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Dan O’Halloran refs 1500th game

by Garrett Fodor 

As Essex native Dan O’Halloran is nearing the end of his professional career as a referee, and is preparing to lace up his skates for his last game, he is reflecting on the choices he made to reach the highest level of hockey: the NHL.

  On February 9, O’Halloran became the seventh ref in the NHL’s history to ref 1500 games. He hit this milestone, while refereeing a game in Detroit, as the Red Wings hosted the Boston Bruins. With friends and family in attendance, O’Halloran and fellow ref, Wes MaCauley, made seven calls, as the Red Wings toppled the Bruins, 3-1. 

  When looking back on his career, O’Halloran said it all began at the old Essex Memorial Arena. Growing up, hockey was a part of O’Halloran’s life, as his dad, Fred, was the President and Convenor of Essex Minor Hockey Association for many years. It was there, the now 55-year-old O’Halloran fell in love with the game, got his first taste of the sport, and found his calling. 

  “I started working games at a very young age in Essex,” O’Halloran said, as he reflected on his career and how it all began. “I think the half ice kids needed someone to drop the puck for them and my dad, Fred, asked me to go out on the ice and help out. As I got older, so did the kids I was reffing.

  “I played one-year for the 73’s at age 17 and was asked by the OHA to start working for them as a linesman. So, because of the conflict, I decided to end my playing career. I never really got discouraged or wanted to quit. It has been my job for a long time and I have loved every minute of it. During my days at the University of Windsor, it was my part-time job, then became my full time [job] in 1992.”

  The career move paid off for O’Halloran. He quickly make a name for himself locally. He refereed for the Ontario Hockey Association intermediate D games along with Junior ‘C’ and ‘B’ games before turning pro in 1992.

  “It doesn’t surprise me that Dan has gone on to make the NHL and ref 1500 games,” Donald Mouck said, who refereed with O’Halloran growing up in Essex County. “He was the young buck coming through the OHA; he and Dave Cassidy, along with Bobby Clifford. He was a great ref, very fair and witty, it didn’t take long before he was on to the OHL and beyond.”

  O’Halloran would receive his NHL debut on October 14, 1995 in Pittsburgh, as the Penguins hosted the St. Louis Blues.

  After refereeing his 1500th game, O’Halloran is planning to retire at the end of the season. His impressive resume features 10 Stanley Cup Finals, the 2016 World cup of Hockey, and the Gold Medal Game of the 2010 Winter Olympics. He also was voted in nearly 10-years ago as the President of the National Hockey League Officials Association, representing the 84 officials, and was a part of three negotiations.  

  “It is always good to see all local players and officials moving into the professional ranks. It is my hope, that at some point over my 28-years in the NHL, I have inspired someone to pursue a career in hockey and specifically officiating,” O’Halloran said. “The advice I give young aspiring officials is to ref as many games as possible, the experiences gained in game situations can never be replicated. Controlling the things you can control and working as hard as you can in every game is what will get you noticed.”

  While some officials collect various mementos throughout the years, O’Halloran, his wife, Michelle, and son, Devin, have given back to the community, donating and auctioning off items collected. The family has hosted ‘The Camp Michitanki Golf Classic’ for the last 15-years, raising money to send children that have had organ transplants to summer camp. Each year, it sends 100 youths. It is a cause the family is close to, following Devin’s liver transplant and attending the camp growing up. 

  While he is hanging up his skates at the end of the year, O’Halloran knows it wouldn’t have been possible without the support he has received along the way from family to friends. 

  “Without the support of my wife, Michelle, and my son, Devin, I could never have left home so many times and be able to focus on my games, and my parents, Fred and Judy, allowing me to use their car to travel to many games across the U.S. and Ontario,” O’Halloran said. “I’d like to thank Sam Sisco (OHA, OHL, and NHL supervisor) for believing in my ability and making sure the officiating recruiting department at the NHL level gave me a legitimate opportunity.”

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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