Q: How did PEOC come together? When did PEOC start?
PEOC was created in the summer of 2012 when the Johnstown Tomahawks began their inaugural season in the North American Hockey League. Knowing most of the new team's management staff from working ECHL games for years in Johnstown, Zach Roberts (now PEOC Executive Director) was contacted prior to their first tryout camp asking if he could supply on-ice officials for the camp games. Zach then got together with local USA Hockey leadership and invited 12 officials from the Greater Pittsburgh area to participate in a mini-camp format that was put together in just a few days. This camp was called the "Pittsburgh Officiating Exposure Camp", or "POEC". This camp was founded that summer using many tools and technology at that first camp allowing amateur officials to see themselves officiate on video - some for the first time.
The positive word spread throughout the officiating community from the first camp in 2012. In 2013, the camps were re-branded as the "Pittsburgh Elite Officiating Camps, LLC", or "PEOC". Since that time, PEOC has expanded to as many as five separate camp levels per season in 2014, before settling on three camp levels in 2016 and beyond.
Q: What is the difference between the PEOC camp levels?
The Development Camp is designed for beginner to intermediate officials who are looking to improve their overall officiating skill set. Most often this camp is comprised of officials under 20 years of age. This camp is also shorter in duration, only running from Friday-Sunday. This camp mainly focuses on reviewing the USA Hockey Amateur Rule Book.
The Advanced Camp is designed for intermediate to advanced level officials who are looking to improve their overall officiating skill set and advance to the next level of competition. This camp has participants ranging from 15 to 58 years of age. For younger officials, this camp exposes them to new officiating systems, the college and junior rules books, and prepares them for the Elite Prospect Camp in seasons to follow. For veteran officials, it allows them to fine-tune their game and get feedback from professional and collegiate officials and administrators. This camp runs Thursday evening through Sunday afternoon. This camp challenges each participant throughout the weekend, but does not have the physical demands of the Elite Prospect Camp.
The Elite Prospect Camp is designed for an advanced to elite level official – at any age – who is looking to improve their overall skill set while taking on the challenge of officiating a high level of hockey. Whether an official's personal goal is to advance to the next level or to adopt officiating as a profession, this camp assists them obtaining their personal officiating aspirations. This camp operates on Thursday afternoon through Sunday afternoon. This camp is customized for those officials who are currently working high levels of hockey with true aspirations to advance their officiating careers. The Instruction Staff and Guests at this camp are comprised of officiating administrators at both collegiate & professional level. During this camp, participants will participate in both on-ice and off-ice conditioning & physical testing modules. The results of the on-ice and off-ice physical testing will be included in each participant's PEOC Individual Camp Report (ICR). Each official's ICR is sent directly to officiating administrators throughout the country upon request.
Q: What will officials learn at PEOC?
In the classroom, there is a thorough review of multiple rulebooks, review sessions of official correspondence (including the NHL, AHL, ECHL, IIHF, NCAA, etc.), review sessions focusing on positioning, game management & penalty standard, complete review and utilization of the 2, 3 & 4 Official systems, and multiple interactive modules using the latest technology.
During the on-ice sessions, participants go through multiple on-ice training sessions with referee and linesman specific drills, game simulation modules, and filmed individual skating drills (reviewed with the Instruction Staff). At the Elite Prospect Camp, officials go through on-ice timed skating and fitness evaluations.
To maximize ice time and officiating exposure, and new in 2017, all participants will be broken up via region and will play full-equipment games against one another throughout the camp weekend. During these games, officials will have each "shift" filmed - and then immediately review their performance with the Instruction Staff rink-side.
Q: What can PEOC participants expect from camp?
PEOC has changed its format this season to make in a new, fresh experience - even for returning officials. Most noticeably is our transition to a newer, more conveniently located area. This season, PEOC will hold all three camps at the Alpha Ice Complex in Pittsburgh. The Alpha Ice Complex is only 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and a short drive from the Pittsburgh International Airport. The Alpha Ice Complex is home to the NA3HL's Pittsburgh Vengeance and the Chatham Cougars Men's and Women's NCAA Division III teams.
This season, officials will be staying in the host hotel and the classroom will be in the hotel's meeting space. This will allow participants to leave their hotel room, get a free breakfast, and get into the classroom without leaving the hotel. This setting will also foster enhanced team building as the camp participants will be with each other throughout each camp day - and even after the camp day concludes.
This year, PEOC participants will see a drastic change in the classroom experience. To avoid long, drawn-out classroom sessions, PEOC has implemented new 30-minute maximum "Workshops". These "Workshops" will allow participants to be fully focused on each topic being presented and will avoid the discomfort and stress of a long, over-extended classroom session. The 30-minute maximum also allows to many different topics to be covered throughout the camp weekend.
In 2017, all PEOC participants will see an increase in on-ice time during each camp weekend. From enhanced on-ice modules to multiple new, revamped full-equipment games played & officiated by participants, each participant will benefit from additional time on their skates in front of the PEOC Instruction Staff and Camp Guests. Officials can expect to be on the ice between 2-4 hours per day.
Additionally, with many nearby attractions, including bowling, laser-tag, mini-golf, and more - 2017 PEOC participants will be able to participate in multiple team-building experiences outside of the rink and classroom throughout the camp weekend.
Q: What do PEOC participants do off the ice?
At all camps, PEOC tries to incorporate team building throughout the weekend. This allows the camp participants to become a team, relax, and perform at their best on and off the ice.
At all camps, the participants play off-ice games such as wiffle ball, kick ball, hand ball, soccer, etc. to bring them together outside of the classroom and rink setting a few times per day. Additionally, on Saturday evening of each camp, there is a team dinner and Awards Ceremony to wrap up the final night as a group.
Q: What should camp participants know coming in?
The biggest thing the PEOC staff tries to instill in all participants is the importance to always carry themselves in a professional manner both in the rink and away from the rink. There are so many officials trying to get to the top, where there are so few spots, that it is imperative that officials do not give any officiating administrator reasons to look them over. Whether it be an official's physical appearance at camp, their timeliness, their attention to detail, etc. - the things that separate good officials from great officials can be minimal, but are noticeable to those making the ultimate decisions.
Q: Where have past PEOC participants gone on to officiate in their careers?
In six camp seasons, PEOC participants have gone on from camp to work in junior, collegiate, and professional hockey leagues across North America.
At the junior level in the US, officials have gone from PEOC to be hired by USA Hockey's Officiating Development Program (ODP) and have worked in leagues such as the NA3HL, NAHL, and USHL. In Canada, our graduates now work junior hockey in the OHL. At the US collegiate level, PEOC participants have gone on to work in leagues such as the ECAC, Atlantic Hockey, Hockey East, and WCHA. Professionally, PEOC participants have work the in the FHL, SPHL, ECHL, AHL, and NHL.
CLICK HERE to see the complete list of officials who advanced their officiating careers from PEOC.
Q: Who are the PEOC Instructors and Camp Guests?
The component that makes PEOC a success with participants is the experience & knowledge of our Instruction Staff. Each year, PEOC has instructors with officiating experience in the NHL, AHL, ECHL, OHL, IIHF and NCAA hockey. Instructors have included current NHL Linesman Derek Amell, ECHL Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Ernst, NAHL Officiating Coordinator Chris Allman, ODP Manager Scott Zelkin, ECHL and ODP Supervisor Dave Madsen, ECHL, AHL & ODP Supervisor Jim Doyle, USA Hockey Officiating Education Program Coordinator B.J. Ringrose, Mid-Am District Referee-in-Chief Jim Weaver, along with AHL & ECHL officials Keith Kaval, Ray King, myself, and many more high-level officials and officiating administrators.
CLICK HERE for the complete, current 2017 PEOC Instruction Staff & Guest roster.
Q: Are PEOC participants able to ask questions to the Instruction Staff & Camp Guests?
One of the most enjoyable times at each camp are the Q&A sessions with the participants and staff. This allows PEOC participants the opportunity to ask questions to, and gain quality advice from, professional officials and officiating administrators from throughout North America. Questions range from travel inquiries, to best players ever officiated, to best stories, to sharing personal and family experiences both on and of the ice.
This setting shows the participants what life is like as a professional official and the sacrifices that need to be made in life to make this occupation your profession.
Q: What is the most important advice given to PEOC participants?
Always strive to improve your game. Whether it be attending local officiating clinics or USA Hockey District Officiating Seminars (DOS), officiating workshops, etc., an official can never gain too much experience. No matter how hard an official is working to reach their goals, always knowing that someone, somewhere is trying to take their spot - and using that as motivation to take their game to the next level.
Q: What is the biggest surprise PEOC participants have when they attend camp?
The biggest surprises to campers each year when they arrive at camp is the attention to detail the PEOC staff puts into camp preparation. From the dedicated officials locker room, complete with stalls, nameplates, tape, Gatorade towels, and other officiating and shower essentials - to the classroom with the latest technology - to the on and off ice agendas, which are meticulously planned out each day - PEOC participants are impressed with the settings from the moment they enter camp each year.