Hamilton hockey official hall-of-famer celebrates 91st birthday


Published January 24, 2024 at 4:41 pm

Bill Friday refereeing a game featuring the Boston Bruins and Bobby Orr

A happy (belated) Hamilton birthday to former NHL and WHA referee Bill Friday, who turned 91 Tuesday.

Friday, who played junior hockey in Hamilton before turning to officiating, refereed 1,425 major league hockey games and is the only referee to work both the Avco Cup finals in the World Hockey Association and the Stanley Cup finals in the National Hockey League.

Friday took his whistle to the WHA when it began play in 1972 and was named referee-in-chief in 1976. He also served as the first president of the NHL Officials Association.

Friday is the only referee who was inducted into the WHA Hall of Fame and joined the Hamilton Sports Hall of Fame in its inaugural season in 2010. The City of Hamilton also named an arena after him, the Bill Friday Lawfield Arena in east Hamilton, in 2017.

“He still gets mail asking for autographs on his hockey card,” his son Don Friday said. “He still lives in Hamilton and we as a family are proud of his hockey accomplishments and his accomplishments as a father. “

Known for his flamboyant style, Friday also officiated two NHL All Star games and several WHA All Star games and was selected as one of the referees to work in the 1976 Canada Cup, working exhibition games between the Winnipeg Jets and the Russian National team in Japan.

Friday worked the very first WHA game in 1972 and officiated the very last game the league played in 1979. His jump to the WHA is credited with raising NHL officials’ salaries.

“He loved the WHA, and the reason it was created; to improve salaries, get more cities involved and open up our hockey to different nationalities and age groups,” said his son.

Bill Friday

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