Nolan Schaefer was born January 15, 1980 in Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan. The fifth round, 166th overall selection of the San Jose Sharks in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Schaefer, who is the brother of NHLer Peter, honed his skills at the collegiate level at Providence College.
In four seasons at Providence College, Schaefer posted a 45-39-10 record before making his professional debut in 2003-04. In his first season of pro hockey, Schaefer split his time between Cleveland of the AHL and Fresno of the ECHL before suiting for his first NHL game as back-up to Vesa Toskala on January 5, 2004.
In 2004-05, Schaefer led the AHL in appearances with 43 and saves with 1,076 before he made his first NHL start during the 2005-06 season. Schaefer recorded a 5-1 record in the 2005-06 regular season with the Sharks, and spent the first half of the following season in the minors. At the 2007 NHL trade deadline Schaefer was sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins, however he only remained with the club until the remainder of the 2006-07 season.
In the summer of 2007, Schafer signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Wild.