Thirty years is a long time. For linesman Shane Heyer, that’s how long he’s been working National Hockey League games. Three decades of service will see him reach a significant milestone tonight, working his 2,000th NHL game as the Edmonton Oilers take on the Anaheim Ducks.
Heyer will be joined on the ice by linesman Mark Wheler and referees Dan O’Halloran and Wes McCauley.
Plenty of NHL careers have come and gone over that span. Heyer’s first season – 1988-89 – saw the NHL debuts of Theo Fleury, Jeremy Roenick, Ed Belfour, Rod Brind’Amour, and Mike Modano, all of whom have long since retired. That season was also the final one for legends like Marcel Dionne, Ron Duguay, Billy Smith, and Lanny McDonald. Heyer was there for all of them.
Heyer’s NHL debut came on October 6, 1988, working a game between the Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets – a game that featured Canucks rookie Trevor Linden and Jets’ rookie Teppo Numinen, who posted the game-tying goal.
“I do remember it ended 2-2 and it was at the Vancouver Coliseum,” Heyer told the Penticton Western News. “You know, now when I look at it, I was very fortunate. When I first started, I probably didn’t fully appreciate it. Now I look around as I skate with the best players and best officials in the world on a regular basis and I am thankful.”
He made his playoff debut the following season later, officiating a game between the Minnesota North Stars and Chicago Blackhawks on April 18, 1990.
In addition to officiating 2,000 regular season games, Heyer has made 24 postseason appearances, including six trips to the Stanley Cup Finals (2007, 2008, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017). He’s also officiated the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, two World Cups of Hockey (1996, 2016), and the 1998 All-Star Game in Vancouver. Heyer was chosen to work a pair of outdoor games – Los Angeles Kings vs. Anaheim Ducks at Dodger Stadium in 2014 and the 2018 Winter Classic between the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres at New York’s Citi Field.
While Heyer has spent the majority of his career as a linesman, he’s also taken the ice as a referee. From the NHLOA:
He is also one of only five current NHL officials to have worked NHL games as both referee and linesman. In the early years of the NHL transitioning to the two-referees system, Heyer decided to leaves the lines and try to become a full time referee instead, taking advantage of a program that the NHL offered to a few veteran linesmen in order to fill the demand of the new system for more NHL referees in a short amount of time. He spent the next few seasons as a referee, spending time between the American Hockey League (AHL) and the NHL perfecting his new craft. He would go on and work a total of 386 NHL Regular Season Games and 2 Playoff Games as a referee before deciding to return to the lines for good.
Heyer worked his way up, as he relayed to the Penticton Western News.
“My first time [officiating] was when I was 11 years old in the old McLaren Park Arena,” said Heyer. “I kept at it and when I was a teen, Brent Deleeuw started assigning me games in town. Games that I might not have been ready for yet, but I learned in hurry. I came through the minor system, then was in the B.C. Junior Hockey League, eventually to the Western Hockey League when I was 19. I was 24 when I first started in the NHL, pretty young by today’s standards.”
“I quit playing hockey when I was 15 or 16. I saw my peak and it wasn’t going much further than that. At that point, I wanted to be a basketball player, but there was that lack of skill thing. Officiating was just for fun, I never thought I would make a career of it but then one thing led to another.”
Those things ultimately led to thirty years and 2,000 games in the National Hockey League.
“It’s been a fun journey,” said Heyer.
Congratulations to linesman Shane Heyer on this tremendous milestone!