The Pittsburgh Elite Officiating Camps (PEOC) are one of the top educational opportunities for developing officials, instructing on a wide-range of ice hockey officiating skills from the most basic foundations to the most advanced techniques. PEOC offers three developmental programs, the Development Camp, Advanced Camp, and the Elite Prospect Camp. From PEOC:
The Development Camp (May 19-21) is a three-day program designed for beginner-to-intermediate officials looking to improve their overall officiating skill set. The camp is primarily focused on the USA Hockey Amateur Rule Book.
The Advanced Camp (May 18-21) is designed for intermediate-to-advanced level officials looking to improve their overall officiating skill set and advance to the next level of competition. Participants raneg in age from 15 to 58. 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 challenges each participant throughout the weekend, but does not have the physical demands of the Elite Prospect Camp.
The PEOC Elite Prospect Camp (June 1-4) 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.
PEOC is led by Zach Roberts, in his sixth season as the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Elite Officiating Camps. He currently officiates in the American Hockey League and the ECHL, as well as NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey in the Big Ten. He’s been selected to officiate the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs, nine consecutive ECHL Kelly Cup Playoff seasons, and the 2017 CCM ECHL All-Star Classic. Roberts is also a member of the USA Hockey Officiating Program Instruction Staff and a supervisor for USA Hockey’s Officiating Development Program, overseeing officials in leagues including the NA3HL, NAHL, and USHL.
“PEOC was created in the summer of 2012 when the Johnstown Tomahawks began their inaugural season in the North American Hockey League,” said Roberts. “Knowing most of the new team’s management staff from working ECHL games for years in Johnstown, I was contacted about a week prior to their first tryout camp asking if I could supply officials for the camp games. I told them I could and asked what they would be willing to pay each official per game. They informed me that since they were a new team and had no money, all they could offer the officials was beer and pizza after the games!”
“I 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 we put together in a few days. We were able to use a lot of tools and technology at that first camp allowing amateur officials to see themselves officiate on video, some for the first time. The word spread from that season to the next and our camps expanded to as many as five in 2014, before we settled on three camp levels in 2016.”
Education On and Off the Ice
PEOC classroom training consists of a thorough review of multiple rulebooks; review sessions of official correspondence (
“This year, PEOC participants will see a drastic change in the classroom experience,” said Roberts. “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.”
On the ice, participants go through multiple on-ice training sessions with referee and linesman specific drills, game simulation modules, and filmed individual skating drills which are reviewed with the Instruction Staff. At the Elite Prospect Camp, officials go through on-ice timed skating and fitness evaluations. Additionally, beginning with this year’s camps, 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 for immediate rink-side review with the instruction staff.
“In 2017, all PEOC participants will see an increase in on-ice time during each camp weekend,” said Roberts, who estimated that officials should expect to be on the ice between 2-4 hours per day. “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.”
PEOC has always had a strong group of instructors from all levels leading the program.
“The component that makes PEOC a success with our participants is the experience & knowledge of our Instruction Staff,” said Roberts. “Each year, PEOC has instructors with officiating experience in the NHL, AHL, ECHL, OHL, IIHF and NCAA hockey.”
Participating instructors for 2017 include Roberts; NHL/AHL referee Furman South, AHL/ECHL officials Keith Kaval, Ryan Murphy, and Ray King; AHL/NCAA linesman Tommy George. Also attending the camp will be SPHL Director of Officiating and former NHL referee Marc Faucette, USA Hockey National Referee-In-Chief David LaBuda, NAHL/NA3HL Officiating Coordinator Chris Allman, and ECHL VP of Hockey Operations Joe Ernst, among others.
“One of the most enjoyable times at each camp are the O&A sessions with the participants and staff,” Roberts said. “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. It 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.”
At all camps, PEOC tries to incorporate team building throughout the weekend, allowing the participants to become a team, relax, and perform at their best on and off the ice.
Participants will take part in off-ice games such as wiffle ball, kick ball, hand ball, and soccer to bring them together outside of the class room and rink setting a few times a day. They’ll also take advantage of local attractions for team-building activities, taking part in bowling, laser tag, mini golf. Additionally, on Saturday evening of each camp, there is a team dinner and Awards Ceremony to wrap up the officials’ final night together as a group.
Onward and Upward
PEOC participants have gone on to work in junior, collegiate, and professional hockey leagues across the US and Canada.
At the junior level in the US, officials have gone from PEOC to be hired by USA Hockey’s Officiating Development Program and have worked in leagues such as the NA3HL, NAHL, and USHL. In Canada, PEOC graduates now officiate junior hockey in the OHL. At the US collegiate level, PEOC participants have gone on to work in leagues including the ECAC, Atlantic Hockey, Hockey East, and WCHA. Professionally, PEOC participants have gone on to work the in the FHL, SPHL, ECHL, AHL, and NHL.
“The biggest thing our 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,” said Roberts. “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 administrators 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 is noticeable to those making the decisions.”
Spots are limited, with all three camps nearly full. Roberts offers some advice for those not able to attend this year’s camp.
“Always strive to improve. Whether it be attending local officiating clinics or USA Hockey District Officiating Seminars (DOS), you can never gain too much experience. No matter how hard you are working to reach your goals, know that someone, somewhere is trying to take your spot – use that as motivation to take your game to the next level.”
Register now for PEOC Camps at peocamps.com.
The Development Camp runs May 19-21, the Advance Camp May 18-21, and the Elite Prospect Camp from June 1-4. All three camps are being held at the Alpha Ice Complex in Pittsburgh, just 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and a short drive from the Pittsburgh International Airport. The Alpha Ice Complex is also home to the NA3HL’s Pittsburgh Vengenace and the Chatham Cougars Men’s and Women’s NCAA Division III teams.