By Mike Stackhouse
The hockey world is in mourning this weekend.
SJHL Hall of Famer and former NHL referee Mick McGeough passed away at the age of 62 after suffering a stroke a little over a week ago. He was removed from life support after the damage was deemed to be irreversible.
McGeough got his start working games at the age of 23 following a hockey career that wrapped up in Spokane, Washington in the Western International Hockey League. McGeough called many a game in both the WHL and the SJHL, but he started out as a linesman. He worked only a handful of games in that capacity before WHL officials supervisor Ernie Pawliw suggested he give refereeing a try. McGeough took Pawliw up on his advice and it may have been the smartest thing he has ever done. His personality and hockey smarts helped him move up the ladder in the WHL to the point that he was considered the league’s best referee. His WHL career culminated with him officiating the 1986 Memorial Cup final in Portland, Oregon.
He moved into the NHL in 1987 and donned the orange armbands for the first time on January 12, 1989. He reached a milestone on February 3, 2007 when he refereed his 1,000th career game. When he blew the whistle for the final time later that year, he ended a career that saw him reach the two goals he set out when he started. Those goals were lasting 20 years and doing more than one thousand games. He did that as he officiated 1,063 regular season games and 63 playoff games including the 2006 Stanley Cup final. He also was the referee at the 2001 All-Star Game.
In addition to his sound refereeing habits, McGeough took some endless ribbing about his career because of his fictitious nemesis which was the bald, bulbous headed cartoon character with inch thick glasses named “Mr. Magoo”. McGeough, like Magoo, always found a way to land on his feet or at least one foot with arms frantically rotating keeping him upright. Fans in many NHL rinks were treated on occasion to seeing “The McGeough Shuffle”. He is truly considered to be one of the game’s all-time’s greatest characters.
“There will never be another Mick McGeough,” WHL senior director of officiating Kevin Muench said. “He was one of a kind, on the ice and off the ice.
“Mick was an entertainer. He was like the Eddie Shack of officials. He was energized and flamboyant on the ice, and a great story-teller off the ice.
“Wherever you saw Mick, he was the centre of attention. Whether it was lunch at training camp or out for a beer after playing ball or golf, everybody wanted to sit at Mick’s table. You were guaranteed to hear some great stories.”
In 1987, McGeough refereed his first of 1,146 NHL regular-season and playoff games, including assignments in the 2006 Stanley Cup final. He retired in 2008 after 20 NHL seasons, but remained involved with the league as an officiating manager.
“My last memory of Mick will be from the Memorial Cup this past May in Regina,” Muench said. “He invited a bunch of us old friends to his hotel room after a game one night. We had a drink and ordered some pizza, and sat around and listened to Mick tell stories until tears were running down our cheeks with laughter. That is how it always was with Mick.
“His family, his friends, the hockey world, and the officiating world, we will all miss the enthusiasm he brought to life and to our great game of hockey.”
McGeough is also a member of the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame, the Sports Officials Canada Hall of Fame and the Regina Sports Hall of Fame.
(Files courtesy of Leader-Post and SJHL Hall Of Fame)