He first pulled on a striped shirt at the age of 17, but little did Will Norris know at the time, he was beginning a lifelong journey on skates.
A member of the Guelph Hockey Referees Association, he worked his way to Junior A at the tender age of 19 refereeing in the Memorial Cup in 1965, the year Bernie Parent led the Niagara Falls Flyers to victory. That very same year he officiated his first five games in the pre-expansion NHL. His first game was Christmas Day when the Bruins hosted the Maple Leafs at the old Boston Garden.
In 1966 he was hired by the NHL as a linesman full-time and would go on to officiate in over 1,500 regular season games plus another 90 or so in the playoffs. As a linesman, one of your jobs is to break up fights and the best tilt he ever saw was between Montreal’s John Ferguson and Boston’s Ted Green in the first playoff game he ever worked. “As I was taking Fergie to the penalty box” says Norris, “all he could say was ‘I’m whipped’”. Some of his highlights were being on the ice for Darryl Sittler’s 10-point night in Toronto and simply being able to work along side some of the NHL’s greatest players like Jean Belliveau, Dave Keon, Gordie Howe and Stan Makita.
After 18 years he decided to hang up his skates to become the Referee-In-Chief of the Ontario Hockey Association for three years. He then went back to the NHL to become their Co-ordinator of Development for young officials, sharing his wealth of experience with several of the officials you see now in the NHL.
Will Norris still pulls on the stripes twice a week to officiate the Guelph Good Timers.
Inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame – Officials category – on May 7, 2003