Hall of Fame makes the call to Colwood whistleblower
Lonnie Cameron never dreamed his path to the National Hockey League would see him blowing a whistle and wearing a striped shirt.
“At age 12, I started playing hockey and I aspired, like any Canadian, to be an NHL player. Later I took an affinity to officiating, but it was just an opportunity to make a little bit of extra cash while I was still playing minor hockey,” recalled Cameron about the beginning of a long career, with over 1,500 games under his skates as an NHL official.
Those on-ice exploits have earned him induction into the officials’ category of the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame on July 21 in Penticton.
Growing up in the Victoria suburb of Colwood, Cameron idolized Montreal Canadiens goaltender Ken Dryden, leading him to play the position in minor hockey, and eventually becoming a gatekeeper not just for the net, but for the game.
At 16, he pressed pause on officiating to play in Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, then picked up the whistle again at 20 to remain involved in the game.
“My passion for hockey kept me going. I have a lot of respect for the game. The players deserve it, the game deserves it. Officials are the keepers of the game. Both teams step on the ice and they want to bend the rules, as best they can, to get a competitive advantage. As officials we are there to keep them in check,” said Cameron.
It wasn’t until he was selected to officiate major-junior in the WHL in 1987 that he believed he could make a career out of it. With that came a renewed focus.
“It’s just like a player, you do everything you can to be in top condition and know the rules inside and out like the back of your hand. You have to have a poise and presence about you too. One that commands respect and exudes confidence,” said Cameron.
Cameron spent nine seasons in the WHL, gaining valuable experience officiating in two Memorial Cup championships, working the 1991 Asia/Oceania Junior Championships in China and receiving the Allen Paradise Memorial Trophy — given to the WHL’s top official. In 1994, he was chosen to work at the Lillehammer Winter Olympics — on an all-amateur officiating squad to match the all-amateur players on the ice.
“We came back to the hotel after our first game, U.S.A versus France, and there was a telegraph from Murray Costello, president of Hockey Canada at the time, saying there are 32,000 officials in Canada cheering for you,” recalled Cameron.
“It was really something that has stuck with me my whole life because it was a reminder that I was out there representing my country. Being a part of that Olympics was a huge honour.”
Cameron skated his first NHL game as a linesman on Saturday, Oct. 5, 1996, in Vancouver as the Canucks took on the Calgary Flames on Hockey Night in Canada. Alongside him was Brad Lazarowich, a 2017 BCHHOF inductee. One of the biggest highlights of Cameron’s career came almost 20 years after his first Olympic experience when he was invited to officiate at the Sochi 2014 Olympics.
Cameron, whose son Brayden is now following his footsteps in officiating, ended his NHL career in Vancouver as the Canucks played the San Jose Sharks on April 2, 2019.
“I hold all these memories as very precious moments in my life. I enjoyed working every period out there, and to now be inducted into the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame is just such a huge honour for sure,” he said.
The BCHHOF is physically located at the South Okanagan Events Centre, where glass showcases display inductees’ photos and memorabilia. The hall recently expanded into a breezeway that connects the SOEC to the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre using showcases that were moved over from Memorial Arena.
The induction ceremony, gala and auction is scheduled for Friday, July 21, 7-10 p.m. at the SOEC. Tickets cost $75 each and are available at the SOEC box office.