Do All Referees Use a Whistle to Stop Play?

Hockey referees originally used cowbells to stop play, but changed to whistles when fans began bringing their own to games.
Hockey referees originally used cowbells to stop play, but changed to whistles when fans began bringing their own to games.

Fred Waghorne is a member of the International Hockey Hall of Fame, but "Old Wag" didn’t make his mark on the game as a player. Instead, he officiated more than 2,400 amateur and professional ice hockey games in Canada, and some of his decisions changed the sport profoundly.

For example, in the early days of the sport, referees used cowbells to stop play during games. However, fans routinely brought their own cowbells to intentionally disrupt the action. Waghorne was the first referee to use a whistle to stop the game, finding that plastic whistles were easier on the lips than metal in the cold Canadian air.

Among his other contributions, Waghorne also facilitated the creation of one-piece hard rubber pucks, after ruling that pieces of broken pucks that flew into the net were not to be counted as goals.

A slice of ice hockey history:

  • A heavy cowbell came in handy for officials who encountered angry fans after games. Swinging a cowbell back and forth cleared the way for the referees to make their way home safely.

  • Waghorne started the practice of dropping the puck during face-offs, instead of just placing it on the ice for teams to swat at.

  • Waghorne was involved with hockey and lacrosse until his death in 1956 at the age of 90. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961, and named to the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1965.

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    • Hockey referees originally used cowbells to stop play, but changed to whistles when fans began bringing their own to games.
      Hockey referees originally used cowbells to stop play, but changed to whistles when fans began bringing their own to games.