Not that many years ago, Shawn Oliver joined the District B Officials Association in Ottawa as a new official. This season he was hired by the American Hockey League and worked his first game on 10 March 2021. Craig MacKay of DBOA.ca was able to catch up with Shawn recently to chat about his early years in officiating and his first AHL experience. Here’s the interview:
CM: What is your hockey background and what made you decide to get into officiating Shawn?
SO: I started skating at a young age and played competitive hockey growing up. As a defenseman, I was required to skate backwards and that’s what I excelled at, this equipped me for my future in officiating. Another key factor was my old brother Liam who was an official, which gave me an inherent interest in officiating. I injured my pelvis in 2015 while playing hockey, which ended my competitive playing career and began my true passion for officiating.
CM: Do you remember your first game? Does anything stick out in your mind from that game?
SO: I do remember my first game, it was at Jim Durrell Walkley Arena in Ottawa. It was on a Saturday morning, and my on-ice buddy was Sean Tobin. He was very encouraging in my journey and helped me be optimistic about my challenges despite the nerves. One memory that sticks out to me was Sean and I observed as the puck crossed the blue line, and I neglected to blow my whistle. He looked back at me in an extremely calm tone and said “Shawn you just saw your first offside”. I later got the hang of the positioning, and Sean saw the confidence in me and gave me full responsibility for the second game. He sat in the penalty box and slurped on a slushie while I learned how to be independent on the ice.
CM: Many people start officiating, but not everyone sticks with it. What did you like about it that made you want to continue and advance through the ranks?
SO: One thing that encouraged me to stick with officiating was the positive leadership from my coaches, who often reminded me that I was doing a good job even after difficult games. It’s also a big privilege and honor to move up in officiating and perfect the craft. While gaining increased responsibility to work at higher levels with officials, I have realized that there is always more to learn and absorb from those around you.
CM: What was it like getting hired into the OHL? How did you enjoy the experience? Did you travel a lot? Who were some of the officials that you learned the most from, and what were some of those things??
SO: It was a pretty crazy experience to get the call to go to training camp for the 2019 season. I had big dreams of officiating but I did not know that the OHL was in sight at the time, therefore I was shocked but very pleased when I heard from them. I enjoyed working my first year in the OHL, specifically while working with the top officials in our country. Some of the officials I have learned the most from were the top officials in the league who had an abundance of knowledge and wisdom to share with me. My biggest recommendation for individuals going into officiating would be to be positive towards constructive criticism, and be ready to listen – there’s a reason you have two ears and only one mouth.
CM: You’ve just recently had the chance to work your first game in the American League … your first game in Pro Hockey! How was it? What were the biggest differences between the O and the A?
SO: My first game went extremely well. It has been quite a while since working a game due to the pandemic, so being back on the ice was super exciting for me! I will say that players are extremely competitive, and you have to go out there and officiate to the best of your abilities to give them a fair opportunity to showcase themselves.
CM: Were there any “welcome to the show” moments? Did you have to skate the first lap by yourself like the rookie players do?
SO: The welcome to the show moment was during my rookie lap as the light show began, it was quite a surreal experience!
CM: What advice would you have for young officials just beginning their officiating journeys?
SO: My advice for the young officials would be to be persistent always, listen to the veterans, and love the process more than the end result. You never know who is watching hockey games, in my case I wasn’t notified when I was being observed, so I made sure to work every game as hard as I could. My diligence and confidence in myself paid off.
CM: Congrats Shawn on attaining this next level in officiating, and for taking the time to be part of this interview. I can safely speak for all of the DBOA past and present when I say we are all very proud of you! Great job and keep up the good work out there!