Armstrong brought integrity, passion to Hall of Fame career

Neil Armstrong’s durability during 21 seasons as an NHL linesman earned him the nickname Ironman.

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Neil Armstrong’s durability during 21 seasons as an NHL linesman earned him the nickname Ironman.

The native of Plympton-Wyoming officiated in a then-record 1,744 regular-season games before retiring in 1978.

He then scouted for the Montreal Canadiens for more than 20 years and won two Stanley Cup rings.

Armstrong, who was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991, died Sunday at the Marshall Gowland Manor long-term care home in Sarnia after battling Parkinson’s disease and dementia. He was 87 years old.

“Neil Armstrong’s numbers spoke for themselves – as one of only eight linesmen working in the league during the first half of his career, he totalled almost 2,000 regular season and Stanley Cup playoff games and a remarkable 18 consecutive years in the Stanley Cup final from 1960 to 1977,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

“However, when one reflects on Neil’s incredible impact on the game and the attributes that earned him induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, it was the universal respect that general managers, coaches, players and his peers had for him that stood out the most.

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“He brought integrity, passion and dedication to our game and his influence inspired new generations of officials long after he worked his last game in 1978. We send our deepest condolences to his son Doug and the entire Armstrong family.”

Doug Armstrong is the St. Louis Blues general manager. He visited Sarnia in July 2019 after winning the Stanley Cup and took the chalice to his father.

He was also the Dallas Stars assistant general manager when they raised the Cup in 1999.

“Being able to share the Stanley Cup with him, to share the ring with him, we did it 20 years ago and to be able to share some of the experiences I’ve been through the past two decades with him, well, that’s pretty special,” Doug said to NHL.com in 2019.

“He gets a big smile out of it and those are few and far between for him. So it’s been great.”

Armstrong is also survived by his daughter, Lezleigh Amodeo, and her husband, Lucio; Doug’s wife, Kelly; and six grandchildren. He was married to the late Margaret for 53 years.

Armstrong played minor hockey in Galt and began his officiating career in the Ontario Hockey Association.

He made his NHL debut in November 1957 at 24 years old. He went on to work in 10 all-star games and 208 Stanley Cup playoff games during a career that included only one serious injury.

When Armstrong officiated in his 1,314th NHL game on Oct. 16, 1973, to break the record held by George Hayes, he received a cheque for $1,314 from NHL executive director Brian O’Neill.

During the NHL off-season, he worked as the pro at the Sarnia Golf and Curling Club. Later, he was a co-owner and pro at what’s now Huron Oaks.

“I’ve been fortunate,” he told the Observer in 2000. “I never had a job I didn’t enjoy going to work, whether in hockey or golf.”

Former NHL linesman Neil Armstrong of Sarnia, Ont., was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991. (File Photo)
Former NHL linesman Neil Armstrong of Sarnia, Ont., was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991. (File Photo)

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