Medo Martinello is a former hockey official and lacrosse coach. He enjoyed a 19-year career as an elite NCAA referee, during which time he became the top official in American collegiate hockey. He was the first Canadian to officiate the NCAA Championship game. Briefly a professional lacrosse player, Martinello also led local teams to several titles over the course of a long coaching career in that sport.
Martinello was born in Windsor on December 6, 1935. He attended Immaculate Conception school from Grades 1 to 5 and DeLaSalle from Grades 6 to 8. At the latter, he played on City Champion softball and basketball teams and suited up for the Separate Schools All-Star hockey team in the annual Safety Patrol game.
At Assumption High School, Martinello won the WSSA and WOSSA Hockey Championships as a Grade 10 student. His Assumption team defeated London Beach Teal (2-0, 8-3) and Owen Sound CVI (5-2) to win WSSA and WOSSA respectively. At the OFSAA All-Ontario playoffs in Sudbury, the team won the bronze medal with a 5-1 win over Kingston Collegiate Institute, the lineup of which included Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry.
Medo moved to W. D. Lowe to complete his high school studies. He continued to play hockey but lost in the WSSA hockey finals to Assumption in his first two years with the Trojans.
Outside of school, Martinello also played Junior B hockey for Blenheim in in the 1953-54 season. Later, with the Detroit Teamsters Seniors, he won the 1959 American Amateur Championship.
Martinello also played softball. From 1956-58, he played as an outfielder for Duplate Glass, winning three Manufacturers League Championships. The 1957 team was also OASA Intermediate “A” Champion. Earlier, in 1955, his St. Anne team was an OASA Junior “A” finalist.
Martinello enjoyed a lengthy lacrosse career that started at age 12. He played with two-time City Champion Radio Electric, then Joe’s Cement in Junior “B.” With the Leamington Clippers, Martinello won the Ontario Senior “B” Championship in 1961. Later, he won back-to-back Canadian Senior “B” Championships in 1970 and ’71, with the Windsor Clippers and Windsor Warlocks respectively. In 1968, he played in the National Professional Lacrosse League with the Detroit Olympics, losers to New Westminister in the finals.
In adulthood, Martinello enjoyed a lengthy and wildly successful career as a hockey referee. He officiated in the outdoor Parks and Recreation League at Optimist and Lanspeary Parks beginning in 1953. An unpredictable turn of events gave Martinello’s refereeing career a significant shot of adrenalin in 1955 when, at age 20, he attended a Senior house league game at Windsor Arena. When referee Merle Evon sustained an injury and could not continue, he asked for a volunteer from the crowd to replace him. Martinello consented, acquitted himself well, and soon drew several compliments for his fine work.
A few weeks later, Martinello received a letter inviting him to attend an Ontario Hockey Association referee camp in Chatham. He did, and he impressed the camp conductors so much that they immediately offered him a contract to officiate Junior “B” and “C” games and work the lines for Senior games. After a year or two, he was also officiating at the Junior “A” level.
In 1959, Martinello received a phone call from Scotty Morrison, Referee in Chief of the NHL, who invited him to attend an NHL Training Camp. At the conclusion of the camp, he was offered $4,900 to work as a minor league referee, but Martinello declined; he was just getting started in his trade as a plumber, and he felt more secure doing Junior and Senior games.
The next year, 1960, Martinello continued to referee Junior “A,” “B,” and “C” games and began to referee in the professional International League. He carried on in that role until 1971.
Between 1970 and ’89, Martinello refereed college hockey at the NCAA Division 1 level. There, he excelled. Martinello was the number-one ranked NCAA referee for 15 years. He refereed in the “Final Four” championship tournament in each of his 19 total years with the NCAA. In 12 of those years, he was given the Championship game. In 1972, he became the first Canadian to referee the NCAA Final when he took charge of a game at the Boston Gardens between Boston University and Denver University.
Martinello was instrumental in the NCAA’s adoption of a two-referee system in the 1970s. The NHL would eventually decide to employ the same system in 1999. An influential and widely respected voice, Martinello frequently contributed to NCAA Coaches Meetings and conducted clinics and seminars in Boston, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
Martinello even officiated international competition. He refereed matches between the Windsor Bulldogs and Russian and Czechoslovakian representative teams, and worked the lines for games between Russia and Muskegon and Czechoslovakia and Fort Wayne.
Martinello also refereed Junior and Senior lacrosse for several years in the 1960s.
Martinello coached lacrosse in some capacity for parts of four decades. In 1953, his Windsor Minor Lacrosse team won the Pee Wee Championship. Almost 20 years later, he coached the Junior “C” Windsor Warlocks to Ontario and Eastern Canadian Championship victories in 1972. The next year, he took charge of Windsor AKO at the same level, winning those same two titles. In 1975, he coached Quebec City in the National Professional Lacrosse League. Martinello’s team won the Championship, and he was named Coach of the Year. Martinello returned to Windsor the following year and won the 1976 Junior “B” Lacrosse Ontario Silver Medal with the Windsor Warlocks. He was appointed to coach the Southwest Lacrosse Team at the 1980 Ontario Summer Games, winning gold. The next year, he coached Team Ontario at the Canada Games, winning bronze.
A versatile coach, he also led the Windsor Minor Hockey Pee Wee travel team to the Ontario Finals in 1965, and his Windsor Police team won the Windsor Minor Football Pee Wee league in ’69.
In 1992, Martinello received the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal for his “outstanding achievements on behalf of Canada.”