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Referee Frank Udvari was known for hoisting himself off the ice by grabbing onto the top of the glass above the boards. (Alain Brouillard/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Referee Frank Udvari was known for hoisting himself off the ice by grabbing onto the top of the glass above the boards. (Alain Brouillard/Hockey Hall of Fame)

Obituary

Frank Udvari: A stern judge of ‘the world’s fastest sport’ Add to ...

The parties were called to a meeting at the Montreal office of NHL president Clarence Campbell. Mr. Richard explained he struck the linesman by accident, as he was dazed and had blood in his eyes from a gash that needed five stitches to close. An unsympathetic president, who had conducted a long and public feud with the Montreal star, suspended Mr. Richard for the final three games of the season, as well as the entire playoffs. The unprecedented punishment would cost Mr. Richard the league scoring title, as he would be passed by teammate Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion.

Mr. Campbell made the unwise decision to attend the next Montreal home game, where he was pelted with food and rubber shoes. A hooligan reached out as if to shake his hand only to punch him.

The crowd fled the Forum after a gas canister was opened at one end of the rink, and for the next four hours, a mob surged along downtown streets, smashing store windows in what came to be called the Richard Riot.

Mr. Udvari also made his share of controversial calls on disputed goals. In a single Stanley Cup final game in 1962, the referee disallowed two goals. The first cost the Black Hawks, as he blew his whistle to halt play after losing sight of the puck, believing it was in the possession of Toronto goalie Johnny Bower. Instead, Stan Mikita banged the puck home. “Everybody in the country saw the puck – except Udvari,” fumed Chicago’s coach.

Then, the referee waved off a goal by Toronto’s Ed Litzenberger, ruling he had illegally struck the puck when it was above his shoulder. “That was a good goal,” the Leafs skater insisted. “Heck, I’m 6 foot 3, and if I had hit it with my stick above the shoulder it would have gone over the net.”

Mr. Udvari hung up his whistle and No. 1 striped shirt after the 1965-66 season, having officiated 718 regular-season NHL games and another 70 in the playoffs.

He then took supervisory positions with the league. Once off the ice, he had friendlier relationships with players. Gordie Howe once teased him by saying, “I see you finally got eyeglasses.”

He had sold insurance throughout his hockey days, later building a property portfolio including apartment buildings.

Mr. Udvari died in hospital at London, Ont., on Aug. 13. He leaves Colette (née Reinhardt), his wife of 68 years. He also leaves a son, a daughter, three grandchildren and a sister.

His final game as an on-ice NHL official came unexpectedly on Dec. 30, 1978. He was in the press box at Nassau Coliseum in New York as a supervisor when referee Dave Newell took a puck in the jaw and was unable to continue. Mr. Udvari borrowed a pair of skates from the Islanders’ Bryan Trottier, donned a spare zebra shirt and handled the game while wearing suit pants.

The final cameo was remarkable as a rare instance in which a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame returned to the ice.

It is also remembered because Mr. Udvari, seeking to be fair to the end, waved off a goal by Mr. Trottier.

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