OKC Barons: Goal judges date back more than a century

For decades, goal judges had as much power as referees. If a goal judge turned on the red light, rarely was he overruled.
by Michael Baldwin Published: December 19, 2013
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photo - Goal judge J.D. Smith works during an AHL hockey game at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, December 3, 2013. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Goal judge J.D. Smith works during an AHL hockey game at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, December 3, 2013. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Hockey goal judges, originally called umpires, date back more than century.

Goal judges for decades had as much power as referees. If goal judges turned on the red light, rarely were they overruled.

During the NHL's debut season in 1917 goals didn't have nets, just two metal posts. It was a hazardous job. If a player didn't agree with a call the next time down the ice, he might fire a puck at the goal judge.

“That sounds like a lot of fun,” quipped Mark Cleamons, who oversees the Oklahoma City Barons game-day crew of 16 and was a goal judge for more than 250 Blazers games in the 1990s.

Over the years it was common for fans to pelt goal judges with mustard-covered hot dogs and other projectiles. In the modern era, players displayed their disapproval by spitting on the glass or violently slamming their stick against the glass.

In the 1920s, a handful of goal judges were accused of being paid by mobsters to cheat. But it would be another 50 years before they were closely scrutinized.

Referees in the 1970s could replace a goal judge if they suspected hometown bias. By the 1980s, out-of-town goal judges were used for the playoffs.


by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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