This afternoon in Buffalo, NHL referee Dean Morton will be officiating his 1,000th NHL Regular Season Game when the Colorado Avalanche visit the hometown Sabres. This will be Morton’s 1,001st time skating in a NHL Regular Season Game. The Peterborough Ontario native, skated in one NHL game as a player in the fall of 1989, wearing Detroit Red Wings uniform No.5, now retired after Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidström. Fellow referee Dan O’Rourke and veteran linesmen Steve Barton and Brad Kovachik will be completing the officiating crew today for this special occasion.
Dean Morton Bio:
Morton had a successful playing career. The stay-at-home defender who enjoyed playing a rugged style of hockey played 3 seasons in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) from 1985 to 1988. With the exception of his first 15 games with the Ottawa 67’s (1985-86), the hard-hitting defenseman played his entire major junior career with the Oshawa Generals, reaching the Memorial Cup in his sophomore year (1987). The Detroit Red Wings selected him in the eighth round, 148th overall in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft. Morton, turned pro in 1988 once his junior days over when he joined the Red Wings minor-league affiliate, the Adirondack Red Wings of the American Hockey League (AHL) helping the team winning the 1988 Calder Cup Championship in his first season.
The following Fall, after having a great training camp in Detroit where his physical play was noticed, Morton caught a break when he managed to crack the six-defenseman roster to start the season with the big club. On the first day of the 1989-90 NHL season (Oct. 5th, 1989), “Mortee” made his NHL debut as a player at the Calgary Saddledome wearing jersey No.5 with the Detroit Red Wings, playing the Flames who had just won the Stanley Cup in the spring of 1989. The Red Wings would lost that game 10-7 in barn-burner but the Peterborough, Ontario native made history that night becoming only the third player in NHL history back then to score a goal in his first NHL Regular Season Game. This would be his one and only NHL game as a player. He was sent down in the minors after the initial road trip and never made it back to the Motor City. He would spend the next three seasons between the American Hockey League (AHL), the defunct International Hockey League (IHL), the ECHL and the Colonial Hockey League (CoHL) where he would retire in 1993 with the Brantford Smoke.
During his last season as a pro hockey player, Morton was advised by a few officials that he should participate in the North American School of Officiating in the summer and trade his stick for a whistle. He went on and attended the clinic that summer (1993) and rapidly caught the attention of supervisors Willy Norris (NHL) and Ken Bodendistel (OHL/CHL) that weekend. From there, he was invited to start working the lines in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) for the upcoming season. Dean spent the next 3 years working games all over the Ontario province as a linesman. The American Hockey League (AHL) hired him on a part time basis in the fall of 1996 to work games as a linesman while still working the OHL and OHA. He would end up working the Calder Cup finals that year between the Hershey Bears and the Hamilton Bulldogs.
The summer of 1998 would change his path as an official when he was asked by the OHL to wear the orange bands on a trial basis. Morton accepted the challenge and made the switch from linesman to referee in the OHL that season. Morton not only enjoyed his new role in the game but his natural talent was quickly recognized when he was selected that same year to work the league’s Finals. NHL supervisor of on-ice officials Dave Newell, who attended the spring championship series approached him soon after that year and offered him the opportunity to join the now defunct NHL trainee program for the following season. He would spend the 1999-2000 season as a NHL trainee working various leagues across North America including the Quebec Junior Major Hockey League (QMJHL), the Western Professional Hockey League (WPHL) and the West Coast Hockey League (WCHL). The National Hockey League offered him a Minor Leagues Referee contract in the summer of 2000.
Just over 11 years after making his NHL debut as a player, Morton made it back to the NHL but this time as a referee on November 11th, 2000 when he skated in a game between the San Jose Sharks and the New York Islanders at the old Nassau Veteran Memorial arena in Uniondale, NY. He spent a total of 8 seasons under the minor leagues status before being promoted to a full-time NHL position in the summer of 2008. He also made his NHL post-season debut on April 17th, 2014 in Denver, CO when the Minnesota Wild was in town to play the Avalanche. Morton was also selected in 2019 to work the NHL All-Star Game in San Jose, CA.
The NHLOA would like to congratulate referee Dean Morton for reaching the 1,000 NHL Regular Season Games as an official this afternoon.