Hockey: Longtime on-ice official John Opoka inducted into Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org January 30, 2014 4:44PM
John Opoka is a member of the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2013. | Supplied photo
Updated: March 3, 2014 4:35PM
John Opoka has been called many things — some not worthy of printing in a family newspaper — during his 34 years as a college and high school hockey official. The men in stripes are easy targets for disgruntled fans, coaches and players.
However, there’s more thing Opoka can be called: a hall of famer.
On Sunday he was part of the ninth class of inductees into the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame. Opoka, a St. Laurence graduate, spent most of his time officiating at the collegiate level, most notable in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. He also officiated high school state championships at the Chicago Stadium and United Center.
“My induction into the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame is very awesome and validates my commitment to a sport I truly love,” said Opoka, a New Lenox resident who grew up near Midway Airport. “I will always be an ambassador to the great values of officiating ice hockey.
“I have done a few things in my life, had a few titles, been called a few things when I wore the stripes. But now I will have the title, ‘hall of famer’. It sounds good, I will take it and I love it.”
Providence one win away
With a win Friday over Fenwick at Arctic Ice Arena, Providence will finish the Catholic League’s regular season with a 21-0-1 mark. The lone tie came Oct. 19 vs. Benet, a 4-4 final.
Despite its sixth-place standing in the league, Fenwick can’t be underestimated.
“It’s something the guys want to accomplish,” Providence coach Nick Iaciancio said of the Celtics going undefeated. “What’s most important is for us to finish strong heading into the playoffs.”
L-W Gold, Sandburg begin playoffs
Lincoln-Way Gold and Sandburg just completed their regular seasons, finishing third and fourth, respectively, in the Illinois High School Hockey League’s West Division. Gold finished 20-5-0-1 (41 points) and Sandburg 19-7-0-0 (38).
Individually, Gold’s Kyle Barna (20 goals, 27 assists, 47 points) finished seventh in scoring, while teammate Alex Cerda (28-15-43) and Sandburg’s Adam Howey (22-21-43) tied for eighth. Sandburg’s Brad Surdyk landed in 10th place (27-12-39).
Gold drops the puck on its playoff journey at 11:30 a.m. Sunday against regular-season league champ Waubonsie Valley at Canlan Ice Arena in Romeoville.
Sandburg takes on second-place Naperville Central at 8:50 p.m. Friday at All Seasons Rink in Naperville.