Regardless of what role a person is in for the sport of hockey, earning an invitation to the Olympics has always been considered a crowning moment to their respective career.
This coming February, Western Hockey League officials Brett Iverson and Nathan Van Oosten will reach that pinnacle moment as they attend the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. Iverson, a referee, and Van Oosten, a linesman, were named to the officials crew last week for the quadrennial tournament.
The call, which came early Monday, actually woke up Iverson, who described it as the “best alarm clock” he’s ever had.
“When I first started off, it was more of a goal to get to the National Hockey League and I knew that the WHL was a great path to get there,” Iverson said in regards to his officiating career, now in his 11th year at the WHL level. “Little did I know that a few years ago I’d start doing some IIHF tournaments and here we are.”
From Van Oosten’s perspective, he knew the Olympics were a possibility, but didn’t think it would ever be on his radar. That has changed since he first started officiating in the WHL in the 2006-07 season.
“There’s some nerves there for sure, but at the end of the day, I’m just happy to represent all the officials in Canada and just to have the opportunity to work at such a prestigious event,” Van Oosten said.
Both Iverson and Van Oosten’s careers have been building towards this prestigious moment from the first time they donned the striped jersey.
Not only is Iverson a veteran of nearly 600 WHL regular season and playoff games, he was a part of the official crews for the 2014 and 2015 Mastercard Memorial Cups. He’s also taken his skills to the international level, with appearances at International Ice Hockey Federation-sanctioned tournaments including the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, World U18 Championships and 2015 World Junior Championships before being a part of the last two IIHF World Championships.
On the ice is right in Iverson’s element, though he’s looking forward to learning all he can from the experience that is often viewed as a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
“The magnitude of the stage that the tournament is, I just hope to bring back a wealth of experience and knowledge that I learn and receive there,” Iverson added.
Van Oosten, a linesman based out of British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, was excited to revel in the opportunity provided to him. In addition to working roughly more than 400 WHL regular season and playoff games he credits tournaments like the Mastercard Memorial Cups in 2013 and 2016 as one of the many experiences helping prepare him for February’s Olympic tournament.
“Those were huge milestones in my career,” Van Oosten said. “Having the opportunity last year to work the World Juniors and the World Championships in the same year, it’s been quite a ride. “
His international experience includes working at the 2017 IIHF World Championship and 2015 World U18 Champions alongside Iverson, though he’s also officiated at the World University Games back in 2015. Regardless of whether he’s in his hometown or on the other side of the world, Van Oosten lives by a code that makes officials of all sports successful.
“The game demands that we give our best, so for anyone whether it be a player or an official, for them to be successful, their work ethic and their attitude has to be right,” he added.
“There’s a lot of time away from family and friends. There are sacrifices that have to be made. I would say that would have to be the most difficult. Once we get to the rink, we’re so excited to work, but sometimes that travel can be a difficulty.”
The inclusion of the pair for the upcoming Olympic tournament was the latest in a series of recognition for WHL officials, who continued to receive accolades for the hard work put in on the ice. Kevin Muench, the WHL’s Senior Director of Officiating, said both Iverson and Van Oosten set an strong standard for other officials to follow by.
“The opportunity to participate in the Olympics is the ultimate goal for many athletes and officials,” said Muench. “We are very proud that both Brett and Nathan have been selected to represent Canada as officials at the Winter Olympics.
“Their commitment and dedication is an example for all other officials who strive for excellence.”
Both will line up in different positions come February, but there’s no doubting the same level of appreciation both have for the development they’ve undergone in the WHL.
“There’s just so many good people involved in the Western Hockey League and then we have the same thing internationally,” Van Oosten said. “Your involvement in the international scene is just the relationships that you get to create with a lot of really great people.”
On Iverson’s end, he credited Muench and his supervisor staff for helping him continually develop the skills he needed to eventually reach a prestigious stage such as the Olympics.
“I’ve had an amazing career so far and I’m going to take the experiences that I’ve had in the past and take that into the Olympics.”