Longtime NHL referee Wally Harris dies at 88

The Canucks skated off Maple Leaf Gardens ice with a 7-3 victory, slumping Toronto jeered by fans as they dropped into the cellar of the Norris Division and last place in the 21-team NHL.

“Awful game,” Harris told Parrish. “A couple of times, I had to pinch myself to stay awake.”

It was so dull, in fact, that Canucks clenched fist Dave “Tiger” Williams had four shots on goal and no penalty minutes.

Harris retired at season’s end, his final appearance May 12, 1983, in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final a 6-3 win for the New York Islanders against the Oilers in Edmonton.

That summer he was named the NHL’s first Director of Officials by League President John Ziegler. In press boxes from 1987 through 2002, he would work more than 1,500 games as supervisor of officials, from 1989-99 serving as assistant to League director Bryan Lewis.

Early in the 1990 playoffs, Harris predicted the future while considering the disputed goal calls that had punctuated the first few games of the postseason.

“We’d love to see video review,” he mused out loud. “Down to a man, referees would like that jurisdiction out of our hands. I wouldn’t want it for penalties because that’s a judgment call. But goals have nothing to do with judgment.”

Video review began the following season.

Harris will be remembered for his poise no matter the pressure of the game and the mentoring he provided officials who have called games at every level.

His friends will also recall a legendary sense of humor. Where many arena organists sarcastically serenaded officials with “Three Blind Mice,” Harris loved the tune, so much so that he had three blindfolded mice printed on the corner of his business card when he left the game.

“Wally will be best remembered for his hearty laugh and infectious personality,” the NHL’s Walkom said. “It put all at ease while ensuring everyone he encountered felt good about being alive and in the game of hockey.”

Top photo: Wally Harris in an NHL portrait, and a Vancouver Sun story reporting the referee’s 1983 retirement.

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