Not all those who represent Canada on the ice at the Olympic Winter Games wear red and white.
Some wear black and white, including 50-year-old linesman Lonnie Cameron of Langley, B.C., who in fact has more experience at the Olympics than many athletes.
Two decades after his rookie experience at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, he’s calling the shots at the highest international level once again, this time in Sochi.
“Being selected in 1994 was a huge honour for me,” Cameron recalled. “Not only was I getting to go to the Olympics, but more importantly was that I was representing all of the Canadian amateur hockey officials. That, to me, was special.”
At that time, Cameron worked in the Western Hockey League, where he spent nine seasons and “was fortunate enough to officiate two Memorial Cup championships,” in addition to officiating internationally, including in Lillehammer.
Fast forward 20 years, and Cameron is one of 13 National Hockey League officials selected by NHL officiating director Stephen Walkom to work at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games; he’s among a group of 32 officials on the ice in Sochi.
“This time around in Sochi, the same feeling holds true,” Cameron said of sporting the stripes at the Olympics once again. “I may work for the NHL as a lineman, but I am a Canadian hockey official working the best hockey, beside fellow officials from all over the world.”
In a statement issued Dec. 2, when Cameron and his colleagues got the good news, IIHF officiating manager Konstantin Komissarov said, “all of these candidates are considered to be top officials in their respective club leagues.”
“We made our decisions on three main criteria: physical conditioning, performance in their respective national championships, and their ability to work in a team,” Komissarov said. The Sochi 2014 officiating crew includes referees and linesmen with a mix of global and NHL experience.
Cameron certainly exemplifies those qualities, and has been doing so since he was just a pre-teen, when he first started keeping hockey players in line.
“I began officiating at the age of 12 and played hockey until the age of 20,” he said. “After playing junior on the prairies, I came back home … to start university, and I wanted to stay involved with the game. When your playing days are over, you have only one of two choices – to coach or to officiate.
“So I picked up the whistle and began skating games at my local association in Victoria,” Cameron said.
It didn’t take long for Cameron’s officiating career to take off, with the WHL picking him up at age 23, and just before the 1996-97 season, Cameron was called up to the big league.
Just like players, “as officials we are evaluated each time we step on the ice,” Cameron explains, including at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. “Our body of work is critiqued daily, and as the tournament progresses, those officials that have been judged to be doing a superior job are assigned to the medal round games.”
The four-men crews working the ice at the Bolshoy Ice Dome and Shayba Arena in Sochi consist of one amateur linesman, one NHL linseman, one amateur referee and one NHL referee. All Olympic officials, of course, “strive to the work the final game.”
“In ’94 as an amateur, I was fortunate enough to work the Russia-Sweden semifinal,” Cameron said. “Sweden won the game and went on to beat Canada in the gold medal final.”
Cameron couldn’t work the gold medal game since his home country was competing, as per IIHF regulations, but “this time around it may be a different story; who knows, I may get chosen!”
“Either way, it is an amazing hockey experience,” Cameron said.
So far in Sochi, Cameron has worked the Slovenia-Russia, Austria-Canada and Norway-Austria preliminary round games. But Cameron is also taking the time to enjoy his second Olympics, off the ice.
“We get a day off from hockey on Monday,” he said. “A few of us plan to travel up the rails to Sochi and check out the town.”
While Sochi 2014 is a completely different experience than Lillehammer 1994, with this year’s Olympic park a highly secured, fenced in “huge mass of asphalt” and the former “a small mountain town (where you were) able to walk wherever you like,” one important aspect remains the same.
“The spirit of sport,” Cameron said. “It’s … a privilege to be part of the Sochi 2014 men's officiating staff, and something that I will never forget.”