IHOA 2018-19 Board of Directors

May 14 was the IHOA Annual meeting and election. The following people were elected to the Board:

Erin Blair, Jameson Gronert, Steve Rickard, Carl Sassolino, and Craig Welker.


In a closed meeting after the annual meeting, the IHOA Execuative Board was determined:

Referee-In-Chief: Michael Barrett

President: John Oldenburg

Vice President: Don Mrozik

Treasurer: Geoff Schlender

Secretary: Nicole Davis

Registrar: Jameson Gronert



IHOA Scholarship Recipients; Longtime IHOA Board Member Retires

IHOA Annual Meeting:

Mucha & Foster Named IHOA Scholarship Recipients

 Longtime IHOA Board Member Steve Drews Retires

The Illinois Hockey Officials Association (IHOA) held their Annual Meeting on Monday, May 14th at the Bloomingdale Golf Club in Bloomingdale, Illinois. IHOA recognized Steve Drews who announced his retirement from the IHOA board. Steve has served on the IHOA board for many years in many capacities, including the position of IHOA President. Steve has also been a lifetime AHAI volunteer, donating his time as an AHAI Coaching Education Program (CEP) Instructor and Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey Coach. Steve was recently awarded the 2018 AHAI Disabled Hockey Coach of the Year Award and is also an AHAI Service Award recipient. Both IHOA and AHAI will miss Steve’s tireless dedication to the sport of ice hockey.
Steve Drews
Charlie Foster
Alex Mucha
Additionally, the annual IHOA scholarships were awarded to two student officials who exhibited in school, on the ice and in their community the true spirit of USA Hockey, AHAI and IHOA. IHOA congratulates Charlie Foster and Alex Mucha and wishes them good luck in the next chapter of their lives.

Meet the 2018 candidates

Here are your candidates for the 2018 IHOA Board of Directors election:


I was raised playing hockey in the state for various teams, from the Sabres to Naperville North to Team Illinois.  After my Illinois playing career, I attended college out of state where I took up officiating. Over my 19 season career, officiating has provided me with some amazing opportunities: numerous USAH National Championships, 4 NCAA Frozen Fours, 10 IIHF World Championships, and the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. It has been an amazing rollercoaster ride that I wouldn’t trade for anything, but now it is time to help others achieve their goals.

I have been a member of IHOA since 2006 and a member of the IHOA Board of Directors for 9 years.  Over this time I have served our membership in various ways. My purpose as an IHOA board member has always been, and will continue to be, to provide opportunities for my fellow officials through development and education.  My passion is in education- I love to teach and provide a low key atmosphere for officials to collaborate and learn to improve their skills.  I hope to continue working with you, our membership, toward improving our community as a whole.  Thank you for this opportunity!


My name is Jameson Gronert. I’m 34, married (Elenna) with 3 kids (Kristina, Joshua and Arya), and I work in project management for a small IT consulting company based out of Chicago called FlexManage. I also contract out in the summers to various organizations as a power skating coach. I grew up playing hockey for the Chargers, Palatine High School and DePaul University. After playing a few years of adult league, I found officiating and immediately fell in love with the job. That was 12 seasons ago and in that time I’ve been fortunate enough to work at nearly every level of the game from the American Hockey League on down.

I was first elected to the IHOA Board of Directors in 2012 and am now running for my third term. During my tenure I have worked on the Nomination Committee, volunteered with Erin Blair in our Development Program teaching power skating, leading classrooms, evaluations etc…and have also served as the IHOA Registrar for the last 3 seasons (it’s only been 3 years???).

In addition to my registrar responsibilities, this past season I was appointed to a more formal role in development, becoming Co-Chair of the Development Program alongside Erin. We led a development staff that included Joe Guzzardi, Brad Baumruck and Nick West (with additional help from a dozen others) as we worked to expand and improve different aspects of the program. As a staff, we were able to significantly increase the number of evaluations and mentoring opportunities of this years’ participants and we offered several new development opportunities to our membership with the creation of the Level 1 Jamborees and 3-Official Boot camps.

If I am reelected, I hope to continue to serve as registrar and will remain deeply involved in the development of our officials.

I thank you for your consideration.

Jameson Gronert


My name is Carl Sassolino and I am running for re-election for the IHOA Board of Directors. I have been on the Board of Directors for the last 8 years. During that time I have been involved on the following committees: Evaluation, Mentoring, Seminar Coordinator, and Performance Education and Development to name a few. While working on these committees it has been important to me to reach out and listen to the membership on how we could best help in each of these areas. One of the best examples is in regards to our seminars. We do have to follow guidelines from USA Hockey but, with the help of AHAI and IHOA, we were able to tweak areas. One such area: our on-ice sessions; make them more about the areas you have suggested that we concentrate on. We no longer make them a once a year power skate but rather help all levels work on and understand areas such as positioning, anticipation, and game management. I am very proud to say that we have made some vast improvements with the ideas from our membership on how we could best help all levels of officials in regards to our seminars while still working under the USA guidelines sent to us every year. This year we are working on classroom presentations to include more videos for a real time question and answer section.

As for Mentoring, I have worked hard for it to become one of the model programs in all of USA Hockey across the country. We have been able to help well over 175 officials on over 225 games this past year. It’s not the numbers that are important but the confidence we have been able to give these brand new officials to make them stronger and better officials.

Even though we as a board have made the improvements mentioned above I don’t believe we are fully where we need to be and if re-elected I will continue to work hard in making our programs the best in the country and set the standards for all of USA Hockey.

Thank you.

Carl Sassolino

STEVE RICKARD: Hello. My name is Steven Rickard and I am running for election for the IHOA Board of Directors. I have been an official for the past eight years. When I started officiating, I was helped by many fellow officials and programs. The Evaluations, General Development Program and Advanced Development Programs helped mold me into the official I am today. I am committed to giving back to the programs IHOA supports. For the past five years I have been involved in the following programs: General Development, Evaluation, Mentor, and Assistant Seminar Instructor. I believe it’s important to continue with these programs and make them better for our future officials. If I am elected, I will work hard to make sure these programs get better and continue to set the standard for USA hockey. Thank you for your support.

CRAIG WELKER: I have been an IHOA member for over 25 years and had the privilege to serve on the board for well over a decade.  As an official I have worked all levels of hockey from youth, Junior A, Minor Pro, and NCAA D1.  While serving on the board, I have been involved with the development program, website, and seminars.  Currently, I am assisting with seminar coordination and also serve on the AHAI committee where I manage the payroll for all officials.  I thank you for allowing me to serve in the past and look for your vote this May.

BRIAN DeSCHEPPER: My name is Brian DeSchepper and I have been an ice hockey official for 28 years.  I live in Gibson City, have three children (one of whom plays at ISU), and I am currently the scheduler for Peoria Youth Hockey, ISU, and Bradley.
Over the course of my career, I have been fortunate enough to work with a number of great people who gave more than their share to the development of our officials, and I am hoping to carry on in their footsteps as a representative for our downstate officials.   Thank you in advance for your consideration!

BOB PAGANI: My name is Bob Pagani, and I have accepted a nomination to run for the IHOA Board of Directors. I am 35 years old, I grew up on the north side of the City, although, I am currently living in the South Suburb of Beecher. I am a Union Electrician and I understand and believe in the concept of doing what is good for everyone, not just a few! I grew up playing travel hockey in Skokie, and continued on to play a year of Junior Hockey. When I was 10 years old I decided to try officiating and I have been ever since. On the officiating side, I was lucky enough to be in IHOA’s original Advanced Officials Program. That led to skating Juniors, College and Pro hockey which I have been skating since. Besides skating, I have been helping instruct seminars for the past 15 years. I was also on the first Performance and Development (now the Performance, Education, and Development (PED)) committee. I currently help out with both the General and Advanced Officiating Development Program, and I am one of the IHOA evaluators. Outside of IHOA, I was the Director of Officials for the AAHL, now the FHL. I currently schedule officials for the USPHL. My goals being on the IHOA Board of Directors: to continue giving officials opportunities to advance to the next level and to help figure out how to retain new officials to continue officiating and not quit!


2018 HS Championships at the United Center

Congratulations to the officials chosen to work the Illinois HS State Championships!

Girls’: Referee Samantha Cebulski; Linesmen John Oldenburg, Jr. and Mathias Cyranek

Boys’ (Red) Varsity: Referees Justin Pirard and Rick Faron; Linesmen Brandon Janda and Matthew Warco

Boys’ (Combined) Varsity: Referees Colin Gruenke and Joseph Siepka; Linemen Mitch Cmunt and Derek Radek.


2018 USA Hockey Disabled Hockey Festival

USAH Disabled FestivalThe USA Hockey Disabled Festival will take place in Illinois this year over two weekends in April. The first weekend (April 5-8) features all disabled hockey disciplines (except sled) and the second weekend (April 12-15) features the sled hockey competition. Click the logo to view the USA Hockey page.

Games are available for request now. Use the advanced search and select Schedulers: Jack Raslawski to limit your search to festival games.

In anticipation of the festival events, IHOA will schedule and staff the entire weekend with officials who wish to participate. The disabled hockey section contains a few rules of play unique to each discipline and IHOA is conducting a free seminar (symposium) for all Illinois officials. Steve Drews and Jack Raslawski booked the West Meadows ice rink and room on March 22 starting at 6:00pm to identify and discuss these disciplines and the rules which accompany each of them.  Steve and Jack will cover all aspects of officiating for the disabled festival. There is no cost involved with attending the symposium and game fees will be provided in all the USAH Festival games.

Also, if you have interest in working the festival and cannot make this symposium, you may contact either Steve (stevendrews@comcast.net) or Jack (Jack.Raslawski@abbott.com) to discuss your availability.

Rick Faron: ‘The man at Southwest Ice Arena’

Remembering Rick Faron, who was ‘the man at Southwest Ice Arena’

By Ross Forman

For Rick Faron, Southwest Ice Arena is south suburban Crestwood was, family. He worked at SIA from age 19 through his unexpected death last August 9, at 55, then serving as its general manager.

“Rick was the man at Southwest Ice Arena,” Frank DiCristina, SIA president. “He was always there; everyone knew Rick; everyone liked Rick. And Rick loved his job.”

Faron started playing hockey at age 11, including years for the St. Jude Knights, and then was a four-year varsity player at De La Salle High School and also at College of DuPage. He later was an assistant coach from 1991-1994 with Tom Kurzawski for St. Laurence High School, and then an assistant coach with St. Jude for both of his son’s teams. He also coached with Craig Ferguson and Harry Kohl from 1998-2006 at St. Rita.

Faron died of complications from kidney failure.

“Rick was my best friend,” said DiCristina who, as a freshman at St. Laurence, still recalls getting checked on his back my Faron, who was then a sophomore.

“I remember thinking (at the time), ‘I have three more years (playing) against this guy. Rick was a clean player, but an intimidating player.”

Faron also was a local referee for nine years.

His sons – Ricky, now 23; and Tony, now 20 – played for St Jude, the Chicago Fury and St. Rita.

“One of Rick’s proudest moments was when his boys won the Kennedy Cup for St Rita, and then went on to win the State Championship in 2012,” said their mom, Chrissy Faron – who was married to Rick for “27 wonderful years,” she said.

Ricky and Tony are still on-ice officials.  “Both sons are refs (and) they love it,” Chrissy said.

Chrissy, 53, lives in New Lenox and is a pediatric dental assistant for Treasured Smiles Dentistry.

The hockey community is getting together on Saturday, March 11, as A Night to Celebrate the Life of Rick Faron will be held, fittingly, at Redemption Bar (5505 W. 126th Street), above Southwest Ice Arena. The Blackhawks play the Boston Bruins that afternoon, so the Celebration starts at 11:30 a.m., thus attendees can watch the game.

There also will be a special Question & Answer session with Eddie Olczyk, plus raffles, drawings and more.

Admission is $125, which will support the Rick Faron Memorial Foundation. Some of the raffle prizes include autographed hockey sticks and more.

“It will be a fun, emotional day that I’m really looking forward to,” DiCristina said. “No doubt there will be plenty of stories from the past.”

Olczyk autographed 300 pucks with a logo for the event, which will be given away to attendees.

“The best medicine was hearing stories about Rick, so, having dinner one night with our closest friends Frank DiCristina, Phil Stevens, Lori L’ Heureux and Susan Lief, (they) came up with the idea for A Night to Celebrate the Life of Rick Faron,” said Chrissy Faron.

“Eddie is family to us; we have all been a part of each other’s lives forever.”

Chrissy Faron said the hockey community has extended unwavering support for her family since his passing. “They have been there for me and the boys. I don’t know what I would have done without the support and love from all of them,” she said.  “There is nothing like my hockey family. To this day, I could call any of the people who we have been involved with over the years and they are always there for (one another).”

**Photos courtesy of Chrissy Faron**

A Night to Celebrate the Life of Rick Faron

Rick was the father of two IHOA officials, Ricky and Anthony. He passed away suddenly in August.  As a tribute to Rick and his unwavering support to the officiating community, and hockey community in general, a benefit will take place at Southwest Ice Arena on March 11, 2018.

The day’s events will include an in depth Q&A with Eddie Olczyk; viewing the Chicago Blackhawks v. Bruins game (11:30 a.m.); Open Bar (3:30-5:30 p.m.); Buffet style dinner (4:00 p.m.); Q&A with Eddie (5:30 p.m.); Raffles throughout the day (raffles end at 6:45) and the Grand Prize Drawing at 7:15 p.m.  The Grand Prize raffle are four (4) level 200 tickets to the Blackhawks game on March 29 along with dinner at the Kettle One Club (courtesy of Eddie and the Blackhawks).  Come support the Faron family!

For more information and/or to purchase a ticket, please contact Lori L’Heureux (708-704-9837) or Susan Lief (708) 601-9916 and are also available at Southwest Ice Arena.

4 Illinois officials chosen to work IIHF events

Twenty-eight Americans Chosen to Officiate International Ice Hockey Federation Events During the 2017-18 Season; Includes Illinois’ Strong, Hiller, McCambridge & Hancock

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – USA Hockey announced today that 28 American officials have been selected to serve as referees or linesmen for International Ice Hockey Federation events in 2017-18, including seven that will officiate at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. The list includes Illinois’ Sara Strong (Chicago)- Women’s World Championship Div. I Group A in Vaujany, France, Samantha Hiller (Des Plaines)- U18 Women’s World Championship Div. I Group A in Asiago, Italy, Ian McCambridge (Aurora)- Men’s World Championship Div. II Group A in Tilburg, Netherlands, and William Hancock II (Chicago)- Linesman @ World Jr Championship in Buffalo, New York.

“Congratulations to those officials selected to represent USA Hockey at international competitions,” said Matt Leaf, USA Hockey officiating program director. “This group has shown a commitment to mastering the craft of officiating over several years and will represent our country with pride and integrity.”

In addition to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, American officials will take part in multiple top-level IIHF World Championship events in 2017-2018, including the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship Dec. 26, 2017-Jan. 5, 2018, in Buffalo, New York, the 2018 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship Jan. 6-13, in Dmitrov, Russia, and the 2018 IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship April 19-28, in Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk, Russia.

Eleven of the 28 Americans chosen to officiate during the upcoming season have previous experience working in top-level IIHF events, including three who officiated at the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Plymouth, Michigan, and one at the 2017 IIHF Men’s World Championship in Cologne, Germany and Paris, France. Eight Americans have received their first IIHF assignment this season.

For a full list of American officials and their assignments, please click here.

Remembering Bob Lilla (1931-2017)

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Bob Lilla, longtime Illinois official and member of the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame.  Bob was an officiating icon across the country and one of the pioneers who founded IHOA and mentored many in the officiating community.


Article: “Remembering Bob Lilla” by Ross Forman