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Madison's Dan Schachte, first American to officiate 2,000 NHL games, dies

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Dan Schachte

Linesman Dan Schachte is seen during the first period of an NHL game between Detroit and the New York Rangers on Feb. 7, 2011. Schachte, a Madison native, was the first American official to work in 2,000 NHL games.

Dan Schachte, a Madison native who started officiating hockey games as a youth and turned it into a career that took him to the NHL and the Olympics, died Tuesday. He was 64.

Schachte was an NHL linesman for 30 years and became the first American-born official to work more than 2,000 NHL games. He was selected for five Stanley Cup finals and the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

He entered the Madison Sports Hall of Fame in 2017 and the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame a year later.

Schachte played for Monona Grove High School and was on the varsity reserve team at the University of Wisconsin when coach Bob Johnson helped him get into officiating college games, Schachte said in a January interview.

“He called me in after my junior year,” Schachte said. “He said he’d help me. And I said, ‘thank you, I’ll take it.’ And that’s how I started in the WCHA in ‘78 or ‘79. I got hired in ‘82 in the NHL. And the rest is history.”

He was a linesman for one of the most memorable games in Badgers men’s hockey history, a Jan. 30, 1982, contest against North Dakota at the Dane County Coliseum that became immortalized as the “Water Bottle Game.” He had to try to restore calm during a series of brawls touched off by a Badgers player squirting an opponent from a water bottle.

But Schachte had been officiating youth games in the Madison area since he was in middle school.

“It was a good way for me to make money on the side,” Schachte said in a 1985 Wisconsin State Journal story. “I couldn’t get a job bagging groceries at Kohl’s, so I went outside and refereed those kids’ games. I made $4 or $5 a game five nights a week. That was pretty good dough.”

Madison native Ryan Suter, a former Badgers defenseman who's about to enter his 18th NHL season, hoped to raise enough money to pay for 150 sets of hockey equipment for youth players in Wisconsin.

While an NHL linesman, Schachte was chosen to work the 1991 Canada Cup and the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. After his final NHL game in 2012 in Chicago, players from the Blackhawks and Washington Capitals lined up to shake his hand.

He was the coordinator of officials for Hockey East from 2012 to 2020 and served as an officiating supervisor for USA Hockey.

He is survived by his wife, Kim, and four children: Danny, Ian, Lauren and Maddy.

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