Hockey gives us plenty of audio cues that are a part of the game. Skates on the ice, sticks on pucks, the clang of the crossbar, and, of course, the tweet of the zebra.
The sound of the referee’s whistle is ubiquitous in sports.
Soccer – or football, depending on your side of the pond – first utilized a whistle in 1878. This replaced the previous approach of having the referee wave a handkerchief – something much less noticeable, though an approach that would make a comeback in different forms via penalties in the National Football League. Rugby reportedly first adopted whistles for their officials in 1884.
Whistles, though, weren’t always a part of hockey.
Fred Waghorne was reportedly the first to use a whistle in a hockey game, but that wasn’t without its challenges. From a MacLeans article from 1939:
“Another problem was whether to use whistles or bells to indicate starts and stops,” said referee Fred Waghorne. “In the ‘[oil] lantern days,’ we used whistles. But some of the rinks were so poorly insulated that they were as cold inside as outdoors, and on a zero night the whistle would freeze to the lips.”
“One night I replaced the whistle with a nice brass hand-bell. The bell was soon legalized by the association, but again we had trouble, for the farm boys robbed the cows, brought along their own bells and began ringing confusion rather than harmony.”
“Later, with warmer rinks [and the invention of plastic whistles], the whistle returned to favor.”
NHL referees currently use the Fox 40 Super Force, which is the official whistle of the National Hockey League. For outdoor games and the recent restart of hockey, referees and linesmen have moved to the Fox 40 Caul – a pea-less whistle named for former NHL Director of Officiating John McCauley.
Whistles weren’t Fred Waghorne’s only contribution to the game of hockey. He also pioneered the idea of dropping pucks for a face-off rather than starting with the puck flat on the ice, lacrosse-style. His ruling on a broken-puck goal also prompted the shift to one-piece pucks after half of a broken puck entered the net.
“The rule book says that a puck is one-inch thick,” he said later of his decision. “That piece of rubber that went into the goal was only one-half-inch thick, so it couldn’t qualify as a puck. And if it wasn’t a puck, it certainly couldn’t have been a goal.”
Waghorne was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961. From the HHOF:
Waghorne continued his contributions to hockey, lacrosse and rugby right up to his death in 1956 at the age of 90. He refereed over 2,400 hockey games and 1,500 lacrosse matches. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Builders category in 1961.
Fred Waghorne made many great contributions to the game of hockey. His most notable, though, just might be the one that stops the game completely.