A Referee's Life by Ron Wicks

By Ron Wicks

From the minors to the massive time, former NHL referee Ron Wicks recounts existence off and on the ice.

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The “kindly” old coach blocked my exit from the ice and informed me that I was the worst referee in the history of the League! I replied that he was not exactly in the running for the coach of the week award himself, and we darn near came to blows as we stumbled down the steps to our dressing rooms. I actually enjoyed Billy Reay and thought he was a good coach. Dennis Hull, who played for the Hawks for thirteen years, told me recently that Billy was a fine man and he had liked him as a coach. I refereed twenty-five games in the NHL during its first year of expansion and culminated the season by disallowing a tying goal by the Los Angeles Kings, which would have given them first place in the Western Division.

The input of my friends from the media has been invaluable. Many thanks to authors, journalists, and broadcasters, in particular, to Dick Irvin, Roy MacGregor, Ross Brewitt, and Rick Drennan, with a special thank you to Chris Cuthbert and Ron Ellis for their generous endorsements. Craig Campbell of the Hockey Hall of Fame was extremely helpful in obtaining information and graphics. Susan Foster, partner of the late Maple Leafs defenceman Carl Brewer, has been a great inspiration. With all that Sue and Carl have done to increase the lot of retired players and referees, they should both be in the Hall of Fame.

In 1962, after two years on the lines, I had developed fairly well as an official and, as a testament to my work, was awarded the opportunity to work the season-opening NHL all-star game in Toronto. There was an awards dinner the night before at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel. I was there enjoying the festivities when Chicago’s owner, Jim Norris, “bought” The Big “M” — Frank Mahovlich — for one million dollars, from Toronto. Norris gave one of the Maple Leafs owners, Harold Ballard, a deposit on the sale.

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