Guelph native Bill McCreary was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame this week in the referee/linesman category. The retired referee enjoyed a stellar career while participating in some milestone events, such as the last game at Maple Leaf Gardens and Wayne Gretzky’s last game. The following is the Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Showcase citation outlining McCreary’s career:
Bill McCreary was born in Guelph, Ontario in 1955. Like most young boys, McCreary was an aspiring National Hockey League player, but after a brief junior career that included stops with the St. Catharines Black Hawks, Buffalo Tondas and Windsor Spitfires between 1972 and 1975, he was approached about officiating minor hockey.
He joined the Ontario Hockey Association as a linesman in 1976-77, and then spent the next two seasons as a referee. After his third year in the OHA, John McCauley, the NHL’s Supervisor of Officials, invited him to attend a training camp and was impressed with his abilities. McCreary was offered part-time work in the Central Hockey League and the American Hockey League for the season.
In 1982, Scotty Morrison, the Referee-in-Chief of the National Hockey League, signed McCreary to an NHL contract.
On November 3, 1984, he worked his first NHL game – a contest between the New Jersey Devils and the Washington Capitals at the Capital Center in Landover, Maryland. He officiated his final NHL game on April 2, 2011. Fittingly, the home team was once again the Washington Capitals, this time hosting the Buffalo Sabres.
McCreary officiated at the 1998 and 2002 Olympic Winter Games, including the gold medal game in 1998.
In total, Bill McCreary officiated 1,700 regular season games, 282 playoff games and one All-Star game. Among his most memorable NHL games are the Stanley Cup finals between 1994 and 2007 as well as 2009: the 1994 All-Star Game in New York; the final game played in Maple Leaf Gardens on February 13, 1999; and Wayne Gretzky’s last game on April 18, 1999.
In addition, he officiated the 1991 and 1994 Canada Cups, the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, the 2005 Spengler Cup in Switzerland and – his acknowledged career highlights – the men’s gold medal game between Canada and the United States at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 and the men’s gold medal game between Team Canada and Team USA in 2010.
Bill McCreary is remembered for his fair and consistent officiating through a long career, as well as his trademark puck-flip before each opening faceoff, and is now an honoured member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.