”.
And along the way he found a passion for the position. Through his second season as an official, his passion for officiating grew deeper and deeper as he learned more of the “ins and outs” of officiating. Based on his current mentor and evaluation reports, Cameron is putting forth an enormous amount of time and effort for his officiating team and his efforts have earned him a good reputation among the officiating community.
Cameron is currently a level 3 official who participated in the Advanced Development Program for the past two years. He is currently working towards becoming a bigger presence on the ice and aiming to officiate in the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program in the coming years.
And his officiating career is not the only lofty goal Cameron possesses. For college, he plans on a major in Aerospace engineering. While his school work certainly comes first, his passion for officiating is very strong.
Cameron is certainly one of the up and coming IHOA officials and we are proud to have him as one of our own.
While Cameron is one of our up and coming IHOA officials, we are certainly not without some of the finest officials who have worked themselves from a new level 1 to some of the highest competitive officiating in the country. One of these established officials is none other than Robby Shintani.
Robby’s officiating career started in 2002 because he says, “our team took too many penalties so our coach made the whole team attend an IHOA seminar”. Little did he know at that time that his officiating start would lead to some of the highest levels of the game. When Robby’s playing career ended, he knew there was another avenue that would allow him to stay in the hockey world.
As a new official in his first few years, Robby worked virtually every squirt and peewee game in Champaign. When the time came for him to register as a level 2 official, a friend suggested that he attend a USA Hockey Official’s Development camp so he could experience the possibility of working junior hockey someday.
And ultimately Robby did work junior hockey as he spent several seasons crisscrossing the Midwest learning (sometimes the hard way) as much as he could from the Junior Hockey world.
As many of us officials can attest in our own officiating experiences, Robby was fortunate both on and off the ice as he developed some strong friendships in the officiating community. And his hard work truly paid off because he was selected to officiate many high profile games.
Robby has attended USA Hockey’s Regional and National Camps during his summers and these camps not only continued to develop Robby’s passion for officiating on the ice but also instilled a sense of participation as an instructor for other officials.
It was right around this time that Robby started his involvement with IHOA as an assistant instructor during seminar season. Robby is quick to point out that instructing other officials is one of the more rewarding experiences he’s had in his entire officiating career.
But do not let his humility fool you. Robby has earned the right to say that he has and is working some of the highest competitive levels of ice hockey in the United States. Robby’s officiating career started with mites, squirts and peewees and advanced to his current levels of officiating in the NCAA.
Robby ultimately transitioned to the NCAA at the Division III level when he joined the staff of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association. The NCHA is primarily comprised of schools based Wisconsin and at the conclusion of his first season in the NCHA he was selected as an official at the NCAA Division 1 level with the Hockey East Conference.
His experiences as a Hockey East official means he travels quite a bit. And while he is on the road he is able to enjoy hamburger joints up and down the East Coast by day and officiate NHL Draftees at night.
At the end of last season Robby was honored to officiate in the Division III National Tournament in Minneapolis and worked the National Championship game with fellow Illinois officials and road trip buddies, Mike Verdonck and Eric Smevoll.
Robby will tell all officials that his experiences with supervisors/instructors from IHOA and others throughout the country have provided him opportunities to officiate and learn the craft of ice hockey officiating. Robby says, “The trick is to learn something from everyone regardless of how well you think you did during any game”.
While Robby has officiated in the East, West, North and South (and driven everywhere in between), it all started with those 7am mite games and he wouldn’t trade them for the world.
IHOA is proud to call both Cameron and Robby as two of their own and as shining examples of hard work and dedication to officiating.
Congratulations to both Cameron and Robby.