WCHA referee Mousseau passes away after suffering head injury

Butch Mousseau worked WCHA games since 2003 (photo: Jim Rosvold).

WCHA referee Oliver “Butch” Mousseau, who suffered a head injury when he fell during pregame warmups in a WCHA Final Five game last Friday, died Friday as a result of the injury, the league confirmed. He was 48.

Mousseau was taken from the ice by stretcher at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich., after hitting his head on the ice. He was not wearing a helmet.

Mousseau suffered brain swelling and was in a medically induced coma this week.

He is survived by his wife, Macaire, and three children.

Mousseau was a WCHA official since 2003 and also worked games in the NCHC.

With assignments in the NHL, ECHL, AHL and CHL, he was the first Native American to officiate a top-level hockey game. His NHL sweater and skates are in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Officials wore Butch Mousseau’s number on their helmets (photo: Melissa Wade).

League officials issued statements on Mousseau’s passing Friday:

“We are saddened beyond belief by the tragic passing of Oliver ‘Butch’ Mousseau,” WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson said. “Words cannot express the depth of sorrow we feel, or the sympathy the WCHA, our member institutions and fellow officials extend to Butch’s wife, Macaire, their children, Sam (SJ), Abbie and Olivia, and the rest of the Mousseau family. At the end of the day, hockey is just a game. It is a special game because of the people involved, and Butch was one of the all-time greats who left an indelibly positive impact upon everyone whom he came in contact with. The WCHA is, and always will be, a better league because of Butch’s involvement.”

“It is fitting that one of the last things Butch said to me was, ‘I’ll do a great job for you today,’ and said it with a smile,” WCHA supervisor of officials Greg Shepherd said. “That was Butch in a nutshell — the consummate professional on the ice and a wonderful, positive human being. I have been involved with the WCHA for 39 years, and he was one of the best — not just at calling the game between the boards, but in his communication with players, coaches and administrators. Butch was universally respected for his work on the ice and beloved for his kind and generous spirit to all, along with his love for the great sport of hockey at all levels. He was truly a very special person, and I will miss him dearly. My heart goes out to his family.”

“The NCHC family, including our membership, officials and conference staff, are saddened to learn that Oliver ‘Butch’ Mousseau has passed away,” NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton said. “Butch impacted the game of hockey in so many positive ways. More importantly, he was our friend who will be remembered for his fun-loving spirit and passionate soul toward life. Our thoughts go out to Butch’s wife, Macaire, his children, Sam, Abbie and Olivia, and his entire family during this difficult time.”


  1. Was sitting tenth row, maybe thirty feet away, when it happened. Was expecting this news unfortunately but am still deeply saddened. No family should lose a father like this. My own dad passed at 47 suddenly. It leaves a hole that is never filled.

    RIP and prayers to the family.

  2. Very sad. Really sucks that it will probably take a tragedy like this to have conferences make rules that everyone wear helmets while on the ice. Rest in peace, butch.

  3. Very sorry for this family’s loss. We make our younger skaters wear their helmets at all times on the ice. There have been players and referees hurt during warm ups before games. Is it time for a policy change?

  4. At Manchester Monarchs games when they have 2 fans shoot at opposite goals to win a prize, both fans are older youths or adults, and they ALWAYS wear helmets.

    But after the chuck-a-puck promotion, the ice is swarmed by younger kids scooping up the pucks and clearing the ice of all the foam rubber pucks…and NONE of them is wearing a helmet.

    It has always astonished me that, with all those kids on the ice, no one seems concerned in the least that the kids are all helmetless.

    As this sad story shows, no one should be on the ice if they’re not wearing a helmet. Let’s hope minor league teams’ management wake up before they have their own tragedy on their hands.

  5. Very sad to hear this news. Butch was a very good official applying the rules with a good feel for the game and who had a good rapport with players and coaches. I hope the NCAA and all the hockey conferences will require the officials and the players to wear their helmets properly done up at all times while on the ice whether it be for pre-game warm-ups or while on the ice prior to the start of a period. I have watched NCAA hockey for decades and was always surprised and amazed to see officials and players either without helmets on or without helmets properly done up during warm-ups and before starting play when on the ice before each period as it was just a matter of time before someone was accidentally hurt from catching a rut on the ice or encountering some other mishap and taking a spill or being hit by an errant puck. The NCAA should set an example to minor hockey players who come to watch as minor hockey requires officials and players to wear helmets and have them properly done up at all times on the ice; as well as ensuring the safety of officials and players while on the ice for NCAA hockey.

  6. Butchie was a great referee at all levels. He let you play the game and never tried to become part of the game. It is sad that he will be remembered for not wearing a helmet. Thousands of times more people died of head injuries in car accidents every year, so why don’t you helmet whiners start wearing helmets in your cars. Let’s remember Butchie for the great man that he was on and off the ice. Butchie, rest in peace my friend.

  7. Horrible, terrible tragedy. Hopefully this does usher in a rule change. It was a fluke occurrence, but preventable. Hope the family is able to find strength in the outpouring of support.

    It is scary to think that this could happen to an accomplished skater. I grew up in a small town that had no organized hockey. But we played a lot of pond hockey, and nobody had helmets. I had shin guards and was the only one that had those. Amazing that we didn’t kill ourselves. I’m sure more than a few concussions occurred.

  8. How incredibly sad. It just makes it even more so to think just how easily it could have perhaps been prevented. And if it can happen to an accomplished skater, then it obviously can happen to anyone. It would be nice if more arena’s, ice rinks, etc., adopted a must wear helmet before stepping onto the ice policy. While many may believe it would just be one more version of overkill, it’s better than the alternative. Prayers to his family and friends. Rest in peace Butch.

  9. Great person, volunteer, linesman and referee. Kindest man you would ever know. Did more for youth hockey in Colorado than people outside of the state would ever realize. Butch, you left a positive imprint that will not be soon forgotten, Rest in Peace.

  10. To the ‘wear a helmet’ crowd:

    1. I’m sure the NCAA/WCHA has someone with the same enlightenment through hindsight as you. They will deal with the helmet issue, I am sure.
    2. When someone young dies from an aggressive but avoidable disease, say skin cancer, do you also feel the need to first lecture about the wonders of SPF 30 when memorializing him/her?

    • The helmet thing is an on going issue. USA hockey and hockey Canada require their coaches to wear helmets whenever they are on the ice. And you’d think the refs would want to for warm ups. Those pucks still go flying. Plus the freak caught and edge still can happen everyone e out there is skating on 1/8 of an inch.

  11. I was a student manager for a D-1 hockey program some years ago. One of my jobs was handling the officials dressing room. Through those interactions I got to know a number of officials on an acquaintance type level. They typical official is the kind of guy you would love to have a beer with, the kind of guy who also has tremendous respect for the game of hockey as well as the people who make the game so wonderful. Traits like these, among others, make a man a wonderful husband, son, father, brother, colleague, and friend.

    I did not know Butch Mosseaux, but from the reports I’ve read he sounds like many of the wonderful men whom I used to know as officials. Any of their deaths would have left an irreplaceable void in so many lives. I imagine it is no different for those who knew and loved Butch.

    God Bless to each and every person dealing with the loss of their Butch today.

  12. I suspect that the NCAA/WCHA will probably make the properly worn helmet a rule/regulation just from a liability standpoint.
    I play hockey in Colorado and was acquainted with Butch. He even officiated a couple of our very low level games. He was great! He truly did have a rapport with players. His positive personality was infectious. Most officials I don’t have any feelings about one way or the other. But with Butch, I immediately liked him and my teammates felt the same way.
    What a loss to the hockey world and the world in general.


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