Kenneth Thomas (Bodie) Bodendistel
Died: November 21, 2013 (Guelph, Ontario)
Member: Guelph Sports Hall of Fame (2010)
Ken Bodendistel spent 39 seasons as an on- and off-ice official in the Ontario Hockey League. Last year, the league announced the creation of The Bodie, an award to be presented to the official who demonstrates a passion and dedication to officiating.
Bodendistel also worked two seasons in professional hockey, including a brief stint in the NHL, where he played a central role in one of the league’s most infamous and ugly incidents. He was the referee when Wayne Maki and Ted Green engaged in a notorious stick-swinging duel.
The battle took place in an exhibition game between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins played at Ottawa on Sept. 21, 1969. The play was in the Boston end when Bodendistel signalled a delayed penalty. Maki and Green tussled behind the Bruins goal, Green shoving his glove into Maki’s face. The players came out from the net and both raised their sticks in the air.
Green swung first, the referee would later say, catching Maki in the face. Maki responded with a chop to Green’s head, sending the tough defenceman to his knees. He nearly died from the blow and had a metal plate inserted into his head. Bodendistel assessed both players match penalties, and league president later suspended each for 30 games.
Both players were soon after charged with assault causing bodily harm, believed to be the first instance when events during an NHL game led to the laying of criminal charges. The players faced a two-year prison term if convicted. In the end, both were acquitted in separate trials. The referee testified in both cases.
“I spent four hours on the witness stand at the criminal trial,” he once said. “It was a heck of a way to start an NHL career.”
Bodendistel would go on to officiate as a linesman in just nine NHL games. He also worked as a referee in the American Hockey League. During the 1970-71 season, he was twice attacked by players. Larry Johnston of the Baltimore Clippers was fined $500 in one incident, while Roger Cote of the Springfield Kings was fined $300 and suspended six games for another assault.
His hockey career began as a stickboy for the Guelph Biltmores. He played hockey for a Junior-B team and he also skated for intermediate and senior teams. He donned stripes in his 20s to officiate games in the Ontario Hockey Association (later the OHL). He later became a supervisor and served 12 years as the league’s director of officiating. In recent seasons, he was the OHL’s senior officiating manager.
While his own NHL experience was limited, he mentored several other officials who went on to enjoy long NHL careers. Paul Devorski invited Bondendistel to attend his 1,000th NHL game, while Bill McCreary asked him to be on hand for his 1,500th. Both referees are also from Guelph.