As part of the NHL's celebration of Black History Month, NHL.com will highlight great moments and important figures in black hockey history each day throughout February. Pioneers like Willie O'Ree, Angela James and Grant Fuhr will be featured.
Today we look at Shandor Alphonso, the second black official in the NHL.
Shandor Alphonso's NHL dreams came true, just not in the way he'd planned.
Alphonso played major junior and college hockey. But in 2010, during his senior season at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, he received an invitation to participate in the NHL Amateur Exposure Combine, an officiating camp designed to encourage junior and college players to become officials. Alphonso was set to sign a pro contract to play in the Central Hockey League when he decided to trade his stick for a whistle. Instead of trying to play his way to the NHL, he'd try to get there as an official.
It wasn't easy. He worked varied levels of junior hockey, then progressed to the minor leagues. The NHL invited Alphonso back to its inaugural Officials Exposure Combine in the summer of 2014 and hired him two weeks after the camp ended. He worked his first NHL game Oct. 17, 2014, when the Florida Panthers played at the Buffalo Sabres, and became the NHL's second black official. He was promoted to a full-time NHL linesman (rather than splitting his season between the NHL and the American Hockey League) in 2016.
Alphonso told The Associated Press in 2018 that the NHL's first black official, Jay Sharrers, was an inspiration.
"To be able to see someone who kind of looked like me working at the biggest stage of his job, it was unreal," Alphonso said of seeing Sharrers on television growing up. He told the AP that he hopes to do the same for another young official.
"It's huge for younger kids to see there are way more things to hockey than just being a hockey player," Alphonso said. "That's hopefully what we can inspire these kids to do and get them more involved with the game down the road."