Linesman Tim Nowak will be skating his final lap on NHL ice tonight in St. Louis.
Nowak, 51, is hanging up his whistle after a 26-year career in the National Hockey League. Nowak’s career includes 1,730 NHL regular season games and 114 NHL playoff appearances.
Nowak’s final appearance comes alongside fellow linesman Brian Murphy and referees Chris Lee and Francis Charron, working a game between the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues.
The upstate New York native made his NHL debut in Washington on October 8, 1993, working a game between the Devils and the Capitals.
“It’s kind of humbling out there for the first couple of years,” Nowak said. “I remember one of my first games, Patrick Roy played in. I was a goalie, and I’m watching him. I was like, ‘I have a game to watch here.’ You have to be part of the game, right? You can’t say, ‘I don’t belong here’ or you’ll have no confidence whatsoever. But it’s cool when you look back and think I was out there with Gretzky and Lemieux and Mark Messier and Mike Modano and Roy.”
He went on to officiate the 2003 Stanley Cup Final between the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks, as well as the 2004 World Cup of Hockey the Winter Olympics in both 2002 and 2010.
Through it all, Nowak is proud to have remained genuine and stayed true to himself.
“You never let your job define you,” Nowak said, back in 2016 when he reached the 1,500-game milestone. “Everyone has a job in life and mine just happens to be officiating professional hockey. But it’s got to be one of the biggest compliments. I’ve done this and I’ve done that as far as officiating goes, but when they say I haven’t changed from before, that to me is ‘wow,’ because I think sometimes people may let that define them. And then they change and they’re not the person that they were before.”
From the NHLOA:
Nowak grew up in Depew, NY a small town just outside Buffalo. He started skating at the age of 8 at the Holiday Twin Rinks under the guidance of John McFall and it didn’t took long before the man wearing jersey 77 strapped the big leather pads on him and decided to be a goaltender. He would go on and play his minor hockey for the Buffalo Regals over the course of the following nine seasons. He ended up playing in the blue paint until his college years where he suited up for Buffalo State College for his last three seasons.
During his playing years, he also started officiating at the early age of 12 when his mom would drop him at the old Holiday Twin Rinks on the weekends and where he would work from 8am to 4pm for a few bucks but mostly for pro-shop credits.
He would continue officiating throughout his whole playing years whenever he had time to earn some pocket money and to get extra ice-time to work on his skating. In his early 20’s, Nowak was planning to become a New York state trooper but after passing the writing exam with flying colors he failed his vision test forcing him to find another avenue. Nowak – a product of the USA Hockey Officiating program who credits Mark Rudolph for having a huge influence on his officiating journey – caught a big break after working a few seasons of high school hockey when former East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) commissioner Pat Kelly gave him a chance and hired him as a linesman. He worked the ECHL from 1989 to 1993 and also spent time during these years working the defunct International Hockey League (IHL).
The National Hockey League (NHL) offered him a linesman contract in the summer of 1993 at the age of 25. His first NHL regular season game was on October 8, 1993 in Landover, Maryland at the old USAir Arena when the New Jersey Devils where visiting the Washington Capitals, a game that saw over 180 minutes of penalties assessed to both teams.
Over the course of his 26 year NHL career, Nowak was selected on several important assignments including; the 2003 NHL All-Star Game held in Sunrise Florida, the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals between the Anaheim Ducks and the New Jersey Devils, he also worked two Olympics (2002 Salt Lake City & 2010 Vancouver), the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and three outdoor games (2008 Winter Classic in Buffalo, 2015 Winter Classic in Washington and the 2018 Stadium Series at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, MD).
Congratulations to Tim Nowak as his remarkable officiating career comes to a close.