Referee Dan O’Halloran will work his 1400th NHL regular season game tonight as the Chicago Blackhawks visit the Winnipeg Jets. He’ll take the ice alongside fellow referee Jake Brenk and linesmen Derek Amell and Lonnie Cameron.
O’Halloran made his NHL debut on October 14, 1995, handling a game between the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins with linesmen Bob Hodges and Dan McCourt. (Ron Francis suited up for Pittsburgh in that game with Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and Markus Naslund, who would be traded to the Canucks later that year.)
He’s gone on to work 1,399 regular season games and 207 playoff games, including 10 Stanley Cup Finals (2007, 2008, 2010-2017), as well as the 2003 All-Star Game in Sunrise, Florida. O’Halloran also suited up for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where the officiated the gold medal game alongside Bill McCreary. O’Halloran is often cited as one of the league’s top officials by players. He’s also served as President of the NHL Officials Association (NHLOA).
“We always have a joke about refereeing,” O’Halloran said, “it’s when we realize we can make more money by picking the puck up out of the net than by putting it in there.”
O’Halloran came to that realization as a junior C player in Essex, Ontario. He began working local hockey and junior games before moving up to the International Hockey League. Working in the IHL, O’Halloran was contacted by the NHL and invited to NHL Officials’ training camp.
O’Halloran’s number of choice, 13, came from a life-changing – and life-threatening – moment. From a terrific ESPN profile by Scott Burnside:
“March 13, 1983, was the day I was shot. So that’s why I wear No. 13.”
O’Halloran was just shy of his 19th birthday that night. He and close friend and officiating colleague Bob Clifford had just finished refereeing a bantam playoff hockey game in the Windsor, Ontario, suburb of Riverside. The two officials and a couple of friends crossed the border to Detroit for a late meal. They got lost on the way home, and while stopped on a side street, a figure appeared with a rifle and fired a number of shots at the car.
One of the bullets crashed through the hatchback of Clifford’s car, went through O’Halloran’s lung and came to rest on the floor in the backseat. O’Halloran looked down and saw blood ballooning across his white sweater.
“It didn’t hurt; I just lost my breath,” O’Halloran said. “I told Bobby I got shot. And then I passed out.”
The native of Essex, Ontario, went on to recover, working his first NHL game ten years later. It was the first of many.
O’Halloran’s 1,400 games is the most of any active referee. He’s followed by Brad Watson (1,352), then by the trip of Marc Joannette, Tim Peel, and Kevin Pollock (all at 1,250). Linesman Brian Murphy has officiated the most games of any active official, with 1958 – 88 of them as a referee.
“I’m really happy that I’ve been able to last as long as I have,” said O’Halloran in 2014, upon reaching the 1000-game milestone. “Because I’ve stayed healthy and my skating ability is where it should be, I have a lot of years left in me.”
Congratulations to referee Dan O’Halloran on 1,400 games!