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Former NHL ref discusses career in Hillsburgh, June 3

June 9, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Jasen Obermeyer

Former NHL referee Bruce Hood spoke at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Hillsburgh over the weekend, discussing his fascinating life and career.

Dubbed an “Inside look at Referring,” the presentation last Saturday, June 3, was a slide show showing photos and videos of his long career.

In an interview with the Citizen, Mr. Hood said he decided to speak at the church as he attends it, lives in the area, and because “There’s hockey fans in the area… I wanted to do something for the church.”

Now 81, he officiated his first Intermediate hockey game in 1957 after a linesman was cut in a game he was serving as a back-up for. During the 1961-62 season, he served as a linesman in his first full season in the OHA Junior “A” league, before eventually being called to officiate in the NHL.

“It was amazing. It wasn’t in my thoughts ever. When I was even playing hockey, the NHL was a pie in the sky.”

Mr. Hood had a long career in the NHL. He spent 21 years there, from 1963 to 1984, during which he officiated 1,033 regular season games, 157 Stanley Cup playoff games, three All-Star Games, and three Canada Cups.

He was the first professional to referee a World Championship game in 1985 in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and was instrumental in the formation of the NHL Officials Association in 1969.

He was the last official to wear a number one on his jersey and the last to officiate in all Original Six arenas. He also wrote two best-selling novels on his career, “Calling the Shots” and “The Good of the Game.”

He describes the Original Six NHL as a great league because the teams played each other a lot more, and the playing style was consistent, but “as soon as the expansion came, the game changed.”

He described the era of the Broad Street Bullies as “the worst thing ever for hockey” for referees, because it was “just an all out intimidation, fights, brawls, bench clearings, and we had to bring in a lot of rules to change and alter the game.”

Mr. Hood explained when dealing with bench brawls, you need “Intuitiveness. Generally you know who the people are, who caused the problem, you look for to see what they’re doing.”

Though he says the game was slower during his time, he explained that as a ref, you had to be ready. “It was so demanding, no use of replays, no helmets, no visors.”

He recalled the Stanley Cup final game where Bobby Orr scored the game-winning goal in overtime, then went flying through the air, one of the NHL’s and hockey’s most famous photos. For him, it was his first Stanley Cup final game, and he described walking around Boston that day before the game. His “stomach was rumbling and rolling… playoffs were a second season, you just rev it up, your adrenaline flows.”   

When the game ended and the celebrations began, Mr. Hood said the experience of being there. “That feeling was really something… I remember going into the dressing room and collapsing.”

He added that his “claim to fame” is that in the photo of Orr flying through the air, a bit of his arm is showing, and because of that, “I’ve won the odd beer here and there.”

Asked how he would sum up his career and what it meant to him, Mr. Hood simply said, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was just something above and beyond.”

         

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