One of the greatest all-round athletes and most successful men of sports during the early decades of the 20th century in Canada, Mike Rodden was most proud not of his feats on the football field or on the ice but for running the Island Rapids on the Abitibi River, the most feared stretch of water in all of Canada.
Rodden played all sports as a youth and attended the University of Ottawa where he won the junior boxing title and graduated without having lost. In 1906, he enrolled at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, graduating in 1910. During those four years he earned 15 letters in football and hockey, a record that endures to this day. In football, he has the added distinction of making the all-star team each year, at a different position each time!
Rodden's many careers were forever crossing over. He was an amateur referee in the Ontario Hockey Association from 1918 to 1934 and an NHL referee from 1927 to 1936. He was the referee in the Stanley Cup Challenge series in 1927-28. Along with partner Lou Marsh, Rodden refereed all five games in the series between the Montreal Maroons and the New York Rangers. He refereed the NHL All-Star Game on February 14, 1934. Through his long officiating career, Rodden oversaw almost 3,000 games in total, including 1,187 in the NHL.
Fellow NHL official George Hayes referred to Rodden as "old school," saying, "He was a real character, a real colourful guy. Back in those days, the referee would call the players to centre ice before the game and lay down the law. He'd say, 'All right, fellows, have a good game and play by the rules, but if you don't want to, I can be pretty tough, too.'"
But besides refereeing, Mike also was a good judge of talent, and claimed to have discovered 32 players who went on to play in the NHL, most notably Toe Blake, Babe Siebert and Nels Stewart, all Honoured Members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
After playing football with the Toronto Argonauts in 1919, he coached football teams to 27 different titles, including the Hamilton Tigers to back-to-back Grey Cup championships in 1928 and '29. He also coached at the University of Toronto Schools for 17 years.
His induction into the Hockey Hall in the Referee/Linesman Category in 1962 was followed by induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame two years later, making him one of the very few to achieve the double accolade.
Rodden went into journalism in 1918, working for the Toronto Globe for a decade before becoming the sports editor. He left in 1936 to assume that position for the Kingston Whig-Standard and stayed on until 1944, writing a weekly column thereafter for many years still.
Clarence Campbell, former NHL president, remarked that hockey had lost one of its distinguished links with the league's founding days with the passing of Mike Rodden. He was a true "builder of the game," having served as coach, manager and referee in the first years of the National Hockey League.