November 12, 2014

HHOF 2014: Bill McCreary

Long time NHL referee Bill McCreary will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this weekend.

Players and referees don't often agree with one another, but you will not find a single player from McCreary's era who would disagree with this honour. He was the best official of his generation.

McCreary's resume includes 1,737 regular-season games. He refereed a record 297 more in the playoffs including another record 44 in the Stanley Cup finals. He officiated the Stanley Cup final, generally considered to be the highest annual accolade an on-ice official achieves, 15 times, including 13 years consecutively.

Add to the resume three Olympic Games (1998, 2002 and 2012), the 1991 Canada Cup, 1996 World Cup, and the 1994 NHL All Star Game and there is no denying Bill McCreary's career deserves lofty recognition.

On Monday he'll be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2014 with Peter Forsberg, Dominik Hasek, Mike Modano, Rob Blake and the late Pat Burns.

"I am honored to have worked in the NHL for so many years and have been privileged to be assigned to so many important games," McCreary said. "My family always has been very supportive of my career. I have worked with an incredible group of people both on and off the ice."

His biggest honour, at least prior to his enshrinement in the Hockey Hall of Fame, was being recognized as the best referee in the world in 2002. Although rules usually prohibit a referee from one of the competing nations in an international hockey match to work the match, McCreary, a Canadian from Guelph, Ontario, was asked to referee the gold medal match between Canada and the United States.

Stephen Whyno of the Canadian Press recently profiled McCreary, and included some great comments from NHL players and coaches.

"You could have legitimate conversations with (McCreary)," Blake said. "There's some refs, even in a heated moment, you're never going to be able to have a conversation with a guy. But Billy was good that way. He was always willing to talk, it didn't matter if you were first year in the league or 15th year in the league. But he was fair. He'd give you the call and he explained about why you got the call. That's kind of all players really ask for."

Coach Bruce Boudreau echoed those sentiments.

"(He) didn't call all the piddly stuff unless it was that kind of game, or he'd let stuff go and then he'd come over and he'd communicate with the coaches," Boudreau said. "If anybody wants to be a good ref, all you have to do is learn how to communicate properly with the coaches and it makes it so much easier on everybody concerned."

McCreary, who began his career in the days of a single referee but bridged the NHL to it's current state with two referees, was also instrumental in helping the next generation of on-ice officials today.

"He exuded confidence and left no doubt about who was in charge of the game," referee Dave Jackson said. "He also helped mentor every young referee he worked with. You never went on the ice with Billy feeling subordinate, he built you up and made you feel like an equal partner."

I'm sure hearing those words are as important to Bill McCreary than any.

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