Calgary born-and-raised hockey linesman Mike Cvik is hanging up his skates after nearly 29 years sharing the ice with NHL legends. 

It's not just the length of his career, but his impressive  six-feet-nine-inch frame that's earned Cvik plenty of attention over the years.

He'll be honoured during a match-up between the Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning at the Saddledome Tuesday night.

Cvik has officiated more than 1,900 NHL games, but he says he still gets butterflies every night before hitting the ice.

"Getting ready and prepared for what might happen, we just react to what the players do, so if you have an intense rivalry you don't know if they're going to come out banging and crashing or if it's just going to be a fast-flowing game," he said.

"You're always just a little bit nervous to how you're going to react from the first few calls."

Tough on the body

The job has been demanding on his body, and at 53 he's feeling the strain. Cvik needs surgery in his leg which would sideline for about eight months.

"The body's not responding like it used to when I was 24," he said.

The league also approached him about leaving halfway through the season as there are several younger linesman coming up through the ranks who need experience. 

"I was a little upset about it initially, but then you sit back and think about it, you know? I got my opportunity when somebody retired and I've climbed the mountain. I'm on the way down now, and some younger, faster guys deserve the same shot that I had," he said.

Cvik's taken a few knocks in his time, particularly early in his career when helmets weren't required.

"Nobody wore a helmet as an official then," he said. "You get hired, on the ice you go, no helmet." 

It wasn't just blows to the head he had to worry about though. 

"I had my hand severed by a skate breaking up a fight — three tendons were severed, one was cut — so that put me out for a half season," said Cvik. 


He started his career right in the thick of the Battle of Alberta and says "being part of it was awesome. I remember before I got hired to the NHL watching them battle and battle," said Cvik, who relished being in the middle of the action. 

"I'm sure at some point in time my emotions got the best of me, trying to get in there and be professional but maybe a little over officious."

Some of his favourite memories include his first playoff game in the Boston Gardens with the now-obsolete Hartford Whalers. And the Olympic gold medal game in Salt Lake City in 2002.

He has even more favourite players to choose from.

"Lanny McDonald has always been very classy to me, on and off the ice. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Trevor Linden: the list is endless."

He knows little about the tribute honouring his contribution to the sport tonight.

"I might bend over and try to fix my skate or something so I'm not watching it, because that might be the part of the emotion the puts me over the edge," he said.