NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs each Tuesday throughout the 2017-18 regular season. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the most recent news.
The latest edition features NHL official Shane Heyer, who will retire after the season.
Shane Heyer was 11 years old when Dunc Jamieson, his coach in the Penticton (British Columbia) Minor Hockey Association, made him and his teammates do some officiating. At the time, Heyer was just doing it for fun.
"I never thought I'd make it a career," he said. "We all wanted to be hockey players."
But that's where Heyer's life took him, and at the end of this season he'll retire as one of seven officials in NHL history to work more than 2,000 games.
Heyer became an NHL linesman in 1988 and debuted Oct. 6 of that year, when the Winnipeg Jets played the Vancouver Canucks to a 2-2 tie. As first games go, it wasn't the most memorable.
"At the time, I lived in Vancouver and I don't remember a lot about it," he said. "Things were more low key back then. It was my job, I went to the rink, did the game and went home. That was it."
Heyer has worked more than 2,000 regular-season games and more than 200 playoff games. He figures he's spent about 12 years' worth of nights (more than 4,300) in hotels and flown a ton of miles.
"I passed two million on American [Airlines] alone a few years ago," he said.
Exhausting? At times. But for Heyer, it's also been a privilege to do this for more than 30 years.
"It was a great way to stay involved in the game," he said. "Best players and best officials in the world. It's been a lot of fun."
Once Heyer retires, he'll miss the games more than anything.
"Going on the ice," he said. "When you're standing there at 7 [p.m.] and they play the anthem, you think, 'This is pretty cool.' I'll definitely miss that. That's the best part."
Here are Five Questions With … Shane Heyer:
Do certain games stick out for you?
"Over the years, they all blend together. I missed a lot of things in my kids' lives, but as a family, we've been able to do a lot of fun things over the years, go to different games. I remember it was 2014 [Stadium Series game between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks] at Dodger Stadium, we went for our skate the night before and after the skate Kiss was rehearsing, so we got to watch that. This year we were in New York City for the [2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic]. We went to Times Square, so that was cool for them. Last year they came to Nashville during the Cup Final and they got to see that. The things I remember most now are when my family was able to come, rather than the games themselves.
"But someone sent me a video recently of a game I had, it was in old Chicago Stadium, St. Louis and Chicago, there were a whole bunch of fights and you see the famous picture of [former Blackhawks coach] Mike Keenan and [former Blues coach] Brian Sutter talking to one another over the glass. It's fun to reminisce about that."
Speaking of the Stadium, how were some of those old storied arenas?
"The new rinks, they have so many more amenities and everything is similar. Rink sizes all the same and working conditions are great in the new arenas. But the old ones had so much history and character. [Chicago] Stadium… it was the third of the size of the United Center, from the exterior perspective. But it seems like they jammed as many people in it. The atmosphere is unbelievable. I remember the roar. Boston [Garden], the Montreal Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens, I worked there, too. So many memories in those places."
Do you remember the playoff games more?
I've been on the ice four times when the Stanley Cup was won. That's always pretty cool to see. Los Angeles won it in overtime at home [in 2014], so that's pretty amazing when the place explodes like that. I happened to be in Chicago when the Blackhawks won at home . My in-laws live there, so my son and in-laws were at that game. It's always a pretty amazing moment to see the team with the Cup, but especially at home."
Players do different things to refuel physically during intermissions of playoff games. What do officials do?
"For us, it's more mental than physical. You have to remain in the present. What's done is done and you have to be prepared for everything. The game can end at any moment. Detroit and Pittsburgh, the first time they played [in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final], they were all set to give the [Red Wings] the Cup and then Pittsburgh tied it up with [34.3] seconds to go (in Game 5). All the people from the League were downstairs, they were ready. Now we're going to overtime. It was about a three-overtime game. People were still standing there like, 'Now what do we do?'
"We just look forward. Eventually, Pittsburgh won and everyone had to go back to Pittsburgh for Game 6. We just look at it as, you must remain focused. In overtime, if you make a mistake, it could be pretty huge. It's more mental. You remain in the present."
The players keep getting faster. Has your preparation changed through the years to adjust to that?
"The skill level the players have in today's game is amazing. It's unprecedented to any time I've seen. There are no bad skaters in the game anymore. As a result, it's the same for us. We have to constantly maintain our fitness and skating. Players are only getting faster and it seems like I'm going to the other direction."