Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1948, Andy Van Hellemond began his hockey career like most others as a player, competing for the St. James Canadians of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, which included winning a league championship in 1968 and being named to the league's First All-Star Team as a center.
With his playing career at an end, Van Hellemond began to officiate in various leagues in Manitoba before moving up to first the Western Hockey League for two years and eventually in the NHL, making his debut as a 23-year-old on November 22, 1972 as a replacement for Bruce Hood, who had suffered a knee injury.
How times have changed - a seated Van Hellemond is taller than the glass in 1975
In 1984 he became the first NHL on-ice official to wear a helmet, leading the way to others doing the same before they eventually became mandatory beginning with the 2006-07 season.
A helmeted Van Hellemond
After the era of NHL referees wearing their names on their backs ended in 1993-94, Van Hellemond wore #25 for the remainder of his career, which included setting the NHL record for the most games when he appeared in his 1,173rd regular season game when the St. Louis Blues hosted the Montreal Canadiens, breaking the record held by Dave Newell.
Van Hellemond was immortalized as part of the 1990 Pro Set hockey card set
Upon his retirement after 24 years as an official in 1996, Van Hellemond held the records for most regular season games, with 1,475, most playoff games at 227, and most Stanley Cup finals with 19.
For fourteen years he was the NHL's top rated referee and had the honor of working two NHL All-Star Games, the 1979 Challenge Cup and Rendez-Vous '87 between the NHL All-Stars and the Soviet Union.
Following his retirement as a NHL referee, he became Senior Vice-President and Director of Operations for the ECHL until 2000, when he became Director of Officiating for the NHL until July of 2004.
Although his NHL career came to an end in 1996, Van Hellemond was back on the ice in 2003 for the MegaStars Game, an alumni game with alumni referees between past greats of the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens prior to the Heritage Classic outdoor game in Edmonton.
Van Hellemond in a throwback NHL referee's sweater
Van Hellemond with Wayne Gretzky at 2003's MegaStars Game
He was later selected as Manitoba's Referee of the Century, became an Honored Member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.
Today's featured jersey is a 1992-93 NHL Referee Andy Van Hellemond jersey. This sweater was worn during the era of referees wearing their names on the backs of their sweaters. This jersey also features the Stanley Cup Centennial patch as worn on not only all the players jerseys in 1992-93, but also the referees' sweaters.
Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1994-95 NHL Referee Andy Van Hellemond jersey. This jersey, with Van Hellemond's #25 on the back was worn during the first season NHL officials returned to the use of numbers rather than names on their backs for the final two seasons of Van Hellemond's career.
Life as a referee is never an easy one, but getting deliberately punched by a player should not be one of the things they are forced to put up with. Here, Van Hellemond is on the receiving end of a blow by the Boston Bruins Terry O'Reilly. He would be suspended for 10 games for hitting Van Hellemond.
Once again, Van Hellemond earns his paycheck when things boil over between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Toronto Maple Leafs engage in a sucker punching line brawl cage match, including Chicago's Dave Manson jumping off the top rope for a disqualification. Even Santa Claus seems upset by their behavior.