With 1000 games under his belt, life is ‘grand’ for linesman Derek Nansen.
Linesman Derek Nansen was recognized for officiating 1000 NHL games today in Ottawa as the San Jose Sharks came to town to battle the Senators. Nansen was joined for today’s game on the ice by fellow linesman Steve Miller and referees Brad Watson and Dan O’Halloran, along with officiating manager Don Van Massenhoven.
Nansen, who is actually working game number 1009 today, reached the milestone marker earlier this season, but chose to celebrate the moment in his hometown with friends and family.
“It means a lot,” Nansen told the Ottawa Sun. “The biggest reason is that my whole family is going to be there: my dad, my sister, aunts and uncles. It’s going to be very special. It’s a big thank you to my wife and to what she puts up with alone when I’m not around. It’s going to be a very special day and I’m really looking forward to it.”
The veteran linesman and Ottawa native made his NHL debut on October 11, 2002, working a game between the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals.
From the NHLOA:
Nansen, just like many Canadian kids of his era, played hockey growing up and dreamt of playing in the NHL as a player. The Ottawa native and former forward played until the Junior level. While playing, he also started officiating at the early age of 11 in the Ottawa/Kanata region to earn a few bucks.
At age 18, after working a total of 7 seasons in the different minor hockey leagues around Ottawa, he almost hung up his skates and whistle but his now deceased mother convinced him to stay around the game and pursue his journey into the officiating world. This decision paid off four years later at age 22 when the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) hired him as a linesman, a league that Nansen would go and work for a total of 8 seasons.
During his time with the OHL, Derek was also selected to work two major international tournaments; the 2001 World Championship that took place in Germany (Nuremburg, Cologne & Hanover) and the pretigious 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. His strong performance at the 2001 World Championship was rewarded by being selected to work the gold medal game. In the summer of 2001, Nansen hit another bump in the road when he was laid off from Nortel Networks as a result of the tech industry crash. But a call from the NHL office came in that summer and he was asked if he would consider moving close to the Toronto area to do more OHL games the following season. He was also offered to work some American Hockey League (AHL) games in Hamilton, Ontario if he decided to make the move.
Nansen packed his bags without any hesitations and moved to Toronto just before the 2001-2002 hockey season. He worked both the OHL and AHL that year. Working more OHL games around the Toronto area and also being able to showcase your skills in the AHL also comes with big perks; being seeing by the NHL Officiating scouting people on a regular basis as their headquarters are in Toronto. That same season after he worked the 2002 Winter Olympics, Nansen was also selected by the OHL to work the 2002 CHL Memorial Cup in Guelph, Ontario and the Calder Cup Final.
His hard work and strong on-ice performance were recognized that summer when former NHL Director of Officiating Andy Van Hellemond offered him a NHL Linesman contract.
“That following summer, in 2002, after a mini-camp on a Sunday afternoon, (Van Hellemond) said, ‘I want to meet with these three guys and my name was one of them,” Nansen relayed to the Ottawa Sun. “He asked me how the weekend went and I said I thought it went well. Then he asked how I felt about signing with the NHL and I almost fell off my chair. I asked if it was a 40/40 contract — 40 games in the NHL and 40 in the American league — and he said, no, it was a full-time gig. It was one of the greatest days of my life.”
Congratulations to linesman Derek Nansen on 1000 — or, more accurately, 1009 — NHL games, and still counting.
“I have to pinch myself every morning to know that I’m actually here because it was a long road trying to get here because there were a lot of disappointments,” Nansen told the Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, “but to say I’ve done 1,000 games in this league is pretty incredible. I’d never thought I’d be sitting here today.”