NHL referee Dean Morton honored for 1,000 games

National Hockey League referee Dean Morton was honored for reaching 1,000 games.

Morton’s celebration came before Saturday’s game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Buffalo Sabers. The Peterborough native officiated the match along with referee Dan O’Rourke and line co-ordinators Steve Barton and Brad Kovacic.

Morton is currently the only NHL official to have played in the league. He was recruited by the Detroit Red Wings in 1986. Morton, who was then a defender, was fit for a one-game match with the wings in 1989, scoring with the help of Hall-of-Famer Steve Yzerman.

He was also recognized by Wings ahead of his 999th match on February 2. Including his football career, it was his 1,000th game on NHL ice.

The veteran official will retire at the end of the season. The players already started shaking hands as he did his final matches for each team.

Morton’s final game is scheduled for March 12 when the Calgary Flames host the Detroit Red Wings. Morton No. 5 has already been retired by the Red Wings. Looks like someone named Lidstrom was also wearing it…

“What a great ending to my career,” Morton told the Toronto Star. “At 53, it’s time to get away. I’m old in NHL circles. [The players] faster and faster. “

The veteran made his NHL debut on November 11, 2000, taking on the ice as New York Islanders hosted the San Jose Sharks. His first playoff came in 2014. Morton also directed the 2019 NHL All-Star Game.


Morton had a successful playing career. The home-based defender who enjoyed playing tough style hockey, played 3 seasons in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) from 1985 to 1988. With the exception of his first 15 games with the Ottawa 67 (1985-1986), the tough defensive man played his entire career with Generals of Oshawa, and he reached the Memorial Cup in his second year (1987). Chosen by the Detroit Red Wings in the eighth round, ranked 148 in the 1986 NHL entry draft. Morton became a professional in 1988 once his young days were over when he joined the Minor League Red Wings, the Adirondack Red Wings of the American Hockey League (AHL) to help the team win Winning the Calder Cup 1988 in his first season.

The following fall, after having an impressive boot camp in Detroit where his physical play was noticed, Morton got a breather when he was able to crack the six-man roster to start the season with the big club. On the first day of the 1989-90 NHL season (October 5, 1989), “Mortee” made his NHL debut as a Calgary Saddledome wearing the No. 5 jersey with the Detroit Red Wings, playing for the Flames that had just won the Stanley Cup in the spring of 1989 The Red Wings lost that game 10-7 at the Barn Flame but the Peterborough, Ontario native made history that night by becoming the third player in National Hockey League history at the time to score in his first NHL regular season game. This will be his one and only NHL game as a player. He was sent to the palace after the first road trip and never returned to Motor City. He would spend the next three seasons between the American Hockey League (AHL), the defunct International Hockey League (IHL), the European Hockey League (ECHL) and the Colonial Hockey League (CoHL) where he retired in 1993 with Brantford Smoke.

During his final season as a professional hockey player, Morton was advised by a few officials that he should participate in the North American School of Refereeing in the summer and trade his wand for a whistle. He went and attended the clinic that summer (1993) and quickly caught the attention of supervisors Willie Norris (NHL) and Ken Bodendistel (OHL/CHL) that weekend. From there, he was invited to start work for the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the Ontario Hockey League (OHA) for the upcoming season. Dean spent the next three years at work games throughout the province of Ontario as an assistant coach. The American Hockey League (AHL) hired him part-time in the fall of 1996 to work as an assistant coach while he was still working at OHL and OHA. He would have ended up in that year’s Calder Cup Final between the Hershey Beers and the Hamilton Bulldog.

The summer of 1998 changed his course as an official when OHL required him to wear orange bands on a trial basis. Morton accepted the challenge and made the transition from assistant referee to referee at OHL that season. Not only did Morton enjoy his new role in the game, but his natural talent was quickly recognized when in the same year he was selected to serve in the League Finals. He was approached by NHL Superintendent of Snowboard Officials Dave Newell, who had attended the Spring Championship Series, shortly after that year and offered him the opportunity to join the now-defunct NHL Apprentice Program for the following season. He would spend the 1999-2000 season as an NHL trainee working in various leagues across North America including the Quebec Major Hockey League (QMJHL), Western Professional Hockey League (WPHL) and West Coast Hockey League (WCHL). The National Hockey League offered him a contract to rule the minor leagues in the summer of 2000.

Just over 11 years after making his NHL debut as a player, Morton returned to the NHL but this time as a referee on November 11, 2000 when he skated in a game between the San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders in the old. Nassau Veterans Memorial Arena in Uniondale, New York. He spent a total of 8 seasons under minor league status before being promoted to a full-time NHL position in the summer of 2008. He also made his NHL debut after the season on April 17, 2014 in Denver, CO when Minnesota Wild was in town to play Avalanche. Morton was also selected in 2019 to work for the NHL All-Star Game in San Jose, California.

Congratulations to Dean Morton on 1000 matches!