From the time he took to the ice in the 1940s, until his passing in 1995, John Kubinec truly had a passion for the game of hockey. Starting with the East End Athletic Bantam Club he played on the forward line of the Fort William Canadiens Junior Club from 1949-53. Participating in a Montreal Canadiens training camp in the 1950s, he turned semi-professional in 1954 with the Sydney Millionaires of the Maritime Major Hockey League (MMHL), returning to join the Port Arthur Bearcats Intermediate Club in 1956.
With his love of the game shifting to officiating, he signed on as a referee with the Thunder Bay Amateur Hockey Association (TBAHA) in 1956 which was the start of his close to 40 year officiating career. Calm and intuitive, he was an expert at exerting authority without provoking players, values and skills he instilled at referee clinics and hockey schools across northwestern Ontario. Not surprisingly, he was rated the top employee of the TBAHA in 1969. Manning the whistle at hundreds of local and regional games each year, he also oversaw games in Western Canada, Central Canada and USHL playoffs and in exhibition games.
His talents earned him the right to officiate at such national and international events as the 1971 Hockey Canada Nationals Invitational College Tournament, the 1971 International Hockey Tournament in St. Louis, the 1969 Memorial Cup and 1964, 1967, 1973 and 1975 Allan Cup championships. Rated amongst the best referees in Canada, he was one of only two officials selected by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to represent Canada at the 1968 Olympic Winter Games in Grenoble, France. Asked to cover more games than any other referee there, he was unanimously voted the Best Hockey Official at those Games.
Rounding out his hockey career, he served as the Referee-in-Chief with the Thunder Bay No-Body Contact League from 1985-94, and as a player with the Thunder Bay Oldtimers. The John Kubinec Memorial Sportsmanship Award, presented annually by the NBC League, is a testament to this exceptional builder’s contribution to the game of hockey.
Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 30, 2000