Dave Newell – Copper Cliff’s NHL Referee
Dave Newell

Dave Newell refereeing the infamous game between Minnesota North Stars and Boston Bruins in 1981.

Greater Sudbury has lost one of our sports legends, NHL referee Dave Newell, who passed away on Sunday, December 16th at his home in Copper Cliff at the age of 73 years.

Dave’s parents, Gladys and Jack, came to Sudbury in 1937 where they raised nine children in Copper Cliff. Dave began playing hockey in Copper Cliff and during high school, when he was 14, was told by the Head Scout of the Maple Leafs that he wouldn’t make the professional league, despite his promise as a player, because of his size. 

His dad and a couple of his brothers were referees for local hockey games and after hearing the scout’s pronouncement, got his son interested in refereeing instead. At age 19 Dave got his first break and was hired by the International Hockey League becoming the first full time referee in the league. Two years later he was hired by the NHL and his career, that spanned 23 years, took off. In 1990 when he retired as referee he became an advisor to younger referees just starting out as well as serving as president of the NHL Officials’ Association for nine years.

A referee’s job is a tough one. Calling penalties didn’t make a lot of friends at games and referees often bore a lot of the brunt of the players’ and coaches’ resentment. “When I was refereeing, I always told coaches and players, I don’t care if you like me…just respect my judgement.” said Newell. And he was respected by fellow officials, coaches and players alike.

He refereed 1,169 regular season games and 106 playoff games in 1981, 1984 and 1987. He retired the year before instant replay in the NHL took over from goal judges and referees who once called the goals which took some of the heat off of referees. He was injured numerous times including being knocked unconscious by a player during a game – Connie Madigan – when he called a penalty against his team. 

Arguably his most infamous and busiest game as a referee took place when a bench brawl between the Minnesota North Stars and Boston Bruins made NHL history in 1981 with 67 penalties called after the first period alone. We’ve included a video of the highlights below (warning: there’s a lot of fighting) with announcer Fred Cusick wondering, “And how Newell will sort it out, we don’t know. Hopefully he’ll sort it out.” The game ended with Newell calling 84 penalties including 16 mayor penalties and 13 game misconducts and the Bruins won 5-1.

Mary-Anne Secord, mother of former NHL player Al Secord sent us this story when she heard of Dave Newell’s death.

Alan Secord Captain

Mary-Anne Second sent this photo of her son Alan Secord who became a pilot for American Airlines after he retired from the NHL.

“Quite a few years ago, I was on a flight from Sudbury to Toronto and noticed I was sitting beside Dave Newell, Copper Cliff’s NHL referee. We had never met and I had to think about introducing myself as the mother of one of the ‘tough guys’ in the NHL who probably gave Dave a lot of work on the ice. My son is Alan Secord from Espanola and he was a tough player. I decided to take a chance on Dave’s reaction and said, ‘Hi Dave, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Alan Secord’s mother Mary-Anne’. He gave me a huge smile and shook my hand and said to me, ‘Alan is a very respected player among the NHL referees. When he’s in an altercation, he’s always been a clean fighter, never uses his stick and always treated the referees with a lot of respect… and I’m very pleased to meet you!’ Made my day ! My sincere condolences to his family from my family.

Dave leaves behind his wife Darlene, three children and five grand children. He is resting at at the Jackson & Barnard Funeral Home and his funeral service will take place there on Saturday. Condolences to his family and friends.

In 1911, Elm Street became the first paved street in Sudbury.
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