Most sports have a handful of officials who stand out, whether they do so intentionally or not. Sometimes those referees are noticed because of the bitterness caused by their mistakes (perceived or otherwise), while others are noticed more for physical attributes.
When it comes to NHL referee Bill McCreary, I cannot help but focus on his glorious mustache. His ‘stache is the kind of critter you’d find under the nose of a sports star from the 1980s or an ironic rocker now.
Hockey fans won’t be able to boo (or cheer) his decisions and bask in the hairy glory of his mustache much longer, as the veteran referee is scheduled to officiate his last game Saturday as the Buffalo Sabres visit the Washington Capitals.
Here’s the lowdown on his last game, as well as an officiating career that is noteworthy for reasons that extend beyond follicle fashion. It turns out his career will come full circle in DC.
The site will be appropriate as McCreary began his four-decades-spanning NHL career by working a Capitals home game. McCreary’s debut as an NHL referee was on November 3, 1984, when the Caps hosted the New Jersey Devils at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md. Tomorrow night’s game will be the 1,737th of his accomplished career.
“Over the course of an outstanding career, Bill McCreary established a level of excellence matched by very few in the history of our profession,” said Terry Gregson, NHL Senior Vice President and Director of Officiating. “The level of esteem with which he has been regarded by his peers, officiating managers and NHL players and coaches is reflected in the number of playoff games he was selected to work – including a remarkable 15 Stanley Cup Finals.”
Regarded as one of the best ever to officiate the game, McCreary holds the League records for most playoff games (297) and most Stanley Cup Final games (44) refereed. He will finish his career second on the NHL’s all-time games-refereed list. The native of Guelph, Ontario, is one of only four referees to reach the 1,500 games mark — a feat McCreary accomplished on Feb. 16, 2008. The quality of his refereeing was recognized by selection to work the post-season 23 times.
McCreary’s long list of accomplishments includes refereeing 15 Stanley Cup Final series (13 consecutive from 1994-2007), the 1991 and 1994 Canada Cups, the 1994 NHL All-Star Game (New York), and the Winter Olympics in 1998 (Nagano), 2002 (Salt Lake City) and 2010 (Vancouver) — drawing the gold medal game assignment each time.
Whether you agree with all of his calls or not, few referees stood out like McCreary.
Brian Boyle spent almost three full years with the Tampa Bay Lightning before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at last March’s trade deadline.
The veteran center liked his stint in Tampa so much that he’s willing to go back there when he becomes a free agent in less than week.
“We love Tampa,” said Boyle, per the Tampa Bay Times. “If Tampa wanted to work out a deal, that’s definitely a huge option for us. That’s something that I’ve kind of always thought about. I haven’t closed the door on anything.”
Boyle enjoyed quite a bit of success with the Bolts. During his time there, he scored at least 13 goals in each of his three seasons, which isn’t bad considering he was more of a bottom-six player when he was there.
It’s unclear if the Bolts would be willing to take him back at this point, but a big factor will likely be his contract demands.
“(Tampa) is a great place to be, great place to start a family. And, honestly, we’ll see what they say. You want to be wanted. That’s the other part.”
The Lightning have just over $23 million in cap space right now. That seems like a good amount, but they still have to sign Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Andrej Sustr. It’s also pretty clear that they’re in the market for a top four defenseman, and that won’t come cheap. As of right now, they only have three blue liners on one-way contracts.
The 32-year-old is coming off a contract that paid him $2 million per season. He should be able to fetch a higher number if he hits the open market.
The Carolina Hurricanes have reportedly taken care of some business on Monday morning, as they’ve re-signed forward Derek Ryan to a one-year deal worth $1.425 million, per TSN’s Frank Seravalli.
The 30-year-old had 11 goals and 29 points in 67 games during his first full NHL season.
Ryan’s journey to the NHL is a great story.
He played three full seasons of junior hockey with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs (2004-2007) before joining the University of Alberta hockey program for four years (2007-2011). Once he completed his Canadian University hockey eligibility, Ryan went on to play three seasons of pro hockey in the Austrian League and one year over in Sweden. He came back to North America for the 2015-16 season, where he played 70 games with AHL Charlotte and six games with the ‘Canes.
Ryan was a finalist for the Masterton Trophy, which is awarded to “the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
“I feel a little out of place,” Ryan told NHL.com during the 2017 NHL Awards. “A couple of years ago, I was battling my way through the European leagues and all of a sudden here I am at the NHL Awards and just kind of taking it all in.”
–USA Today looks at six teams that have some work to do before the free-agent market opens on July 1st. The Coyotes are gonna need to find a new coach, Vegas will have to keep tweaking their roster and the New York Rangers still need that puck-moving defenseman. (USA Today)
–The Dallas Stars have been searching for a number one defenseman for a few years now. You have to believe they were excited to land Miro Heiskanen third overall on Friday. The Dallas Morning News shares five things you need to know about their new top prospect. Yea, he wasn’t even both when Dallas won the Stanley Cup in 1999. (Dallas Morning News)
–Does your team need a center? NHL.com compiled a list of the top free-agent centers that are scheduled to hit the open market on Saturday. If clubs are looking for size down the middle, they could do worse than Joe Thornton or Martin Hanzal. (NHL.com)
–If you’re a fan of great hair, you’ll enjoy this. The Score looks at the top 5 “flows” from the NHL Draft. Nico Hischier wasn’t only the top pick in the entry draft, he also found himself on the top of this list, too. (The Score)
–2017 Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns went to Disney World with his family during the off-season, and many of the children thought he was a pirate (I can’t really blame them). “I actually signed a couple of autographs in kids’ books because they thought I was a pirate. And I actually signed them.” (Sports Illustrated)
–Penguins forward Ryan Reaves didn’t believe the rumblings about him being traded on Friday night. His response was classic:
The interview process for draft prospects must be a real beating. Then again, it’s also an opportunity for hopefuls to push back.
In the case of two smaller prospects, it meant providing some swagger in their answers, possibly impressing their new teams. If nothing else, Kailer Yamamoto and Michael DiPietro generated some refreshingly confident quotes.
One would assume that the Edmonton Oilers picked Yamamoto with the 22nd choice for more than just a great answer alone … but still.
Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek related a similar story about DiPietro, who the Vancouver Canucks nabbed with the 64th pick.
Funny story: When one team at the NHL told him “We don’t think you can play in the NHL with our team, you’re too small” at the combine, he fired back with “well, I guess you have a problem with winning, then.” How do you not like that?
If nothing else, those two aren’t shy.
As a bonus story, check out the bumpy path Will Reilly – aka the “Mr. Irrelevant” of the 2017 NHL Draft – took to being chosen last overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins, via Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy. From the sound of things, there are worse feelings than going 217th.
The 2017 NHL Draft may have been “pumped down” from a hype perspective, yet it sounds like many of these prospects at least bring some moxie to the table.