How I Grew Two Years Younger

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If you look up various biographical entries on me, you will sometimes find a discrepancy in my birth year. Some places have it as 1953 (which is correct). Others have it as 1955. For some reason, Hockeydb.com lists it as March 24, 1952.

For the record, I was born March 21, 1953.

There is a story as to why it is listed in some places as 1953 and others as 1955.

It has to do with my hiring as an official by the NHL after I finished my playing career and attended officiating school.

Before the 1984-85 NHL season, I was invited to attend the NHL Officials Association’s training camp. I did well and NHL officiating director John McCauley pushed for the League to sign me to a contract.

McCauley told me that there was a catch, When I brought him my birth certificate when I was about to be hired, he looked at my date of birth: March 21, 1953. He later called me.

“Paul, there’s a mistake on this document,” he said. “That date of birth is supposed to say 1955.”

Not immediately grasping where John was going with this, I started to protest that the date on my birth certificate was correct. He quickly interrupted.

“No, if anyone asks, you were born in 1955. We don’t hire anyone over age 30,” he said.

Shortly thereafter, McCauley mailed me the birth certificate with the 3 in 1953 seamlessly changed to a 5. It was impossible to tell it had been fudged. I never asked McCauley about it and he never told me how he did it.

Soon after, to cover the tracks, I also had my driver’s license changed to 1955.

I was friends with a World War I fighter pilot named Eddie Harold and helped take care of him after I got divorced from my first wife. I used to go by his place, take care of him at night, shave him, and take him to the grocery store or wherever he needed to go. He had been my next-door neighbor when I was a kid growing up.

One day, I told him that McCauley had the date on my birth certificate changed. I said that other identification documents still said 1953. Eddie told me his wife, Frances, had worked at the registry of motor vehicles. She had served as the registrar’s assistant.

“I’ll have her fix your date of birth on your license, too,” said Eddie who died at 103 years of age but at the time still held a driver’s license that said he was 90 with no restrictions.

Eddie’s wife made a call for me to a friend at the registry in Roslindale. I met with some man in his office behind his closed door. He asked me what was wrong with the license.

“My date of birth is wrong,” I told him. “It’s suppose to be 1955.”

With one click on his big boxy computer, the DOB on my license changed from 1953 to 1955.

That helped me avoid detection. Whenever I rented a car or submitted other receipts to the NHL, my birthyear consistently read as 1955.

After McCauley died in 1989, I think NHL management caught on somehow, perhaps because old paperwork from my playing days listed my correct birth year, I received an inquiry about it. I sent the league a copy of the birth certificate that McCauley had fudged, a copy of my driver’s license, and a voter registration card. All said 1955. I never heard another word from the NHL about it.

Nobody ever bothered me about it for decades. What’s the difference anyway? At the time I looked like I could still be in my mid-20s and I always stayed in top physical condition. Besides, age discrimination wasn’t the only discrimination that I faced with those people during my career.

Many years later, I had my documentation corrected back to 1953. I was 50 years old when I retired from the NHL as an active official.

********* Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.

Today, Stewart is an officiating and league discipline consultant for the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and serves as director of hockey officiating for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC).

The longtime referee heads Officiating by Stewart, a consulting, training and evaluation service for officials. Stewart also maintains a busy schedule as a public speaker, fund raiser and master-of-ceremonies for a host of private, corporate and public events. As a non-hockey venture, he is the owner of Lest We Forget.

In addition to his blogs for HockeyBuzz every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Stewart writes a column every Wednesday for the Huffington Post.