Sam Sisco is one of Essex County’s finest ever hockey officials. He enjoyed a six-decade career in the sport as a referee, coach, and supervisor of officials.
Sisco was born on August 2, 1934 in Windsor.
Like many young Canadians, Sisco originally aspired to be a hockey player. Although he briefly played Junior B hockey in Blenheim and dressed a handful of times for the Senior “A” Windsor Bulldogs, his important contributions to the sport ultimately came in a non-playing capacity.
Sisco graduated from the University of Windsor with a Bachelor of Commerce in 1957. He taught high school until 1989, finishing his career at Herman Secondary School. Sisco coached hockey at Herman, winning two WSSA finals with a team that memorably included the future NHL players Rick Kehoe and Tommy Williams.
Also in the 1950s, Sisco began to officiate local church league and minor hockey games. A promising referee, he shortly graduated to the Ontario Hockey Association Junior “B” and Junior “A” levels and, over time, worked his way up to the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association and Ontario University Athletics Association levels.
Sisco went on to referee in the International Hockey League (IHL) for 17 seasons from 1965 to ’82. During that time, he called 10 Turner Cup finals, including five deciding game sevens.
Sisco also officiated in NCAA Division 1. In 1972, he and Medo Martinello were selected to work the NCAA Great Lakes Tournament, which was held at Joe Louis Arena. They were the first Canadians to be given that opportunity.
In 1973, Sisco was invited by the United States Hockey Association to referee the World Cup Hockey Tournament, including the gold medal game between Russia and Czechoslovakia.
Between 1970 and ’87, Sisco worked with the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, which took him on as an instructor for its National Referees Certification Clinics. Sisco’s reputation and expertise even earned him a trip to Italy, where he conducted a seminar for Italian officials.
In 1976, while still working on the ice, Sisco opted to become a supervisor of officials. Since then, he has worked in that role for the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), IHL, American Hockey League, and National Hockey League. As part of his role, he prepared officials for the Memorial and Calder Cup playoffs. Similarly, from 1986 through 2002, he served as an instructor for the North American School of Officiating, where he mentored young officials from around the globe.
Sisco retired from the OHL in 2008 after 21 years of work. The league honoured him with the Bill Long Award for Distinguished Service. Sisco was awarded the University of Windsor Sport Achievement Award in 2010. He has also been lauded at various times by the Windsor Senior Hockey Association, the City of Windsor, the OHA, and the Windsor Minor Hockey Association.