First NCHC Rudolph Award winner Philo takes charge on, off the ice

John Philo has been named the inaugural recipient of the NCHC’s Mark Rudolph Officiating Achievement Award for the 2013-14 season.

Philo, who has served 14 seasons as an NCAA official, was presented with the award at the NCHC’s annual linesman camp in the Detroit area on Sept. 20. At the presentation, Philo received a plaque to recognize his achievement and was also presented with a colored pencil art rendering of himself, which was completed by Denver artist Michelle McAdams.

An assistant principal at Grandville (Mich.) High School, Philo began his officiating career working nine seasons as a linesman in the CCHA and was later selected to work the NCAA Frozen Four in both 2005 and 2007. He then transitioned to a referee position where he completed four seasons on the ice and then joined the NCHC as a linesman for the 2013-14 season, working the regular season and playoffs.

In January 2014, the principal at Grandville High School was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and Philo was appointed acting principal. Philo and a second assistant principal divided up the responsibilities and accepted the workload of supporting a school with 1,800 students. While Philo’s responsibilities at the school increased, he went back to working as a linesman.

During Philo’s time as acting principal, Grandville High tragically lost three students, including senior Ryan Fischer, also the captain of the varsity hockey team, who died unexpectedly due to heart complications in early March. Fischer was a three-sport athlete who was headed to West Point.

“The greatest challenge during this time was keeping my emotions in check in order to make the best decisions possible – keeping our students, staff and community as the focus of each of those decisions was very difficult,” Philo said in a news release. “Organization and humility were the keys in keeping my head above water.”

NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton also expressed his gratitude towards Philo.

“I have seen John Philo work NCAA hockey games for many years [and] his demeanor, personality and knowledge as an official is a great representation for what we strive for in the NCHC,” Fenton said in a statement. “After understanding his personal story from this past year and knowing the commitment he gave to our conference, I cannot think of a better person to win the inaugural [Rudolph] award.”