Regina-born NHL referee Mick McGeough dead at 62

Regina-born NHL referee Mick McGeough dead at 62
Mick McGeough was one of NHLs most passionate, colourful referees
“The National Hockey League lost a true friend of the game last night with the passing of Mick McGeough,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a press release. “As one of the Leagues top referees for 21 years from 1987-88 until his retirement following the 2007-08 season, Micks passion for the game shone through on a nightly basis.

“He earned and maintained respect from players, coaches, general managers and his peers throughout his career with a unique style that combined humility and humour with decisiveness and fairness. The NHL family extends its deepest sympathies to his wife Angie and his five children — Jared, Luke, Kara, Karlie and Isaac.”

A page set up on the Go Fund Me website to support the Regina natives family said he had suffered a stroke on Sunday.  

The page went on to say that McGeough was seen by a neurosurgeon in Saskatoon this week, but it was determined the blood clots in his brain had caused irreversible damage and that he would be taken off life support.

The Go Fund Me page had raised more than $12,000 by Saturday morning. The original goal was $10,000.

“He was also a great teacher who took pride in inspiring and developing officials through his love for the game. On behalf of the entire NHL officiating team, we will miss Micks friendship and our thoughts are with Angie and his entire family.”

McGeough, one of the last referees to officiate without a helmet, was one of the most well-known NHL officials during the 1990s and early 2000s. 

He was in the middle of the action during the 2000 playoff series between Toronto and Ottawa when Maple Leafs netminder Curtis Joseph accidentally sent him tumbling to the ice while protesting a Senators goal late in Game 3.

He was in the middle of the action during the 2000 playoff series between Toronto and Ottawa when Maple Leafs netminder Curtis Joseph accidentally sent him tumbling to the ice while protesting a Senators goal late in Game 3.

The page went on to say that McGeough was seen by a neurosurgeon in Saskatoon this week, but it was determined the blood clots in his brain had caused irreversible damage and that he would be taken off life support.

“Mick was the consummate communicator,” said Stephen Walkom, the NHLs senior vice president and director of officiating. “Whether it was as an NHL referee for two decades or more recently in his position as officiating manager, Mick had the tremendous ability to tell stories — sharing his knowledge of the rules and insights into the game with everyone he met.

McGeough had most recently worked with the NHL behind the scenes as an officiating supervisor, including during last seasons first-round matchup that featured Toronto and the Boston Bruins.

“He was also a great teacher who took pride in inspiring and developing officials through his love for the game. On behalf of the entire NHL officiating team, we will miss Micks friendship and our thoughts are with Angie and his entire family.”

McGeough had most recently worked with the NHL behind the scenes as an officiating supervisor, including during last seasons first-round matchup that featured Toronto and the Boston Bruins.

A page set up on the Go Fund Me website to support the Regina natives family said he had suffered a stroke on Sunday.

In that bygone era of the colourful National Hockey League referee, the only thing that was black and white about Mick McGeough were the stripes he wore through 20 seasons and more than 1,000 games.

Helmetless and with his name emblazoned on his back, while players came and went there wasnt a hockey fan who didnt come to recognize McGeoughs vivid, controversial style.

"He earned and maintained respect from players, coaches, general managers and his peers throughout his career with a unique style that combined humility and humour with decisiveness and fairness. The NHL family extends its deepest sympathies to his wife Angie and his five children — Jared, Luke, Kara, Karlie and Isaac."

McGeough died in a Regina hospital early Saturday, felled by a stroke he suffered Sunday. He was just 62, and working as a supervisor of officials for the NHL as he readied himself for full retirement.

"He was also a great teacher who took pride in inspiring and developing officials through his love for the game. On behalf of the entire NHL officiating team, we will miss Mick's friendship and our thoughts are with Angie and his entire family."

On Nov.23, at 11:39 p.m., we peacefully said goodbye to Mick McGeough. An amazing father, brother, uncle and friend. He was larger than life but not his head. Truly one of the greatest characters around. Your reach went beyond borders Micky. You loved and were loved. pic.twitter.com/yfTsNh2Z1G

Hell be remembered as a colourful, controversial official, with a last name that matched a famous cartoon character known for his poor eyesight and lack of better judgement. The fact that McGeough became an NHL referee was testament to his thick skin and steeled backbone.

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

Famously toppled by a sliding Toronto goalie Curtis Joseph, who had charged into the corner to argue a McGeough goal call during the 2000 playoffs, McGeough was known for signalling a goal — or calling one off — while standing on one leg and waving his arms in a formation other officials had a affectionate nickname for.

He was in the middle of the action during the 2000 playoff series between Toronto and Ottawa when Maple Leafs netminder Curtis Joseph accidentally sent him tumbling to the ice while protesting a Senators' goal late in Game 3.

Doing the helicopter, said veteran referee Rob Shick, who goes back to their early days coming up in the Western Hockey League with McGeough. I always thought he was auditioning for the Karate Kid movie. But if you know Micks personality, hes a very intense person. Like, he sweats during lunch.

The page went on to say that McGeough met with a neurosurgeon in Saskatoon this week, but it was determined the blood clots in his brain had cause irreversible damage and that he would be taken off life support.

Kerry Fraser had his trademark hair, back in the pre-helmet era. Don Koharski has the donut incident, born one night in New Jersey and brought to the screen as Officer Koharski in the movie Waynes World. Bill McCreary has the ultimate motorcycle cops moustache.

But through 20 NHL seasons nobody was ever confused with McGeough, a Regina boy who raised horses in his spare time.

McGeough had most recently worked with the NHL behind the scenes as an officiating supervisor, including during last season's first-round matchup that featured Toronto and the Boston Bruins.

Aw, sometimes I exaggerated calls, he admitted in a 2008 profile. Its not like you think about it — your instinct just takes over. You are so into the game. And getting excited isnt a bad thing, is it? You get so wrapped up in the game, so… into the moment.

For a hockey official, their legacy usually boils down to a moment or two that they remember — or that they will ultimately be remembered for. A good call, or more often, a missed one.

Of his first playoff game, he recalled, I fell flat on my ass right off the draw. His first Stanley Cup Final was Carolina-Edmonton in 2006: It took so long to get there. Probably the best feather in my cap.

Edmonton is one of the best places to work in the league, he added. Anyone who cares that much about their hockey? How can you not love working there?

Alas, Edmonton became the site of what McGeough recalls as his biggest gaffe. The Oilers trailed Dallas by a goal one night when Shawn Horcoff won a faceoff with less than 10 seconds to play. Horcoff drew the puck back, and it eventually found its way into the net for a dramatic tying goal.

He thought he had seen Horcoff pull the puck back with his hand, and disallowed the goal. Replays later showed he did not, and within minutes after the game McGeough fessed up that hed gotten it wrong. He felt awful then, and still did nearly two-and-half years later.

I screwed the call up. It was flat out wrong. Didnt see it the right way, he said. Shawn Horcoff is such a nice man. I said, I apologize. I screwed that call up. He said, You havent made many mistakes in your career. Dont worry about it.

Said then-Edmonton head coach Craig MacTavish: Hes kind of a like the villain in All Star Wrestling. The kind of guy the fans love to hate.