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Bill Chadwick, landmark hockey referee

October 26, 2009 |  1:41 pm

Chadwick Bill "The Big Whistle" Chadwick, who died Saturday at 94, was the first U.S.-born official in National Hockey League history and later a broadcaster for the New York Rangers.

His lasting impact was devising the system of hand signals to signify penalties.

"Bill Chadwick had the confidence and the creativity to introduce hand signals to officiating," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.

Chadwick was blind in one eye. Playing at Madison Square Garden in 1935, Chadwick was struck in the right eye by an errant puck as he stepped onto the ice. He spent a week in the hospital, but doctors were unable to restore the vision in the eye.

Despite the injury, Chadwick continued to play hockey with the New York Rovers of the Eastern Hockey League. Then, early in the 1936-37 season, he was hit in his left eye by an opposing player's stick. The injury wasn't nearly as serious as the earlier one, but Chadwick knew his hockey-playing days were finished.

As a referee, Chadwick came up with the hand signals during a Stanley Cup finals because there was so much noise he had trouble talking with the penalty timekeeper.

His signals were not made official by the league until 1956, the year after he retired.

In 1964, Chadwick was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, only the fifth official, and the first American-born official, to be honored.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Bill Chadwick in 1955. Credit: Associated Press