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Smeaton was born in Carleton Place, Ontario. In his first game in 1913, between the Montreal Canadiens and the Montreal Wanderers of the National Hockey Association, he was confronted by Newsy Lalonde after calling an offside. Smeaton promptly fined Lalonde $5 (Lalonde who was known as a bit of a "tightwad" never repeated the incident). In 1916, he joined the Canadian military to serve in World War I in the 11th Canadian Siege Battery in France. He became the National Hockey League's first referee in chief when the NHL formed in 1917.
He was the head coach of the National Hockey League Philadelphia Quakers during the one season they played, 1930–31, finishing out of the playoffs. He retired in 1937 after officiating many Stanley Cup and Allan Cup finals, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961. He was also the trustee of the Stanley Cup from February 24, 1946 until his death on October 3, 1978 at age 88.
- Cooper Smeaton's biography at Legends of Hockey
- Cooper Smeaton's career stats at The Internet Hockey Database
- National Hockey League Official Association biography
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