Mick McGeough’s passing was untimely and unexpected. Many across the officiating world were impacted by McGeough and his contributions to the game. Some have kindly shared their thoughts and their stories.
NHL Referee Brad Watson
from the Regina Leader Post
I consider myself very fortunate to have called Mick my friend. I got to know Mick when he was officiating in the SJHL. Back in the early ’80s, the referee working SJHL playoff games got to select local linesmen to work the game with them. Rob Fehr gave me an opportunity as a young linesman, and then Mick called me and [former NHL referee] Mike Hasenfratz to work a game in Melville.
It really was my first introduction to Mick. After that first game, I worked games on the lines in the WHL with him. I would travel along with Mick to games in Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Saskatoon and Prince Albert. Those many hours in the car together were full of learning the craft of refereeing, and of stories that only Mick could tell. He had a great sense of humour and was never afraid to laugh at himself.
On the ice, he was all business. Whether it was a WHL game or an NHL game, Mick came to work. He had a special flair and style that separated him from others. It couldn’t be duplicated, so I never tried. I did learn how to take charge of challenging situations with coaches and players after watching Mick work his way up through the ranks. I never mastered the Mick ‘wave-off.’ That was impossible.”
We often reminisced about [the 1986 Memorial Cup, where McGeough worked as a referee and Watson as a linesman] over the years. Mick moved on to professional hockey and I switched to referee in the SJHL and WHL, using the knowledge that I gained from working games with him. Eventually, I made it to the NHL, and once again got to join Mick on the ice. We were both proud to be Regina guys working in the NHL.
I remember in 2001 when we were paired for a Game 6 in Buffalo, where the Sabres played Philadelphia. It was a big deal getting assigned to a Game 6. It still is. I was pretty nervous, but Mick had this way in the dressing room of keeping things light. Yet, when it was show time, he was ready to perform.
There’s a special bond with the final four referees and the four linesmen who work the finals. Once again, being from Regina and representing the NHL in the [2006 Stanley Cup Final, which included both Watson and McGeough on the officiating team] was a proud moment for me and, I know, for Mick. Our group was very proud of Mick, because getting an opportunity to work the Stanley Cup finals is hard work and (requires) some good fortune. Mick earned and deserved his place on the team that year. It’s every official’s dream to have the opportunity to work one.
Over the years, Mick would hold court and tell an array of different stories. Some became folk tales that the actual truth got in the way of, but that was Mick — the great story-teller … the entertainer! He always had stories of buying cars, snowmobiles, bales of hay or the horses — to just mention a few — and always for a profit. The great wheeler and dealer! He loved the Riders. We would talk about the fortunes or misfortunes of the Green and White. Mick was a connection to back home. We would talk about our golf days at the Murray, playing with our buddies. Some of our best times laughing were on the course. I miss his duck hook!”
What stood out the most for me about Mick was his love for his kids. Mick was so proud of each one of them. He shared stories of their personal successes, whether it was in sports or school. He loved talking about them and had such a passion for telling us how proud he was of them.
Mick’s personality made him very popular with people within the game of hockey. He wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed in, but was always there to lend a helping hand if needed.
Mick was a big part of my officiating career. I wouldn’t have had near the success without his support and friendship, though it was his friendship that I cherished most. My friend and teammate from Regina will be so dearly missed.
A moment of silence for the late Mick McGeough. pic.twitter.com/lku1LZwGhR
— NHL (@NHL) November 28, 2018
Retired NHL Referee Mike Leggo
Mick McGeough is one of the most genuine people ever to don a NHL officials jersey. But he was more than the character many hockey fans remember. He was a mentor, friend, teammate, coach, co-worker and a sure fire smile. I was fortunate enough to be part of a group of NHL officials who graduated to the NHL a few years after Mick, I learned many things from just watching Mick but the defining characteristic of Mick is his magnetism: the man attracts a crowd – Curtis Joseph was famously drawn to him and knocked him over in a playoff game. Mick was a caricature of himself, he was humble and self effacing contradicting his public persona with his one foot in the air helicopter wave off signal or his multiple enthusiastic points at the net signifying a good goal. It was all classic Mick McGeough and I will miss him dearly.
Because Mick always had a story to tell, I have many memories involving Mick. His final year at training camp Mick sat among a small group sharing some memories, younger guys started to wander over and immediately Mick was in his element, the group pulling up chairs and relaxing on the floor, leaning inward – a magnetic force drawing them closer not wanting to miss a single word. The stories and the audience got bigger and bolder by the minute; Mick was at his glorious best – a truly wonderful moment for a wonderful man. It was the night the legend of the heroic pig was born, no one present will ever forget the pig who saved baby Mick by rolling him into a ditch.
Mick always knew and appreciated the ups and downs of life as an NHL official, in the 2006 playoffs – on his way to the Stanley Cup Finals, Mick and I worked a game where Edmonton eliminated Detroit and after the game we went for a walk to get some post game refreshments. We were outside of a restaurant and a fan recognized Mick and started chanting Mick McGeough!…Mick McGeough! … as others in the crowd joined in, we retreated and walked down the street only to be followed by more people chanting and singing Mick McGeough! Mick McGeough!… we slipped into another restaurant, went out the back door and returned to our hotel. Mick McGeough was the toast of Edmonton! The next season Mick disallowed an Edmonton goal due to an alleged hand pass and his Edmonton fan club immediately renounced their allegiance. Mick publicly admitted that there was a better call to be made to everyone who would listen. That’s the professional Mick and the man I admire so much – avoiding glory and taking responsibility.
Mick’s retirement “gala” was held in his beloved Regina – it was a fabulous weekend including my second witness of the chant: Mick McGeough! Mick McGeough! Word got out (as it does in Regina) that Mick McGeough and some friends were socializing in the restaurant and it erupted in a salute to Mick. The next evening was a picture perfect memory of a wonderful Saskatchewan night on the homestead, dancing like no one was watching and singing like no one was listening -with Mick and his family leading the way. It was perfect.
As he was preparing to leave the ice Mick became a mentor to AHL and rookie NHL officials. His experience and attitude served him well as an NHL Officiating Manager. He brought the same instinctive passion to coaching that he had on the ice, his humility, passion and respect for the game and the officials was his defining characteristic.
Mick also loved the art of the deal: horses, tractors, land, trailers and everything in between. He knew the market value of everything a true Saskatchewan/ family man/ horseman/ developer/ speculator/ businessman/ referee would ever need to know. His enthusiasm in his stories was matched only by his positive outlook on opportunity – Mick was always two steps ahead of himself. There was never a bad deal to be had and he knew that we knew that half of his story was half true but no one cared – it was supremely entertaining.
Mick’s legacy will live on, his work ethic and commitment serves as an inspiration to his children, every hockey official and his entire community. I will miss his passion, I will miss his sincerity, I will miss his stories and I will miss my friend.
Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella
[McGeough] is a guy that , for me personally, I had so much respect for him as far as how he handled himself back in the day. I’m speaking on behalf of the [Columbus Blue Jackets] organization, and we certainly send our condolences and thoughts and prayers to [his family].
He’d come over to you and he’d give it to you when he felt he was being taken advantage of, and you’d give it right back to him, but at the end of the day there was a mutual respect. There was communication .
We lost a good one. Forget about the game of hockey. We lost a good person at the tender age of 62. It just sucks.
Retired NHL Referee Paul Stewart
from Stewart’s column at HockeyBuzz
It is always a sad day for me when we lose one of our officiating brethren but especially one I knew personally. The passing this weekend of my longtime NHL refereeing colleague Mick McGeough at the age of 62 gives me pause for reflection. We broke in at the same time, and I roomed with Mick at officiating camp. I’m going to miss him, as will all who knew him.
On the professional side, Mick loved the game. […] He was a good teammate on the ice. He was also a very good communicator on the ice, with players and coaches as well as fellow officials. He had good psychology as a referee, which is an underrated part of the job, and he achieved both longevity and acceptability. He commanded respect because he had a good feel for the game, was accessible but also knew when the time for talking was done.
Off the ice, it was impossible not to like Mick. If you ever got mad at him, you couldn’t stay mad for long. He had a great sense of humor and never took himself too seriously. He had a quick smile and an infectious laugh.
Over the course of his career, whether at the rink or off the ice, Mick must have heard people say “Oh, McGeough! You’ve done it again!” to him in joking or semi-joking fashion 10,000 times. That, of course, was a reference to the signature Jim Backus line from the Mr. Magoo cartoon show (“Oh, Magoo! You’ve done it again!”) with the extremely near-sighted protagonist who stubbornly refuses admit his visual impairment and gets into all sorts of misadventures as a result. But no matter how many times he heard it, Mick would make the quipster feel like it was an original line. He’d flash that grin of his.
I remember standing out on the [golf] course [in Regina] with Mick. In the near distance was farmland. I pointed to some bundles in the field.
“Hey, Mick,” I said. “What are those?”
“They’re stooks,” he replied.
“Oh, OK,” I said. “Um, what’s a stook?”
As a city kid from Boston, I had never heard the term before. I also had no idea what I was looking at. Mick glanced at me and chuckled warmly.
“Stooks are just sheaves of grain stalks that have been cut but still need to be collected for threshing,” Mick explained.
I still wasn’t 100 percent sure what that meant, but at least I had the general idea.
“Well, thanks Mick,” I said. “I learned something new today.”
He chuckled again.
That was Mick. I will miss his rapid-fire, staccato way of speaking. I’ll miss his chuckle. I’ll miss his passion for the game. I’ll miss the gleam in his eye when conversation turned to his family. In short, I’ll miss my old friend and colleague.
Rest in peace, brother.
NHL Senior Vice President and Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom
Mick was the consummate communicator. Whether it was as an NHL referee for two decades or, more recently, in his position as Officiating Manager, Mick had the tremendous ability to tell stories – sharing his knowledge of the rules and insights into the game with everyone he met. He was also a great teacher who took pride in inspiring and developing officials through his love for the game. On behalf of the entire NHL officiating team, we will miss Mick’s friendship and our thoughts are with Angie and his entire family.
Kevin Muench, WHL Senior Director of Officiating
from the Vancouver Sun
There will never be another Mick McGeough. [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.
My last memory of Mick will be from the Memorial Cup this past May in Regina. 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.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
The National Hockey League lost a true friend of the game last night with the passing of Mick McGeough. As one of the League’s top referees for 21 years from 1987-88 until his retirement following the 2007-08 season, Mick’s passion for the game shone through on a nightly basis. He earned and maintained respect from players, coaches, general managers and his peers throughout his career with a unique style that combined humility and humor with decisiveness and fairness. The NHL family extends its deepest sympathies to his wife Angie and his five children – Jared, Luke, Kara, Karlie and Isaac.