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Bernard Irvine Nicholls (born June 24, 1961) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey centre, who played over 1000 games in the National Hockey League (NHL). His junior career was spent with the Kingston Canadians, where he established himself as a dynamic scorer and a multi-faceted talent. He was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round of the 1980 NHL Entry Draft, 73rd overall. Over his 17-year playing career, Nicholls played 1127 games[1] for the Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks, scoring 1209 points. He is one of only eight players in NHL history to score 70 goals in one season, and one of five to score 150 points. Nicholls was born in Haliburton, Ontario, but grew up in West Guilford, Ontario.

Bernie Nicholls
20160406-Oilers1.jpg
Nicholls in an Edmonton Oilers jersey in 2016.
Born (1961-06-24) June 24, 1961 (age 58)
Haliburton, Ontario, Canada
Height 6 ft 0 in (183 cm)
Weight 185 lb (84 kg; 13 st 3 lb)
Position Centre
Shot Right
Played for Los Angeles Kings
New York Rangers
Edmonton Oilers
New Jersey Devils
Chicago Blackhawks
San Jose Sharks
National team  Canada
NHL Draft 73rd overall, 1980
Los Angeles Kings
Playing career 1981–1999
Nicholls with the All-Star Legends team in 2008.

Contents

Los Angeles KingsEdit

After Nicholls was drafted, he played one more year of junior hockey before making his professional debut with the New Haven Nighthawks of the American Hockey League (AHL). He scored 41 goals in 55 games as a rookie, and was recalled to the Kings on February 18, 1982 to finish the season, where he had 32 points in 22 games. He was a contributor in the playoffs as the Kings upset the Edmonton Oilers to reach the second round. He also scored hat tricks in three straight home games in that rookie season.[1] Nicholls would never again play in the minor leagues.

During his first full season in the NHL, Nicholls played behind Hall of Fame centre Marcel Dionne and posted 28 goals and 50 points in 71 games. The following year Nicholls led the team in scoring with 90 points and then hit 100 points in 1984-85. He continued to be a valuable offensive contributor over the two seasons and took over first-line centre duties when Dionne was traded in March 1987.

Injuries that limited Nicholls to just 65 games in 1987-88, and the rise of young centre Jimmy Carson, saw Nicholls slip to third in team scoring but a trade that shook the entire NHL would change his fortunes. On August 9th, 1988, the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings completed a blockbuster trade that sent Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles for a package including Carson to Edmonton. Slotting into the second-line centre job behind Gretzky set the stage for Nicholls' most productive season. He scored a team-record 70 goals and added 80 assists for a total of 150 points. The totals put Nicholls in rare company, and with 70 goals, he joined a group of just eight players to hit that plateau and his 150 points put him a group of just five players in league history to achieve that level of scoring.[2]

The following season, Nicholls continued producing points at an impressive pace for Los Angeles, highlighted by an eight-point effort on December 1st, 1988 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which put Nicholls into another small group, becoming one of only 13 players in NHL history to record an eight-point game.[1] By the All-Star break, Nicholls had 75 points in 47 games and was selected, along with teammates Gretzky, Luc Robitaille and Steve Duchesne to play in the All-Star Game. The night before the All-Star Game, the Kings shocked the hockey world by shipping Nicholls to the New York Rangers in exchange for wingers Tomas Sandstrom and Tony Granato. Despite now playing for an Eastern Conference team, Nicholls played in the All-Star Game the next day representing the Western Conference (and playing against his new teammate Brian Leetch.) Despite his solid offensive production, the Kings were having a mediocre season with a 21-21-5 record at the time of the deal. Kings owner Bruce McNall felt "something was missing" and that the Kings were "soft" and needed some grit.[2] Nicholls left the Kings as the franchise's fifth all-time leading scorer[3]

New York RangersEdit

Nicholls joined the New York Rangers following the All-Star Game and while he did not keep up his torrid scoring pace, he did produce at over a point-a-game pace for New York. The following season he again was over a point-a-game but his goal production dipped to just 25, and the Rangers were eliminated in the first round of the Playoffs. Just one game into the 1991-92 season Nicholls was again involved in a blockbuster transaction when Rangers general manager Neil Smith packaged him up with prospects Steven Rice and Louie DeBrusk and shipped him to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Mark Messier. Nicholls, however, did not report to the Oilers for two full months because his wife was pregnant with twins and on bed rest. A week after the babies were born he finally left New York to join the Oilers after surrendering over a quarter of a million dollars in salary for not reporting.[4]

Edmonton OilersEdit

When Nicholls did finally join the Oilers, he managed to produce despite the distractions of having his wife back in New York with his newborn children, and trade rumours suggesting he might not stay in Edmonton long. He posted 49 points in 49 games with the Oilers and rediscovered his scoring touch posting 20 goals in those 49 games. He saved his best production for the post season where he helped lead the Oilers to the Conference Final. He was particularly effective in the first round where he posted five goals and 13 points in a six-game defeat of his former team, the Los Angeles Kings. However, the following year, his production slowed down and the Oilers finally accommodated his wish to move back East when the dealt him to the New Jersey Devils for young forwards Kevin Todd and Zdeno Ciger.

Later CareerEdit

Nicholls adapted his game to become more of a defensive forward in the tight-checking system of then-Devils coach Jacques Lemaire.[5] When his contract expired, Nicholls signed a two-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, where he was allowed to take more offensive liberties. He averaged better than a point-per-game in Chicago.

Nicholls finished his NHL career with the San Jose Sharks. At the age of 36, and with a budding young franchise, Nicholls took on more of an elder statesman role.[1] At the end of the 1998–99 NHL season, Nicholls retired.

Nicholls won a silver medal in the 1985 World Ice Hockey Championships while playing for Canada.

In early 2012 he returned to the Los Angeles Kings as a coaching consultant and won his first Stanley Cup ring in June of that year.[6]

Personal lifeEdit

Nicholls married Jill in 2014,[5] they live in Las Vegas.[7] Nicholls fathered twins, son Flynn and daughter McKenna. Nicholls also had a son, Jack, born on November 25, 1992 who died six days before his first birthday on Nov. 19, 1993.[5]

AwardsEdit

Career statisticsEdit

Regular season and playoffsEdit

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1978–79 North York Rangers OPJHL 50 40 62 102 60
1978–79 Kingston Canadians OMJHL 2 0 1 1 0
1979–80 Kingston Canadians OMJHL 68 36 43 79 85 3 1 0 1 10
1980–81 Kingston Canadians OHL 65 63 89 152 109 14 8 10 18 17
1981–82 New Haven Nighthawks AHL 55 41 30 71 31
1981–82 Los Angeles Kings NHL 22 14 18 32 27 10 4 0 4 23
1982–83 Los Angeles Kings NHL 71 28 22 50 124
1983–84 Los Angeles Kings NHL 78 41 54 95 83
1984–85 Los Angeles Kings NHL 80 46 54 100 76 3 1 1 2 9
1985–86 Los Angeles Kings NHL 80 36 61 97 78
1986–87 Los Angeles Kings NHL 80 33 48 81 101 5 2 5 7 6
1987–88 Los Angeles Kings NHL 65 32 46 78 114 5 2 6 8 11
1988–89 Los Angeles Kings NHL 79 70 80 150 96 11 7 9 16 12
1989–90 Los Angeles Kings NHL 47 27 48 75 66
1989–90 New York Rangers NHL 32 12 25 37 20 10 7 5 12 16
1990–91 New York Rangers NHL 71 25 48 73 96 5 4 3 7 8
1991–92 New York Rangers NHL 1 0 0 0 0
1991–92 Edmonton Oilers NHL 49 20 29 49 60 16 8 11 19 25
1992–93 Edmonton Oilers NHL 46 8 32 40 40
1992–93 New Jersey Devils NHL 23 5 15 20 40 5 0 0 0 6
1993–94 New Jersey Devils NHL 61 19 27 46 86 16 4 9 13 28
1994–95 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 48 22 29 51 32 16 1 11 12 8
1995–96 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 59 19 41 60 60 10 2 7 9 4
1996–97 San Jose Sharks NHL 65 12 33 45 63
1997–98 San Jose Sharks NHL 60 6 22 28 26 6 0 5 5 8
1998–99 San Jose Sharks NHL 10 0 2 2 4
NHL totals 1127 475 734 1209 1292 118 42 72 114 164

InternationalEdit

Year Team Event   GP G A Pts PIM
1985 Canada WC 10 0 2 2 12

TransactionsEdit

International playEdit

Medal record
Representing   Canada
Men's ice hockey
  1985 Czechoslovakia

Played for Canada in:

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d Sarah Sotoodeh (February 28, 2012). "Q And A With Bernie Nicholls". LAKings.com News. Los Angeles Kings.
  2. ^ a b "Remembering the Bernie Nicholls Trade". Big Mouth Larry.
  3. ^ Hammond, Rich (June 2, 2008). "Catching up with…Bernie Nicholls". insidesocal.com. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  4. ^ "Edmonton Oilers history: Bernie Nicholls reports to team 2 months after being acquired in Mark Messier trade, Dec. 6, 1991". The Edmonton Journal.
  5. ^ a b c Murphy, Austin (April 3, 1995). "On Top Again". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  6. ^ "NHL notes: Kings mine Nicholls to boost offence". London Free Press. QMI Agency. January 6, 2012.
  7. ^ Crowe, Jerry (April 19, 2010). "Bernie Nicholls turned job as Wayne Gretzky's sidekick into starring role with Kings". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 August 2013.

External linksEdit