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From the Stands: Longtime official is one of the greats

From the Stands
By Paul Osborne

When you’d hear players, coaches or general managers talk about Bill McCreary, there was always a sense of calm, almost relief.

Because if he was in charge they knew he would always have a good feel for the game and call it fairly. His consistency was one of his hallmarks. His excellence is why he is being enshrined in the Hockey
Hall of Fame this coming November.

McCreary officiated 1,737 NHL regular season games and 297 playoff games and joins Guelphites Ray Scapinello and Andy Van Hellemond in the hallowed Hall.

McCreary is one of a long line of officials who got their start in the Guelph Hockey Referees Association and are now enshrined in the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame. McCreary was elected in 2011 joining Scapinello,
Van Hellemond, Mel McPhee, Ken Bodendistel, Evo Parisotto, Terry Gregson, George Ashley, Ron Asselstine, Will Norris, Bill Devorski and Lou Maschio in the Officials category.

After playing his minor hockey in Guelph and then as high as Junior A with the St. Catharines Blackhawks and Windsor Spitfires, he began officiating in the Ontario Hockey Association during the 1976-1977 season as a linesman.

The next two seasons he was a referee and he never gave up the orange stripes after that. From there he progressed through the Central Hockey League and the American Hockey League, officiating his first game
in the NHL on November 3, 1984 – a game between the Washington Capitals and the New Jersey Devils.

“Wayne Marshall had a real positive influence on me as a young official,” said the Guelph native now living in Thornbury, Ont. “Others like John Kentner, Bill Devorski and Mel McPhee (now McCreary’s father-in-law)
were also very helpful along the way.”

You measure the quality of work of an NHL official by the number of playoff and Stanley Cup finals they are asked to work. Only the best get selected for the finals, and McCreary got the call a remarkable 15 times
over his career. He also officiated one all-star game and three Olympics, including the gold medal games in Nagano 1998, Salt Lake 2002 andV ancouver 2010.

McCreary has many career highlights but I asked him if there was one game where after taking off his skates and leaning back into his stall he had a “wow”moment.

“The first time I was selected to do the Stanley Cup finals was an absolute honour but when I broke (Hockey Hall of Fame referee) Bill Chadwick’s record for the most games in the Stanley Cup finals, that was a
very satisfying moment,” he said.

In total McCreary was the ice boss for 44 games in the finals, surpassing Chadwick by two games.

But he says it was a privilege to work along so many professionals. He lists Larry Robinson, Marcel Dionne, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Sidney Crosby, and Guy Lafleur as some of his favourites to watch and deal with on the ice but saved special praise for a somewhat unlikely source.

“The entire Sutter family were the hardest working players and the classiest,” said McCreary. “If you asked any of them they would never call themselves superstars but they upheld their hard work and class throughout their careers.”

McCreary, with his trademark mustache, was always the class of the NHL when it came to officials and it comes as no surprise to this writer that he is being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, just three years
after retirement. Congratulations to a gentleman who is a credit to the game of hockey and a great ambassador for the City of Guelph.

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