Nathan Grey, a man of many sports

Catch You on the Rebound

By CURTIS J. PHILLIPS

Connect Contributor

Nathan Grey, a stapled in local officiating for since the 1980s. SUPPLIED PHOTO

Nathan Grey, a stapled in local officiating for since the 1980s. SUPPLIED PHOTO

While dashing off laps at the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre’s (SSWC) indoor track, Nathan Grey is working up a good sweat.

Grey is 48 years young. He is an official and keeping in shape.

In a week or so, he will be running up-and-down the SSWC indoor soccer pitch when the Keyano Huskies host the two-day Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference futsal tournament, which includes four teams and 12 games.

Born in Blairmore, AB, Grey moved to Fort McMurray when he was three, his parents establishing Grey Gardens in Draper, operating the popular market gardens until 2009. (It is now knowns as Dunvegan Gardens.)

During his early school years, Grey dabbled in various sports including: badminton, hockey and track. But, due to family financial constraints, he dropped out of local minor hockey around the age of 12.

To keep involved in the sport, he took to officiating minor hockey at the age of 14. In fact, for his very first on-ice game, his partner was 15 year-old Darren Gibbs.

Gibbs would go on to become a National Hockey League linesman in 1997 and has since called more than 1,200 regular season NHL games.

“I wasn’t surprised that he (Gibbs) went on with it to make it a career,” said Grey, who has been employed in the oilsands industry since 2000.

Grey remained a staple on local rinks, until leaving Fort McMurray to attend University of Alberta to complete his Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering.

Even then (with a heavy university study course load), sports were an integral part of his life as he assisted on the technical end with radio broadcasts for Golden Bears basketball and hockey.

“Obviously there is a difference in rules, but the simple fact that there were only three or four teams in ringette, the teams got bored easy after playing each other all the time and their enthusiasm waned, so there was never that rush like you had when it came to playoffs in hockey.”

Grey returned home to work at his family’s business in 1992 and four years later left for a three-year stint in Fiji as part of Youth with a Mission Canada, an international, non-denominational movement of Christians ministering.

It is in Fiji that he was introduced to the sport of soccer: “I mucked around a bit in their tournaments and usually played goal. I fell in love with the sport.”

Returning to Fort McMurray in 2000, he was no longer officiating hockey “due to politics at the time” and instead gave of his time and experience to the sport of ringette.

“Obviously there is a difference in rules, but the simple fact that there were only three or four teams in ringette, the teams got bored easy after playing each other all the time and their enthusiasm waned, so there was never that rush like you had when it came to playoffs in hockey.”

With the birth of his son Kenny in 2003, Grey soon found himself with whistle in hand again. Shortly after, he joined the local soccer official ranks in 2007.

“Because of my hockey officiating background, I had the aptitude for it crossing over to soccer,” said Grey. “I was told that I had the presence on the field from the start… and that was thanks to hockey.”

In 2010, he became District Referee Assistant, which acts as liaison between local soccer and the Alberta Soccer Association.

Of being an official, Grey said: “You have to know your rules and be fair. You also have to have a thick skin. No matter what you do, you are going to get complaints. Learning to close it out and carry on is important. Sometimes it is a struggle. But if you are doing a great job out there, the complaints roll off like water off a duck’s back.”

One of the highlights of his official’s career was during the 2015 Western Canada Games when he was selected to give the official’s oath at the opening ceremonies.

Catch you on the rebound.

– Connect Weekly –