Controversial, colourful, proud and competitive, George Hayes loved hockey with his every breath until one day in 1965 when his career was ended by NHL president Clarence Campbell.
George Hayes had been a first-class athlete growing up, but decided to move into officiating early, refereeing minor league tripleheaders for a dollar a game and graduating to the Ontario Hockey Association in 1941 and the American Hockey League five years later.
His tenure in the AHL ended with the Second World War, as officials returning from serving their country reclaimed their jobs and forced Hayes back to the OHA for another two years, including Games Six and Seven of the 1946 Memorial Cup championship between the Winnipeg Monarchs and St Michael''s Majors played in Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens. Winnipeg went on to win the series four games to three. Game seven broke an attendance record for largest single-game crowd in amateur hockey in Canada with 15,803. The seven- game series set an amateur attendance record of 102,575 fans. That season, George had refereed 105 amateur hockey games around Ontario.
NHL president ''Red'' Dutton signed Hayes to an NHL contract as a referee on April 15, 1946, but after his first season (1946-47), he became a linesman, a position he held with distinction from 1947 to 1965. Through his career, Hayes worked 1,544 regular season NHL games as well as 149 Stanley Cup playoff contests, including 17 consecutive Stanley Cup Final series for a total of 57 games. Additionally, Hayes was chosen to serve as a linesman in eight All-Star Games: 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1958, 1959, 1960 and 1961. He was also the first NHL official to work 1,000 games.
In 1959, referee ''Red'' Storey and linesmen George Hayes and Bill Morrison toured Europe on a barnstorming tour with the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins, handling 23 games in 26 days. Games were played in London, Paris, Geneva, Antwerp, Zurich, Dortmund, Essen, Krefere, Berlin, Vienna and Lausanne. The Rangers won 12, the Bruins won nine and two ended in ties. Bobby Hull and Ed Litzenberger, borrowed from the Chicago Black Hawks and playing for New York, finished one-two in scoring for the tour.
During his NHL career, George also served as the western Ontario scout for the Cleveland Indians baseball team.
Hayes found his career in the NHL both rewarding and frustrating. He was a fluid skater, the largest man on the ice, and full of good humour. He was the first official to hand deliver the puck to his colleagues rather than throw or slide the puck as was habit. He was also famous for his scrapbooks, keeping game reports for every contest he worked. The extensive collection now resides in the Hockey Hall of Fame archives.
But Hayes was also a rebel who didn''t mind causing trouble. He was once fined by the league for not shaving, and on another occasion, was suspended for travelling coach and billing the NHL for a first-class train ticket. In 1965, NHL President Clarence Campbell ordered all officials to take eye tests, and when Hayes refused, Campbell suspended him indefinitely for "gross insubordination," a term of unemployment that lasted the rest of his life.
Upon retirement, George Hayes returned to Ingersoll, Ontario and wrote a column for the Woodstock Daily Sentinel three times a week while maintaining a small farm. Hayes passed away in 1987 and was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.