Terry Gregson was a referee in the NHL from 1979-2004. During his 25 years, he worked over six Stanley Cup Finals, the 1996 World Cup, and 1991 NHL All-Star Game. Terry was also president of the NHL Officials Association.
HockeyRefs.com: When and where were you born?
Gregson: I was born in Erin, Ontario on November 7, 1953.
HockeyRefs.com: Are you married and do you have any children?
Gregson: I am married to Laurie and we don't have a family.
HockeyRefs.com: Why did you start to officiate?
Gregson: As a teenager, it allowed me more ice time and I was at the rink most of the time anyway. In university it provided me with extra money as well. Finally, I enjoy the game and it was another way of participating.
HockeyRefs.com: What made you become a referee and not a linesman?
Gregson: Personality had a lot to do with it. I very much like to be a decision maker and I felt my head was a better asset then my stature to get into the NHL.
HockeyRefs.com: What leagues did you work on your way up to the top?
Gregson: I started out in the Ontario Minor Hockey Association and progressed to the OHA and then I also officiated in the Netherlands when I was over there playing for a year. When I came back I worked in the OHA again and then Scotty Morrison from the NHL approached me about officiating at the professional level. After attending the NHL training camp, I took a leave of absence from teaching and refereed in the CHL, IHL, and WHL. The following season (1979-1980), I signed a contract and skated the AHL, CHL, and some NHL games. Eventually I became a full-time referee for the league.
HockeyRefs.com: What was it like officiating in the Netherlands and how was it different from North America?
Gregson: I played hockey there in Division II - which at the time compared to the Tier II Junior "A" level back home - and I worked as a linesman in Division I. The game there is much more of a skating and touch-pass type of game than it is here. I quite enjoyed it and I made a lot of lifelong friends.
HockeyRefs.com: What made you decide to retire at the end of this past season?
Gregson: Well, there were a few things. About ten years ago, I set a goal for myself to officiate until I was age 50 with 25-years-of-service in the NHL. Last November I turned 50 and the end of this season marked my 25th in the league, so I reached that objective. While the two-referee system gave me another year or two, it wasn't as satisfying anymore to go out and share the responsibilities. And not getting playoffs for the past three seasons sent a message that the management team saw my work differently than before and I always felt I wanted to be the person who said it was time and not the person who was told it was time.
HockeyRefs.com: Now that you're retired, what is your opinion of the two-referee system changed?
Gregson: I think the two-referee system has potential, but there needs to be a little more mentoring and teaching. It's very difficult to put people out on the ice when there's a 15 or 20-year gap in their experience level. It's very difficult to earn your stripes and be accepted as a young referee in the system. But, I think if we had more mentoring with senior people working with young persons, we could speed up the learning curve. It's very tough to go from being the only referee on the ice at the AHL level to being one of two at the NHL level. This system has to be maintained because the game is so fast it would be too much for one man to handle. The two-referee system takes patience, teaching, and mentoring. Patience has never been exercised with officiating - we are the last people thought of, but the first ones criticized. The same people who support a young player who's going back and forth between the AHL and NHL are the first ones to jump on a young referee who works one night in the AHL and the next in the NHL.
HockeyRefs.com: Should the lower-level leagues such as the AHL adopt the two-referee system?
Gregson: Absolutely. Is it really fair for a guy from the AHL to suddenly be thrown into a foreign system? Even for me after 20-years it was difficult to switch over to the two-referee system. If this is the way it's going to be, then why aren't they trained in this system?
HockeyRefs.com: Would you like to stay involved and become a supervisor at some level of hockey?
Gregson: Well, I don't know if I would be an evaluator, I think I would rather be a mentor. I have been approached by the Italian federation to work with their top guys this coming season. The OHL has also contacted me. I would like to stay involved - having been a teacher formally and having been involved in the game at a high-level I think I have something to offer.
HockeyRefs.com: There have been rumors in recent months about NHL teams looking to hire former referees as officiating consultants. Would you ever consider something like this?
Gregson: I have heard that talk, but I don't know how solid that position would be. Would you lose your job if you said a referee is going to do something and he doesn't? Reading a referee's style is a lot harder in the current system. If some team approached me, I would ask them their expectations and if they were realistic, I might consider it. To me this sounds more like something that came out of a late night chat between guys at a hotel.Â
HockeyRefs.com: During your long career there have been several major rule changes. Which one in your opinion has been the best for the game and which one has been the worst?
Gregson: I think the best for the game has been the hurry-up line change. Seven or so years ago you had to practically pull the guys out on the ice. I wish they would have kept up the tag-up off-side rule in the book. Now we have some off-side plays that would have been non-calls a few years ago. A moving puck is everybody's best friend.
HockeyRefs.com: Would you make any rule changes?
Gregson: I'm a traditionalist. I don't want to see the red line removed at this level because I feel it would cut down on the amount of offense. Without the red line, the defensemen will play back. I would like to see automatic icing though. I don't want to see the nets made bigger, but I do want the width of the goalkeeper equipment to be made smaller. Also, I have always thought the goalie should be required to move the puck whenever the puck is shot from behind the blue line.
HockeyRefs.com: When you started most - if not all - officials went helmet-less. Is there a reason you wore both a helmet and visor?
Gregson: I have always believed if something is out and available, you should use it. After receiving a concussion in 1988 I went to a helmet and at the end of my career I went to a visor. I was really amazed at how easy it was getting used to a visor.
HockeyRefs.com: You have worked in so many great arenas. Do you have a favourite one?
Gregson: Umm â€¦ If you don't mind, I'm going to give a tie on this one. I liked the old Chicago Stadium because it was so loud and had a great atmosphere. It was really something to step out on the ice there. The old Montreal Forum was also very special to me. It was always clean and the fans always wore shirts and ties. It had so much culture and heritage. Saturday night in Montreal was one of those nights when you said, "Yeah I really am in the NHL." Today it's hard to tell what arena you're at now. They're all made the same way and have the clocks in the same place. So many of our guys enjoy working at Madison Square Gardens because it's a unique building.
HockeyRefs.com: How has officiating changed from when you started?Â
Gregson: It's very different now. There are so many people now. When I started there were 29 guys and we were all very close knit. We all worked with each other and traveled together. Now, we have 80 some guys. Everyone doesn't work together and in many cases the only time you see someone is at training camp. While on the ice, today we seem to focus too much on a particular area of the ice a particular line. It's hard to remain a team and not become four individuals in striped jerseys today.
HockeyRefs.com: Do feel the game has changed for the better over time or has it become too much entertainment and not enough sport?
Gregson: We're trying to grow the sport, but there comes a time when I don't think someone in Mobile, Alabama is worried about the sport. Is the marketing of the game more important than the actual game? If we look after the game itself, the game will attract fans. One thing I've never liked are the commercial timeouts. Last season I had an exhibition game that finished in 1 hr and 53 minutes because it had no commercials. If hockey would finish in less than two hours, we would attract a lot more fans. Unlike other sports, fans have to really concentrate on the game.
HockeyRefs.com: In recent years there have been several high-profile firings. Do you think the league went a little overboard?
Gregson: Everyone has their own management system, but personally I don't think there should have been that big of a staff turnover.
HockeyRefs.com: What are your feelings on not making the playoffs your last three years?
Gregson: Disappointment. I feel I was equal to those selected and capable of working those games. I guess they decided all of a sudden that I wasn't good enough.
HockeyRefs.com: Did you prefer nameplates or numberplates?
Gregson: From an ego point of view, I would love to have my name on the back again. I think a name helps establish yourself. Without them, nobody can really say who that referee is. Before, people got to know who the officials were because they wore their names. It would be nice to have them back, but I don't see that happening.
HockeyRefs.com: What advice would you give an aspiring young official?
Gregson: There is no blueprint on how to make a career out of officiating. However, I see common trait in the fellows at this level. They must be committed and respect senior officials, they must be a good listener and be the one who asks questions to improve and gain experience. And finally they must remain themselves. It's easier to be yourself than someone else.