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Camera, longtime hockey off-ice official from East Haven, dies at 83

Frank Camera, an off-ice official in southern Connecticut pro hockey since 1957, died Monday. He was 83.

Camera, who lived in East Haven, was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer earlier this summer after feeling ill since the spring. He leaves his wife of 61 years, Barbara.

A penalty timekeeper, Camera worked Eastern Hockey League games at the New Haven Arena for 14 years; AHL, UHL and roller-hockey games at the New Haven Coliseum for over 20 years; and then AHL Sound Tigers games at Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena for 19 years.

He had stories about sporting legends: fiery player (and later fiery coach) John Brophy; Nate Podoloff, arena manager and brother of multiple-Hall-of-Famer Maurice Podoloff; being in the middle of brawls between the Clinton (N.Y.) Comets and the New Haven Blades in the days when there was no glass to separate teams’ penalty boxes at the Arena.

Camera said in 2008 that he became an off-ice official as a gig just for the night, when a Blades penalty timekeeper got in a dispute with the owner and got himself fired. He was still on the temp job 62 years later, making most games and still working his day job at Simkins Industries.

Camera’s five-second penalty countdown boomed from the box, with a “five” that could be heard far away and often over the crowd.

He, John Brillante and Al Longobricco worked games together this past season and had worked together since the first days of the New Haven Nighthawks in 1972. Camera worked alongside dozens of other officials over the years, joking that where once they were of an age to be his friends, and later they could’ve been his sons, they eventually could’ve been his grandkids.

Camera was born April 14, 1937, in New Haven to Ralph and Margaret Camera, according to his obituary. His father began taking him to hockey games at the Arena when he was just 4 or 5. Growing up, he said, he went to just about every game there except maybe a few when he was courting his wife.

They didn’t have children, but Camera often relayed updates in his later years about his nephew Dean Lockery, who played hockey and baseball at Fairfield Prep and later played two years of professional baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization.

He built relationships with players in and out of the penalty box, and several of them tweeted their condolences over the past couple of days.

Camera’s wake is Friday, 5 to 8 p.m., at Porto Funeral Home in East Haven. His funeral mass is Saturday morning at 10 at Our Lady of Pompeii Church.

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; @fornabaioctp; blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio

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