Monday, July 18, 2011

Q & A with Neil Moran, EHL Linesman and Referee

Neil Moran was an Eastern Hockey League linesman and referee for most of the league's existence. Based mostly out of NYC/Long Island area, he was a part of many memorable EHL events. For instance, he was one of the linesmen when John Brophy pushed referee Bill Pringle and was suspended for the rest of the season, before being made coach by the Ducks. Neil and his son Chris have been gracious enough to share Neil's experiences through the following Question and Answer session and their photos. I think you'll agree that this is not only a fabulous bit of history here, but very well written by Neil and Chris. Many thanks to them! On with the Q&A...

When did you start officiating?
I started officiating in 1951 doing games at the old Brooklyn Ice Palace with games starting @ 11:00pm in the old Metropolitan Amateur Hockey League with such teams as Brooklyn Torpedoes, Manhattan Arrows, Sand Point Tigers, and Jamaica Hawks. Then in 1958 I started as a linesman for the Philadelphia Ramblers @ the old Philadelphia Arena, then I started doing the NY Rovers/ LI Ducks in 1959 @ the LI Arena up until the end in 1973, the NY Rovers in the 1964-65 season and started referring in the EHL in 1965.

How was your experience working in the EHL?
The league was very tough to work in with very little respect for the officials from the players ( except from are rare few ) to the fans.

Linesman Neil Moran gets an earful from Long Island Ducks' John Muckler during a game at Long Island Arena in 1962 vs. the Philadelphia Ramblers.

What was your favorite and least favorite EHL arena to work in?

The Southern arenas were more modern, clean dressing rooms with showers, the Northern arenas most of them were barns with small dressing room facilities and if you were lucky a running shower. Also th
e ice conditions were better in the South than up in the North. But my favorite arena was the old Madison Sq Garden on 49th st and 8th ave. Our dressing room was the NY Rangers locker room.

How did you respond when people refer to the EHL as a “goon league”, the "Slapshot League"?

For a long time it was considered a ‘goon league” but as the NHL expanded and sending down their prospects the league started cleaning itself up as the NHL didn’t want their prospects getting hurt.
Neil Moran officiates an independent Home Oilers game at Crystal Rink in Norwalk, CT in the mid-sixties. The 1964-65 NY Rovers played several home games here that Neil officiated.

Do you have any EHL stories that you wanted to tell?

Several, but you haven’t got the space for them. But one does come to mind in the early 1960s Schaefer Beer was filming a commercial at the LI Arena with John Brophy as of all people a Referee and he used my refere
es sweater for the commercial.

Do you still have any contact with other EHL people?
I still keep in contact with Referee Bob Anselm but we only exchange Christmas cards every year.

How did the EHL change ( if at all ) from when you started to when the league split in 1973?
It only started to change when the NHL started to send down players to some of the teams in hopes of grooming them.

How would you characterize “ EHL Hockey “?

Rough and Tumble, to do a game
with less than 15 penalties called was considered an “ off night “!!!

In my ( and others ) memory, the NHL was a slower, plodding game compared to the quickness of the EHL . From a fan’s standpoint, part of this can be explained by smaller arenas and closer vantage points in the smaller arenas. What is your take on the speed of the EHL game?

At that time maybe the speed of the game might have been faster due to the smaller arenas and less defensive play, so the turnovers were frequent and more up and down the ice action which speeded up the game some what.

A fan recently wrote “ When I show my scanned pictures to people at work, then tell them that these guys drove around the East in school buses for peanuts, playing 72 games for 4 figure salaries “ they are amazed. So the question is .. Why did you personally, and all of you in the EHL, do this?
Because of OUR DEDICATION to the game. Most of the officials really liked the game, although they had to put up with a lot of abuse from the players and fans.

Linesman Neil Moran tries to break up a brawl between the Long Island Duck and the Clinton Comets. This photo is from a 1969-70 LI Ducks program.

What kind of money did an EHL official make? What was the travel like for an EHL official?
As a linesman I started making $10.00 per game. As the years went on Linesmen were making $17 to $20.00 per game. As a Referee we started at $35.00 a game plus mileage for the car and tolls. At the end of the league we were making $50.00 a game. If you flew your ticket and motel room was picked up by the league, but there was NO MEAL MONEY.

Looking back, would you do it all again? What would you change? Was it all worth it?

Looking back I’d say “yes “ it was worth it!! The experiences that I learned from the EHL would last a lifetime, and it made me be a better official and handle certain players and situations.

Who were the best players you saw play?
John Muckler, Pete Babando ( never forgave him for scoring that 1950 Stanley Cup double overtime goal against my NY Rangers. I always told him that with a laughter), Gilles Villemure , Gene Peacosh , Dick Roberge, Jack Kane to name a few.

What memorable games were you involved in?
The famous TWO MINUTE GAME in 1965 at the LI Arena between New Haven and Long Island which when the we came on the ice Gordie Stratton of the Ducks said to me “ Neil when the puck drops just step aside because it going to be a war out here “ and as soon as Bob Anselm the Referee dropped the puck all hell broke loose.
And the game that I refereed between Johnstown and Syracuse in 1972-73 season were I called over 350 minutes in penalties which we had the Johnstown Jets players up in the stands fighting with the fans.

Who were the most gentlemanly players Who were the other good officials of your time? What owners did you like?
Pete Babando, Reggie Kent, Gordie (Blinkey) Stratton Benny Woit, Len Speck and others. The officials that were good were Ted Dailey, Doug Davies, Ron Telford, Mickey Grasso, Bob Anselm, Bill Pringle, Bob Giovatti,and the McCormick twins Pat and Mike. As for the owners Al Baron of the Ducks was very nice and I always remember John Mitchell owner of the Johnstown Jets and in his office he always said “son have a piece of candy“.

Who were the toughest and meanest players in the league?

John Brophy was a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde on and off the ice, tough and mean he could perform open heart surgery on the ice with his stick but when he was coaching very quiet and rarely gave the officials a hard time when coaching.

Pat Kelly always moaned and cried about penalties but a very good stay at home defenseman.

Don Perry, tough as nails when you went into the corner he made sure you were part of the boards but a hard hitting and clean defenseman.

Blake Ball was just plain dirty, and didn’t care who he went after.

Did you associate much with the players?
Not really. We did not associate with the players after the game. We might run into some at a bar or diner after the game but that was about it.

What was the greatest EHL game or series you worked in?
The 1965 Walker Cup Finals between the Nashville Dixie Flyers and the Long Island Ducks which I was the linesman for the games @ the LI Arena. The funny thing about that series all the games but the first one was played in LI because if I remember the Nashville Auditorium had a car show and the rest of the series was played at LI.

Do you have any humorous stories about the EHL you'd like to share?

Three come to mind, the first was a game between New Haven and Long Island @ the LI Arena in the mid 60’s there was a bench clearing brawl the night before @ New Haven and the LI Arena the next night was sold out and the fans were waiting for the Blades, and Blake Ball and the rest of the players came on the ice with paper umbrellas over their heads and the Ducks, and fans were laughing that the game was one of the quietest I ever did between those two teams.

The second was a exhibition game between New Haven and Long Island, the referee was a college referee I cant remember his name but he was the referee in the beginning of the movie Love Story with Ryan O’Neil and doing his first game in the EHL and a bench clearing brawl started and he starts blowing his whistle and I said to him “ this isn’t Yale – Harvard your doing, so stop blowing your whistle or one of these players are going to stuff it were the sun don’t shine!!”

The third was when I was at the old Madison Square Garden. During a NY Rovers game, NHL Referee Art Skov dropped by. I knew him personally he said to me that he filled in as an emergency Referee for one game and said "He’ll never do it again that it was a zoo league" but he also said if you can be an Official in the EHL than you can work any other league!

What would you like people to know and remember about Neil Moran, EHL official?

What I’d like people to remember me by just that we worked games under a lot of stress for little money. It was ours and the players dedication to the game, and it was an experience that I would never forget.

Neil Moran is retired and currently living in Brick Township, NJ. You can check in with his son Chris Moran at the Eastern Hockey League Facebook Group at

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