TORONTO – Bob Nadin’s life in hockey spans some 40 years. Or maybe it’s 50. Or 60. Well, really, hockey has been a part of his life almost since the day he was born, exactly 80 years ago today. The Ides of March may have been fatal to Julius Caesar, but it is a fortuitous date for Nadin, born in Toronto on March 15, 1933.
Like any Canadian boy, he started skating early and played in leagues as he got older. He continued to play when he attended the University of Toronto, but his love for the whistle was greater than his abilities as a player. Nadin had started reffing at age 17 and moved up the ladder, as it were, first at the U of T and eventually in the OHA.
Nadin, the Paul Loicq Award winner in 2007, reached the height of his refereeing career at the international level in Sapporo at the 1972 Olympics. He officiated seven games that year, but for the greater part of his career he has been known in IIHF circles as a referee supervisor, travelling the world over supporting, analysing, and assisting officiating crews at every level of the international game.
His enthusiasm and energy are the stuff of legend, and although he may be four score, he shows no signs of slowing down. Having just returned from Romanshorn, Switzerland over New Year’s where he attended the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division I, Nadin is preparing for the men’s U18 tournament in Sochi and has a full roster of events lined up for 2013-14.
Away from the rink, though, Nadin’s story is equally incredible. His love of the game – combined with the amazing mileage he has logged over the decades and his childhood relationship with his father – has produced one of the greatest hockey stamp collections in the world.
“There are probably about 600 stamps featuring hockey from around the world,” he explained, “and I’m missing about 50, including four from Paraguay.” Paraguay? Yes. But that’s just the beginning. Many countries not remotely connected to the great puck game have produced hockey stamps. From Gabon to Guatemala, Nicaragua, and the United Arab Emirates. Nadin has them all – almost.
His was an interest that began young and revived later in life. “When I was a kid,” he explained, “my dad and I collected stamps together. But then I was 15, 16, years old and I developed other interests. Many years later, when my parents were ill and eventually passed away, I found the stamp collection and my interest grew out of that again. Then, one day, Jan-Åke Edvinsson [retired General Secretary of the IIHF] showed me a book of stamps related to skiing, and I thought I should create a collection like that for hockey.”
Great idea, perhaps, but wanting to start a collection and actually getting going are two different things. The philatelist’s bible is a six-volume tome called Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, which publishes annually a collection of every stamp ever made.
“I go through each volume and mark the hockey stamps, and then I try to find them,” Nadin continued. “Each stamp has a number, and I go to stamp stores or go online looking for individual stamps or collections. I think I’ve built up a pretty good collection, and I take my list with me whenever I travel. I always make sure to go to the post office in every city to see what they have. I know the location of every post office as well as I know where the hockey arenas are!”
Nadin’s basement is a memorabilia shrine that documents his decades in the game. Mementoes from Sapporo and on, thousands of pins, mugs, photos, pennants, and other miscellany fill his walls and shelves. Indeed, few men in international hockey have collected the game to the degree that Nadin has.
He sorts his stamps in a binder and adds notes about the country of origin, and he photocopies each page so he has easy reference to his collection without disturbing the original stamps. And, just as he shows no signs of leaving the game, he shows no signs of giving up on adding new stamps to his collection or trying to fill in the rare gems from the past that he hasn’t yet located.
“Hockey stamps aren’t incredibly valuable,” he explained. “The most expensive is maybe $50, but I think it’s pretty amazing where they come from and I love collecting them.”
One of Bob Nadin's exotic hockey stamps, from Laos.