Art Skov was a world-class referee who worked over 1,000 National Hockey League games in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. At one time, he was considered the world’s finest hockey official.
Skov was born in Wheatley on September 2, 1928.
As a teenager, Skov learned the game with the Windsor Mudhens of the Wartime Housing League and the Windsor Dayus Juveniles. At that level, he is remembered for scoring a hat trick in a game against Stratford. Between 1947 and ’52, Skov played for the Windsor Ryancretes, the Hettche Spitfires, and the Detroit Auto Club in the International League.
Skov retired as a player in 1952. He soon began to officiate games under the urging and tutelage of local referees Mickey Drouillard, Len Loree, Ed Saby, and Fred Blackburn, who refereed in the International League. He began as a referee in the Bell Telephone Hockey League, which staged three games at Windsor Arena every Saturday night using a two-referee system with no linesmen.
Eventually, Skov graduated to Junior “B” hockey and then to the International Hockey League. Skov stayed at that level from the 1952-53 season to ’55-56. At that time, the IHL also employed a two-referee system.
On November 29, 1956, Skov received his first NHL assignment. He worked as a linesman in a game between Chicago and Montreal alongside the great referee Red Storey and the linesman George Hayes. Skov was an NHL linesman from 1956 to ’64, during which time he also refereed games in the American Hockey League, Central Hockey League, and Canada’s Eastern Professional Hockey League.
In 1964, Skov finally became a fulltime NHL referee. By ’72, he had become the league’s top-rated official, which meant he was assigned the prestigious number one on his uniform sleeve. He held the position until his final game, played May 25, 1975. In total, Skov officiated 1,023 NHL games over a 19-year span.
During his career, Skov gradually assumed a leadership role in officiating circles; he came to be known as “Popsy” to a number of young referees and linesmen. Skov was known to emphasize the value of a team effort and the need to speak to excited players in order to maintain good game control.
At one point, Skov was asked to name on the record his all-time NHL all-star team. He nominated Terry Sawchuk in goal, Doug Harvey and Bobby Orr in defence, and “Rocket” Richard, Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau and Stan Mikita as forwards to complete an unconventional seven-man lineup. Skov considered Orr to be the greatest hockey player he ever saw.
Skov passed away at the age of 80 on Sunday, April 19, 2009.