The WCHA announced Monday that conference supervisor of officials Greg Shepherd has been voted unanimously by the league’s 10 teams as the 2021 recipient of the Otto Breitenbach Distinguished Service Award.
“The WCHA was and always will be the best league in college hockey and I am truly honored and humbled to receive this award,” Shepherd said in a statement. “I owe a lot to Dewey Markus and to Ron Foyt, both of whom made me a better referee. Thanks goes to Bruce McLeod who took a chance and named me supervisor when he became our commissioner. I was blessed to work with Bruce, Carol LaBelle, Doug Spencer and my friend forever, Jeff Sauer. Bill Robertson took over for Bruce and trusted me to continue as supervisor. I’m thankful to work with him, Dean Thibodeau, Todd Bell and our women’s commissioner, Jennifer Flowers. I’m also grateful my sons Derek and Brad followed me into officiating and did such a great job working in the WCHA during their careers.
“Lastly, I want to thank my wife, Nancy, who stuck with me all those years I was on the road. An official’s life is full of travel and weekends away and that is never easy on our families and spouses. I’m proud to have served the WCHA for 42 years.”
One of the most respected and experienced officials and supervisors in college hockey, Shepherd finished his 42nd season with the WCHA – and 29th as supervisor of officials – in 2020-21. The longest-tenured officials’ supervisor in college hockey, Shepherd began in the role with the WCHA men’s league in 1992 and has served in the same capacity for the WCHA women’s league since its inception in 1999.
“Greg Shepherd exemplifies all the traits that constitute awarding him the prestigious the Otto Breitenbach Award,” Robertson said. “His 42 years of service as a referee and supervisor shows his love for the WCHA and his devotion to college hockey. No one cares more about this great league than ‘Shep.’ He embodies what is great about the college game. It has truly been a privilege to work with and learn from him during my time as commissioner.”
Shepherd is responsible for identifying, training, developing and sustaining the WCHA officiating staff. Under his tutelage, several men’s and women’s officials have received prominent postseason assignments, including his sons Derek and Brad, each of whom have worked NCAA Frozen Fours. Derek is currently an officials supervisor with the NCHC.
“Greg is one of the most experienced and respected officials in college hockey, both on the ice and off as a referee and as a supervisor,” said McLeod. “Working 10 NCAA Frozen Fours in 14 years on the ice is an acknowledgement of that. He formalized the recruitment and training of officials for the WCHA, many of whom followed in his footsteps and worked innumerable NCAA postseason events. Greg has been a tremendous and fiercely loyal promoter of the WCHA and his enthusiasm for his craft is second to none. His counsel is often requested by other conferences regarding supervisory questions and the respect for him nationwide is a testament to hard work and dedication. I am proud to call him a friend and very much appreciate his great work for the WCHA.”
Shepherd’s commitment to hockey has spanned more than 40 years and six decades on and off the ice. After beginning as a youth hockey official, he worked his way up to the collegiate level and debuted with the WCHA in 1978. Shepherd spent 14 years as an on-ice official with the league, working in 10 Frozen Fours during that time.
A veteran, Shepherd served in the United States Navy from 1967-69. He also worked for Northern States Power Company for 35 years, while serving his community on the West Saint Paul City Council for four years.
Shepherd and his wife, Nancy, who will celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, are parents to three children (Derek, Tiffany and Brad) and are proud grandparents to Austyn, Madison, Cameron, Lauren, Gabby, Anthony, Joe and Ryan.
The Breitenbach Award is presented by the WCHA’s 10 member institutions to individuals who have rendered extraordinary service to the Association. Shepherd is the 42nd recipient of the award, the first officials supervisor and third referee to be honored, joining Bob Gilray and Butch Mosseau.
Breitenbach served as the WCHA’s second commissioner from 1983 to 1994, an era that saw the league produce three national championships (North Dakota – 1987, Wisconsin – 1990 and Northern Michigan – 1991) and five Hobey Baker winners. Breitenbach oversaw the return of Michigan Tech to the WCHA along with the addition of Northern Michigan, St. Cloud State and Alaska Anchorage. He was also instrumental in the development of the WCHA Final Five postseason tournament.