By MICHAEL LETENDRE
SOUTHINGTON – On Sunday, April 8, Bristol’s Armand Choinere was inducted into the Connecticut Football Officials Association Hall of Fame in a ceremony held at the Seasons Restaurant in New Haven.
“It’s always great to be honored,” said Choinere. “It’s something you see happen to other people during their life and when it happens to you, it’s quite an honor.”
But before picking up the whistle, in what turned into a life-long career, Choinere played football in high school, at the semiprofessional level and then as a member of the Rhein-Main Air Force European team in 1951.
He was a football official for over 40 years and was the president of the Central Connecticut Association of Football Officials in 1988 – the year Bristol Eastern won the Class MM football championship.
And after his on-field career as an official came to an end, he moved up into the press box to run the clock during scholastic games.
“The only reason I gave up working on the field, which I did for 30 years, was because the doctor told me I had to,” said Choinere. “I had a blood clot and if I [ever] got hit real hard in the head, I’d be dead.”
As an official running the clock, he got to see the good, the bad, and even the ugly of local scholastic football.
And every so often, Choinere would playful chide some of the action that was going on down on the field from his seat at the clock controls.
If Muzzy Field and some of the surrounding towns had press boxes with elevators, he’d still be an official running the clock at games.
“That was fun,” said Choinere with a laugh. “If they put in an elevator, I’d still be there.”
He’s been honored several times over the years for his service as an official and in 1999, he earned the Distinguished Service Honor Roll from the Central Connecticut Association of Football Officials.
But Choinere admitted that being a football official was not as simple as it might appear.
“No, it’s not (easy),” said Choinere. “If you think about it, the professionals had seven officials on the field and they don’t always make the right call. So can you imagine you’ve only got five [officials] and, at one time, you only had four and you had to cover a lot of territory.”
The job isn’t for everybody admitted Choinere and while it’s stressful at times, there’s always something special when running up and down the field.
“First of all, [you need] to really want to do it, not just going there for the fun of it,” said Choinere. “But it is fun. You’ve got to really enjoy football and want to be part of the game because when you’re done playing the game, that’s one of the ways you can stay in the game.”
But refereeing is something he loved to do and over his 40-plus years, Choinere built experiences and friendships that lasted a lifetime.
“It’s the best thing I ever did,” said Choinere. “Except for my family, I never met so many nice guys in my life.”
However, if he had a chance to do it all over again, would he?
“No question,” said Choinere with a grin.