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Bill Friday, a legendary, flamboyant whistleblower of his day who was the only person to referee both Stanley Cup Final and World Hockey Association Avco Cup Final games, died Monday. He was 91.

The founder and first president of the NHL Officials Association, Friday worked 542 games (498 in the regular season) as a linesperson and a referee between 1961-72. He was a part of 44 Stanley Cup Playoff games, including six consecutive Cup Final series between 1967-72, and NHL All-Star Games in 1968 in Toronto and 1971 in Boston.

"The National Hockey League mourns the passing of Bill Friday," the NHL said in a statement released Tuesday. "We send our deepest condolences to the Friday family and the many friends and colleagues that Bill touched during his outstanding officiating career."

By NHLOA records, Friday worked a total of 1,425 games in the NHL and then the WHA, the fledgling league to which he was lured. He refereed the first game in WHA history in 1973 and its final game in 1979. He was referee-in-chief during his final three seasons in the WHA.

Friday interviewed on Hockey Night in Canada in 1962

Bill Friday is interviewed by "Hockey Night in Canada" host Ward Cornell during his rookie season as an NHL referee.

Friday worked his way into stripes after playing minor and Junior B hockey in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, which elected him to its Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. Seven years later, his name was added to the city's Lawfield Arena.

At the dedication ceremony, then-Hamilton Bulldogs president Steve Staios joked, "Only in Hamilton would we give it to a referee as badly as we do, being the passionate hockey fans that we are, and then name an arena after one."

There were no chants that day of "Friday is a bum," which he often heard from fans in arenas during his career.

Friday joined the NHL in 1959-60 as a linesperson so that he'd get to know the players. Then he added armbands to his jersey, for a dozen years refereeing games that featured some of the greatest names in League history.

"You can start with Gordie Howe," he told Dick Irvin Jr. in the latter's 1997 book "Tough Calls."

"He was tough, and you had to watch him, especially if he got behind you. You knew he was going to retaliate if something happened, and he figured you weren't looking. He never gave me trouble, never chased me or hollered at me, but he'd get upset when you caught him if he thought you weren't watching."

Friday particularly enjoyed a Howe story from their days together in the WHA, Mr. Hockey's Houston Aeros in Hamilton for an exhibition game.

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Bill Friday in a portrait taken circa early 1960, at the start of his 12-season NHL officiating career.

"My kids were right behind the bench," Friday said. "Gordie would come off the ice and sit with them, take off his gloves, sign autographs and all that. The kids were thrilled.

"When the game was over, he was saying goodbye and he asked them, 'Does your dad like his new glasses?' The kids said, 'Dad doesn't wear glasses.' Gordie said, 'Well, tell him he needs them!' and he took off."

Detroit Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay was a handful even after his NHL days. Friday penalized "Terrible Ted" during an Original Six Oldtimers series game after the latter cross-checked Pierre Pilote, then added a 10-minute misconduct when Lindsay "turned around and started giving me sass."

"Ted said to me, 'I'm gonna run this stick right through you,' and I said, 'No you won't,'" Friday recalled. "'I'm looking at you.' We threw him out and he went home and never played again in that series. Imagine … an Oldtimers game.

"Years later I was with Ted in Jamaica doing a TV show with Bobby Orr and he was the nicest guy in the world. Off the ice he was a completely different person."

A dust-up during a game with the New York Rangers rewrote the NHL rule book, Rangers coach Emile Francis blowing a gasket when he thought that a goal-crease scramble during which a Chicago defenseman smothered the puck should have been called a penalty shot.

Before Friday knew it, Francis was racing across the ice to the referee, intercepted by Rangers forwards Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield.

Friday’s 2010 Hamilton Sports Hall of Fame induction

Bill Friday's 2010 Hamilton Sports Hall of Fame induction video.

"They each grabbed Emile under an arm, picked him up and carried him back to the bench," Friday said. "Francis is a little guy and his little feet were still going when they got him off the ice."

Friday's postgame report prompted the NHL to introduce a bench minor if a coach stepped on the ice.

If Friday's jump to the WHA wasn't the banner-headline news of Chicago Black Hawks superstar Bobby Hull's high-profile defection from the NHL, it gave the new league instant credibility.

"I did it for money, pure and simple," Friday told Irvin Jr. "The WHA offered me $50,000 a year for three years. I'd been with the NHL 12 years and was making $22,000. The NHL countered with a three-year offer of $26,000, $30,000 and $34,000, [but] I had five kids at home and $50,000 is pretty good money.

"I couldn't afford not to take it. Despite all the money problems with the WHA, I never missed a paycheck in seven years. ... The WHA treated me royally."

Friday knew and even embraced his reputation as a showman, every fan in those days knowing the names of referees and not afraid to use them wrapped in colorful language.

"I think it was mainly because of the way I skated," he said. "I was pretty intense. Nobody could talk to me before a game, even the [linespersons]. I used to worry about every game, but once I dropped the puck, everything was fine. I enjoyed the notoriety, people telling me I did a good job. It made all the bad things about refereeing good."

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Referee Bill Friday signals a goal scored by Boston Bruins' Wayne Cashman on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Marv Edwards, defenders Rick Ley (22) and Pat Quinn in the action. Toronto beat Boston 4-2 in this Oct. 25, 1969, game at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Friday said he never broke his own rule about swearing at a player, "not once, because I didn't think it was fair. If he swore at me, I could give him 10 [minutes]. If I swore at him, he couldn't do anything. How could I earn their respect if I swore at them?"

He cherished many memories of working more games than he could count, seeing up close the brilliance that Wayne Gretzky displayed from his first days as a teenaged pro in the WHA.

"When he started, Wayne would take the odd dive," Friday recalled. "One night in Edmonton, down he went, a big dive. He was on the ice looking back at me and I just stood there. No penalty. That got the crowd going.

"Al Hamilton was the Oilers captain and I called him over and said, 'You go tell Mr. Gretzky that this swimming pool is frozen and if he ever does that again, I'm going to whistle his butt for 10.'

"The next time Wayne came out for a face-off, he gets set, his head is down and he doesn't look up. I'm hanging onto the puck, and I hear him say, 'It won't happen again, Mr. Friday.'"

Top photo: From left, referee Bill Friday, Gilles Marotte, goalie Eddie Giacomin, Arnie Brown and Ron Schock during a 1966-67 game between the New York Rangers and visiting Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden.