Bill Chadwick, the longtime NHL referee and television analyst who earned the nickname "The Big Whistle" has died at age 94.
His death was announced by son Bill and confirmed by John Halligan, a family friend and hockey historian. Chadwick had been in declining health for a number of years and died while in hospice care. MSG Network, for whom Chadwick served as an analyst for 14 years, reported his death during the second period of the New York Rangers' game in Montreal on Saturday night.
Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1964, Chadwick is the man who first used hand signals to make plain to all fans why he was blowing the whistle. For a holding penalty, he grabbed his wrist, for slashing he hacked his forearm, for tripping he cut his hand against his knee, etc. Fans and players alike loved the clarity of the signals.
Asked why he came up with the signals, the affable Chadwick laughed, "I didn't know what to do with my hands."
"Bill Chadwick had the confidence and creativity to introduce hand signals to officiating," Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "He had the courage to make the tough calls. His honesty and integrity brought him to the very top of his profession. The National Hockey League mourns his passing and sends heartfelt condolences to his loved ones."
Chadwick, a native New Yorker, enjoyed a lifetime love affair with hockey after playing the game as a youth. But his dream of playing in the NHL ended in 1935 when as a 19-year-old player trying out for the U.S. National Team when he was struck in the eye by an errant puck.
According to his Hockey Hall of Fame biography, Chadwick attempted to play the next year, but an accident above his good eye scared him into retiring. He soon received a call from Tommy Lockhart, president of the Eastern Hockey League, who inquired if Chadwick would like to replace an ailing referee for a game.
Just two years later, at age 24, Chadwick was an NHL official, a position he held until 1955. Chadwick never told anyone of his blindness, a handicap that never hurt his on-ice performance. He officiated in every Stanley Cup Playoffs from 1939 to 1955 and worked more than 1,000 games during his career.
After retiring, Chadwick went into private business and also was a season-ticket holder to Rangers games. But watching the games wasn't enough. He began work as a radio analyst for the Rangers in 1967 and became known as "The Big Whistle."
Chadwick moved over to television, working Rangers games with the late Jim Gordon beginning in 1972. They formed one of the most popular broadcasting crews in the New York area until Chadwick retired in 1987.
Chadwick was only the fifth official, and the first American-born official, to be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1974, and one year later he received the Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.