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NHL officials take fond memories with them into retirement

Watson, Nowak, Cameron each worked at least 1,300 regular-season games

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / Staff Writer

Tim Nowak has plenty of memories from his 25 seasons as an NHL linesman.

But officiating Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, when the Dallas Stars defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 in triple overtime on April 27, 1999, stands out.

"It was my first experience at big-time overtime hockey, and it was amazing," said Nowak, who, along with referee Brad Watson and linesman Lonnie Cameron, will retire as an NHL official after this season. "Playoff hockey is a step up. But in overtime, when every play is so important, that's what I remember. Just that adrenaline for three periods, and then another three [overtime] periods, was something."

The 51-year-old from Buffalo officiated 1,731 regular-season games and 114 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including the 2003 Cup Final, when the New Jersey Devils defeated the Anaheim Ducks in seven games. He also worked the 2002 Salt Lake City and 2010 Vancouver Olympics. His first NHL game was Oct. 8. 1993, and his final game was Monday, when the St. Louis Blues defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in overtime.

Watson's final game was March 23, when the Avalanche defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 at Pepsi Center. The 57-year-old, who lives in the Denver area, officiated 1,393 regular-season games and 214 playoff games in the NHL. He said he has plenty of great memories, the eight Stanley Cup Finals he worked among them.

"Reaching the pinnacle to the Stanley Cup is every official's goal, and when you get to do it, it's exhilarating," said Watson, whose first NHL game was March 7, 1996. "It's a sense of accomplishment of a really good season. When you've reached the top, if you can do it once, it's great. If you can do it more than once, it's even better."

Cameron has officiated 1,554 regular-season games and 60 playoff games in the League. The 54-year-old, whose first NHL game was Oct. 5, 1996, also worked the 1994 Lillehammer and 2014 Sochi Olympics. His final game was in his native British Columbia, where the Canucks defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-2 on Tuesday. Cameron remembers when the NHL hired him in July 1996.

"It was something I was working hard for and aspiring to attain for a long time," Cameron said. "If you work a few exhibition games, it's a bit of a love-in, but it got real on Oct. 5 of that year. Saturday night in Vancouver, 'Hockey Night in Canada,' that was huge."

Video: CHI@COL: Teams salutee referee Brad Watson on career

Watson and Cameron said they'll take some time to relax but would like to remain connected to hockey, perhaps mentoring young officials someday. Nowak said he's going to enjoy time with his wife and will think about the next chapter in his life later.

"I try to tell people our whole life is run by a clock," Nowak said. "I want to do what I want, when I want, if I want to do it. Right now, we're just going to do whatever. Just exhale and enjoy life."

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