Referee Bill McCreary: Hockey Hall of Famer
TORONTO (AP) Former NHL referee Bill McCreary admits he made ''hundreds'' of mistakes during his career. But one stands out.
The Dallas Stars were in Los Angeles to play the Kings at the Great Western Forum. McCreary let a goal stand on a delayed penalty that shouldn't have counted, and coach Larry Robinson let him know.
''I look over at the L.A. bench and Larry's standing on the bench giving me the choke sign,'' McCreary said. ''So now I throw him out of the game and everything just snowballed from there.''
One problem: McCreary knew he was wrong. Despite 14 years in the league, his mental lapse cost the Kings a goal in a loss and Robinson $5,000.
''I should've known better,'' McCreary said. ''I learned to keep my whistle on my fingers and not in my mouth when you're working with two senior linesmen.''
That's one of the lessons learned during a career that included 1,737 regular-season games. He's refereed a record 297 in the playoffs, including a record 44 in the Stanley Cup final and three Olympics.
On Monday, he'll be inducted into the 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame with Peter Forsberg, Dominik Hasek, Mike Modano, Rob Blake and the late Pat Burns. McCreary, who was elected in his first year of eligibility, becomes the 16th official in the Hall of Fame.
''I think in the modern era, Bill McCreary is synonymous with excellence in officiating,'' said Stephen Walkom, NHL director of officiating. ''He's just one of the greatest officials that the NHL's ever had.''
McCreary, of Guelph, Ontario, said he refereed with two words in mind: fair and safe. They got him to seven straight Stanley Cup final series and eight overall.
''The consistency part, that's what an official strives to be is consistent within himself,'' McCreary said.
McCreary first worked the Stanley Cup final in 1994. He also officiated the 1991 Canada Cup, Wayne Gretzky's final game, and the 1998, 2002 and 2010 Olympics.
The gold-medal matchups between Canada and the U.S. in 2002 and 2010 are among his most treasured accomplishments.
''It was the first time that a Canadian referee was allowed to referee the United States against Canada in a championship event,'' McCreary said. ''That was a big honor.''
Referees are often booed and receive the brunt of criticism from players, coaches and fans. Somehow, McCreary earned respect all around. Walkom, who worked on and off the ice with McCreary, said he demonstrated confidence, trust and good communication skills
''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.''
Before McCreary's final NHL game in April 2011, then-Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau enjoyed the mutual respect cultivated by the longtime ref.
''(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.''
The 58-year-old McCreary transcended eras, working more than half his NHL career under the one-referee system before working with a partner on the ice.
''(As one referee) it was your game, you were in charge of it and you may have been bad one night but at least you were bad in both ends of the ice,'' he said. ''When you went two referees, what you were trying to do is take two judgments of two men and get it as close as possible into one.''
Unlike baseball umpires, NHL officials don't travel in crews, which means McCreary worked with many referees.
''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.''