You hear it all the time. Hockey tournaments – whether it’s a Novice event at your local rink or a world-class event like the Hlinka Gretzky Cup – rely on volunteers. Without them, those events can’t succeed.
From the timekeeper, to the ticket taker, to the in-game announcer and everyone in between, volunteers are critical to the success of these tournaments.
Frank Calamatas knows the importance of volunteerism; he’s been doing it for more than 40 years, since he was a teenager growing up in Outremont, Que. Calamatas is in Alberta this week for the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, which brings together the world’s best under-18 players from eight nations. Calamatas will work as an off-ice official, as a goal judge, media relations coordinator and penalty box operator.
“Back in 2013, I was involved with the [Ottawa] Lady Sens, which is a team in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League,” says Calamatas. “I was involved in that league for a number of years and it was 2013 when Ottawa was hosting the IIHF Women’s World Championship.
“I was talking to the team manager and she said that you can volunteer for the worlds as an off-ice official. She gave me the link to the website and I put my name in the Hockey Canada portal. I didn’t think much of it at the time; I thought ‘If they’ll take me, they take me, if not, that’s OK.’ Low and behold, I was accepted. I became one of three timekeepers for that tournament. The experience was unique and I rather enjoyed it. I thought it was a one-off and that’s the end of it.”
For Calamatas, though, that really was just the start of a whirlwind five years that has seen him work a number of high-profile international events in various parts of the country. Calamatas added to his resume by working the 2016 women’s worlds in Kamloops, B.C., where he was timekeeper for the bronze medal game.
“That was cool,” says Calamatas.
Soon after, he had the pleasure of volunteering at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Montreal, with Calamatas handling timekeeping for the bronze medal game there as well. He also tracked face-offs for the gold medal showdown between Canada and the United States.
Last week, Calamatas was part of the volunteer crew in Kamloops for the 2018 Sport Chek World Junior Showcase. And he has also submitted his name for the 2019 World Juniors in Vancouver and Victoria.
“I’m hoping that I can meet some people and get more affiliated with Hockey Canada to break in, maybe do more international tournaments, maybe in international locales, maybe I’ll get lucky enough and work the Olympics in Beijing, who knows,” says Calamatas, whose day job is as a computer programmer with the Department of National Defence. “Another objective would be to wrangle this experience and show the NHL guys back in Ottawa, look I’ve done this and this … I would really like to work as off-ice in the NHL.”
In the meantime, Calamatas is looking forward to a great week seeing the top U18 stars in Edmonton and, upon his return to Ottawa, he will continue to help support local teams like the Ottawa Champions baseball club (of the Can-Am League), the Junior A Senators hockey club, and the big league Ottawa Senators, for whom Calamatas does some volunteer marketing work.
In almost 40 years of volunteering in sport, Calamatas says one thing remains constant – and that’s continuing to learn.
“There’s nuances and there are things you pick up along the way,” he says. “I have been doing this for 40 years and you pick up things. Believe it or not, I have learned more in the past six or seven years when I started volunteering for the IIHF than I’ve learned in the previous 35 years.
“I develop my timing sense and I have it down to a split second. In the Showcase, I was working the clock and I have the trigger for the clock in my left hand and I’ve got a backup stop-watch in my right hand. Both devices are tuned to a hundredth of a second. I have a game within a game to see how close I can match the Jumbotron clock with my stopwatch and I routinely hit it on the bull’s-eye.”
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