|Chris Ciamaga (Photo: Getty Images) |
As Chris Ciamaga prepared to take the ice Tuesday night, the nerves began to intensify.
This was the Buffalo native’s debut at HSBC Arena, after all.
And although he had made it to the NHL, Ciamaga’s homecoming was not as a player in the League.
It was, rather, as a referee.
The 31 year old had his first assignment in Western New York to officiate the Sabres and Boston Bruins on Oct. 21 and was admittedly anxious about the opportunity.
“Coming in for so many games at this arena, and being from the town… I was a little nervous,” Ciamaga said. “But after the first five or 10 minutes you settle in and realize you do belong on the ice. You’re just part of the game.”
Ciamaga has been a part of the NHL for two years, but had yet to work a game in Buffalo.
“Fortunately my father-in-law’s company has a box here in the arena. He was able to get some seats for the family so it was good,” Ciamaga said. “My expensive night was my first game last year in Pittsburgh where I took care of everybody and they came down… tickets and hotels… But this wasn’t too bad.”
Born and raised in Depew, NY, Ciamaga attended Buffalo State College serving as captain of the D-III team for two of the three seasons he played there. During that time he began officiating local hockey games with the encouragement of a friend.
The part-time job then became a full-time occupation after he attended an officiating camp and was recruited by USA Hockey. He then worked his way up the ranks until he was ultimately scouted and promoted to the NHL.
“We are the third team on the ice,” Ciamaga said. “That’s how our boss has treated us. We are a team. They go out and scout and draft guys, and try to find the No. 1 draft pick of referees or linesmen and bring them on our staff.”
Ciamaga had a long road to follow to get to the NHL, spending time in all levels of hockey ranging from the USHL and the ECHL to the AHL where he often officiated the Rochester Americans.
“There are so many young guys that I came up with in the American [Hockey] League,” Ciamaga said. “I’ve seen Derek Roy
, Jason Pominville
, [Drew] Stafford and [Ryan] Miller… I came up through the system the same way they did.”
Ciamaga would not have it any other way.
“I think I decided the right route,” he said. “[It’s] an opportunity to stay apart of the game, stay in the game I love,” Ciamaga said. “I have a degree but I don’t know what else I would want to be doing or care to be doing. Hockey has been everything in my life and that’s what I want to continue to be.
“It’s what I want to do for the next 20 years.”