Induction Year: 2023
Lonnie Cameron never dreamed his path to the National Hockey League would be holding 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 officiate, but it was just an opportunity to make a little bit of extra cash while I was still playing minor hockey,” said Cameron about the beginning of a long career, with over 1,500 games under his skates as an NHL official.
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 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 and without NHL players.
“We came back to the hotel after our first game, USA 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,” said 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 Vancouver Canucks took on the Calgary Flames on Hockey Night in Canada. Alongside him was Brad Lazarowich, a 2017 BC Hockey Hall of Fame 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 they 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 BC Hockey Hall of Fame is just such a huge honour for sure.”