The NHLOA (National Hockey League Officials' Association),
was born in 1969 out of a need to improve working conditions,
salaries and other benefits for officials of the National Hockey
League. All members are all active Officials under contract
to the NHL who are working in the NHL and designated minor leagues.
Bill Friday was the first NHLOA President and played an important
part in the birth of the Association. With the arrival of a
competitor in professional hockey in 1972, the Officials finally
gained some leverage in negotiating with the NHL It also triggered
the negotiation of the first Collective Bargaining Agreement
that was going to take place before the start of the 1973-74
Over the next few years, Matt Pavelich, Wally Harris, Bryan
Lewis and the late John McCauley took turns as presidents for
various terms over the NHLOA until 1980-81 season.
With the death of the WHA, 4 teams joined the ranks of the
NHL and some WHA Officials would do the same.
Dave Newell took over in 1981 for the longest single reign
that would last until 1988.
The playoffs of 1988 were quite eventful from an Association
standpoint. After a game between the New Jersey Devils and the
Boston Bruins, a verbal altercation took place between the referee
and the New Jersey coach, which resulted in his suspension for
one game. Not happy with the league's decision, the New Jersey
Devils turned to the judiciary system to obtain an injunction
that would allow their coach to take part in the next game.
Their demand was granted.
Dissatisfied that the suspension was not upheld, the Officials
threatened to strike until the matter was resolved to their
satisfaction. Since an agreement could not be reached, the Officials
did not work the game and the game was played with minor Officials
dressed as referee and linesmen. Threats of firing and fines
did not deter the resolve of the NHLOA Members from getting
justice in this case.
From the late 1980's going in to the 90's, a boom in the sports
economics caused the athlete's salaries in Professional Sports
to rise at a rate never seen before. In the meantime, some of
the other areas were left quite far behind. That was the case
with the NHL Officials.
In the fall 1989, Terry Gregson became the seventh President
of the NHLOA and in the summer of 1992, the NHLOA, at a special
summer meeting decided to turn to the player's agent Don Meehan
to lead them into the negotiation of their next Collective Bargaining
After ongoing negotiations that lasted the whole summer, training
camp, exhibition games and the first month of the season and
seeing little progress, a special meeting was held in Toronto
in November 1993. On the agenda, whether or not a motion for
a strike would get the approval of the Membership.
Unanimously, the NHLOA decided that, in order to make things
move forward, a strike was in order and after working their
next day's game, everybody would go home and wait for a tentative
agreement to be reached between the NHL and the NHLOA.
The NHL decided to go on with their schedule using replacement
This venture was far from successful mainly because the best
Officials in the other spheres of hockey decided to support
the NHL Officials and refused to act as replacement Officials
while the strike was taking place. So, Officials from the CAHA,
USA Hockey, Major Junior Hockey, College Hockey and numerous
minor professional hockey leagues joined their brothers from
the NHL in their battle for a better CBA for them and their
Needless to say, their support was instrumental in the success
of these negotiations.
It was also the consensus amongst the media, players and fans
that something needed to be rectified and this overwhelming
support resulted in the ratification, after a 17-day strike,
of a new and improved Collective Bargaining Agreement for the
Important enhancements were achieved in the severance, pension,
retirement and playoff compensation sectors.
In 1994, Kevin Collins became the first linesman to preside
over the destiny of the NHLOA for the 1994-95 season and was
succeeded the next year by Andy Van Hellemond for the 1995-96
season. In 1996, Terry Gregson returned as President until a
new format was implemented in 2000: the election of an Executive
In 1999, with the introduction of the 2-referees system, this
number would jump to 76 creating new jobs for a number of Officials.
The experience of veterans already in place would never be so
much appreciated and necessary to help make this transition
as smooth as it could possibly be done. It also gave these young
Officials the opportunity to learn much faster what this job
was all about at the NHL level.
The year 2001 will certainly not be remembered for the NHLOA-NHL
negotiations. The events of September 11 put a dark cloud over
the beginning of the activities in the NHL.
Prior to the beginning of Training Camp 2001, the Membership
was invited to a meeting where they were asked to ratify the
agreement in principle that had been reached between the NHLOA
and the NHL.
Once again the Members showed a united front and accepted unanimously
the tentative agreement and were ready to start the 2001-02
Harry Radomski was once again reconfirmed in his position as
Legal Counsel for the Association and a new Executive Board
The 9/11 events would prove to have an important impact on
the Membership with the delays in awarding Working Visas to
the Canadian part of the Membership, the US residents ended
up working more than 80% of the pre-season games. No doubt their
physical fitness was seriously put to test and passed with overwhelming
Another consequence was most obvious in the traveling habits
of the Officials. The added security at the airports made flying
a lengthy and strenuous process that made the whole experience
a less than enjoyable experience. These necessary security measures
certainly made everybody safer and after a period of adjustments
from the authorities rendered this part of the job a little
With all that happened still fresh in mind, the Member's professionalism
was rarely more evident in this off-ice facet of an Official's
job. After all, it was a very little price to pay compare to
those who had lost cherished ones in this tragedy.
Over the years, numerous Officials worked with the various
Presidents to make the Association run smoothly, there is too
many to list here but their contribution is not forgotten.
The NHLOA has now reached a point in its development where
it wants to reach out to those who have a special interest in
the officiating at the NHL level. The creation of this web site
makes the NHLOA Members more accessible to the public and wish
to present a side of them that is rarely available to hockey
fans, whether they be Officials themselves or simply curious
about this aspect of hockey.
The incorporation in this web site of Officials from all around
the world is another way to bring together the very large community
of Hockey Officials and give them a rallying point where they
can share, comment, ask questions and get informed on a variety
of subject related to the Official's job.