After a junior career as a centre, Andy Van Hellemond began refereeing games in his hometown in the WHL. After two years, he signed a minor-league contract with the NHL, working mostly in the minor pros but with the NHL in sight. His big break came during the 1972-73 season when, at 23, he was called up to ref his first game after Bruce Hood hurt his knee and couldn’t fulfill a number of assignments.
From that day forward Ven Hellemond was a fixture in the NHL for the next quarter of a century. He was ranked the league’s number one official an unprecedented 14 times and holds all refereeing records for the league including most regular season games (1,475), most playoff games (227) and most appearances in the Stanley Cup finals (19 years). In 1984, he became one of the first officials to wear a helmet, a move precipitated by the increased size of the players and speed of the game.
Toward the end of his career he also served as president of the Officials’ Association, but the low point of his career came during the 1995 playoffs. In a Quebec-Rangers game, game four of the best-of-five, he disallowed a Quebec goal even though replays indicated the puck crossed the line before he blew the play dead. Quebec went on to lose the series, and the NHL issued a statement publicly saying the goal should have been allowed. It was a stunning and open show of criticism, and the entire officiating crew for the NHL was upset.
On June 8, 1996, Van Hellemond reffed his last game and accepted a three-year contract as senior vice-president of the East Coast Hockey League overseeing all league operations. Fittingly, he actually had to fill the breach and referee one final game in the ECHL when one official couldn’t make the assignment. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.
1985 -- CALGARY, AB
February 12, 1985