Canada basketball

Canada Heard Loud and Proud in Every Whistle Blown at NBA Finals



Jul 28, 2019

How’s this for blowing the whistle on a neat little piece of NBA Finals trivia?

Did you know the whistle referees use to stop play on every NBA court were not only invented by a Canadian but are also made in Canada?

“Manufactured in Mississauga and packaged for the world in Hamilton,” Ron Foxcroft said proudly of the legendary Fox 40 Classic pealess whistle.

These whistles are also wired up to stop the clock every time a referee blows a Fox 40.

And to think none of this would have happened if Foxcroft hadn’t have been a basketball referee who several times had the pea in his whistle get stuck, including in the Olympic gold medal game in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

“I decided I needed to design a whistle that didn’t ever get stuck,” said the iconic Hamilton and Burlington businessman who earlier this year was bestowed with Canada’s highest honour of being made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

The pealess whistle was born. Now, 15,000 are sold in 100 countries every day.

“We are in every sports league but also our market is in life-saving and emergency services,” he said. “Everybody should have a whistle on their key chain.”

Certainly the man known in basketball circles as Foxy has used his whistle in some big games, including decades as an NCAA referee who was on the court for a player named Michael Jordan’s first game at the University of North Carolina in 1981.

He has also refereed an NBA exhibition game and later went onto be an NBA official’s game performance evaluator.

In those days he was the only Canadian official to achieve this kind of success, so he’s thrilled to see basketball becoming the talk of not only the town but the whole country.

“The Raptors are doing something that others have not been able to do,” Foxy mused. “They are uniting the whole country. There is no debate from people of all walks of life over their love of the Toronto Raptors.”

This is on full display inside the ScotiaBank Arena or outside in Jurassic Park or at any other bar or square where people are following the Raptors in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

“I am so proud to be from the greatest country in the world,” said Foxcroft. “It’s great to see the whole world also seeing it.”

And this Canadian will be at Sunday’s Game 2 at the Vault in what will be a very special, full circle moment for both he and his wife Marie.

“It will emotional,” he said. “As a Canadian it’s a dream come true to see basketball being the focus.”

Back in his refereeing days, the Americans he worked NCAA games with teased “shouldn’t you be refereeing that violent game with the slippery surface?”

He laughs now because who would have ever known the whistle he invented would be in the middle of every NBA game no matter who is playing?

Or that a Canadian team would be just three wins from an NBA title?

“He was one of the best basketball referees but what he has done for charity, community and the country is an even bigger and more important legacy,” said legendary Hamilton sports TV personality Ken Welch.

“It’s nice to see Foxy get recognition for his tremendous contributions to basketball but also to humanity,” said Foxy’s fellow Burlington Golf and Country Club member Mary Willard, who knew his mom as her church’s organist.

Foxcroft — also Honorary Colonel of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada and chairman and CEO of Fluke Transport — said when he attends this big game Sunday, he plans just to soak it all in while not forgetting the days of refereeing basketball games in Hamilton for $8 for the fun of it.

“The sport has certainly come a long way,” he said with a smile.

And Foxy has helped make that happen.

One thing he won’t be worrying about Sunday is the referee’s whistle jamming.

“It won’t happen,” he jokes. “They are using a Fox 40 pealess whistle.”