Dag Olsson passes
by Risto PAKARINEN|27 FEB 2024
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation

IIHF Referee and Referee Manager Dag Olsson passed away recently due to complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 79.  

They say a referee has done well when he doesn’t get noticed during the game. Somehow, though, the best ones don’t remain anonymous, but instead, become household names. In the 1980s, Swedish referee Dag Olsson was one of them.  

In 1981, Olsson found himself at the center ice of the Montreal Forum in front of 17,033 people, ready to drop the puck in the Canada Cup final between Team Canada and the Soviet Union. His journey to the top of the hockey world had been a swift one.  

He had attended a referees’ seminar just six years prior when a friend had registered him to the class, telling Olsson it was an important hockey meeting. Olsson went and stayed.  

He officiated his first international games in 1979, and his first IIHF World Championship in 1981 where he was also assigned the last game of the medal round, a game between the Soviets and Czechoslovakia, considered the tournament final – which makes Olsson the only person to referee an Olympic, a Worlds, and a Canada Cup final.  

In an era that was dominated by the Soviets, Olsson, a Swede, was the perfect choice to referee games between the Soviets and Canada or Czechoslovakia. But once there, he proved that he, too, belonged in the spotlight. Or, as a good referee, in the shadows of the spotlight.  

It was his own active career in Sweden’s top divisions, and his tenacity as a player, that gave Olsson a feel for the game. It was his quick wit and sense of humor that made him a great referee.  

A knee injury ended Olsson’s refereeing career, but he continued his work in the game, both as an officiating manager in Sweden, and in the IIHF, and as a member of the Swedish disciplinary committee until 2011.  

Olsson was inducted into the Swedish Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014.