Colorado’s 2008 Rookie Camp is just another step in the journey that is Nigel Williams’ hockey career.
After skating with the U.S. National Under-18 Team during the 2005-06 campaign, Williams has spent time with the Wisconsin Badgers, Saginaw Spirit and Belleville Bulls over the last two seasons. While some players may crave stability during their amateur careers, the 6-foot-4, 226-pound defenseman says the moves have helped him grow as a player and allowed him to gain experience he wouldn’t have received otherwise.
Following a run to the Memorial Cup with Belleville last year, Williams signed an entry-level contract with the Avalanche in August.
The blueliner made use of a rare break at rookie camp to talk shop with ColoradoAvalanche.com.Looking back to last season, how did the mid-season trade from Saginaw to Belleville affect you?
“In a trade it’s always good going from last place to first place, but you still have to find a way to play well. Whether you’re on the best team or the worst team, you should go out there, do your best and hope the best for your team.”You’ve played for four different clubs in the past three years. Have you taken those address changes in stride?
“Every place I’ve gone has made me feel right at home. They all took me in and I learned the systems really quickly. The coaching everywhere I’ve gone has been pretty good too. It hasn’t affected me at all; if anything it’s helped me.”Talk about your experience making it to, and then playing in, the Memorial Cup.
“It was like a dream. Not many guys get to experience that in their lifetimes. It’s something we worked for all season. Well, actually it was something they worked for all season and we worked on together during the second half of the year. We were pretty happy with where we ended up, even if we didn’t win.”You seemed to step up your game a bit in the postseason as well, finishing second among OHL defensemen in scoring. Did you feel you needed to take on a leadership role with the club?
“All of us older guys knew it was something we would never get to experience again, so we had to go out there and lead by example to the younger guys. We just hoped that they would follow and I think they did quite a good job.”How long have you been in Denver getting ready for camp and the upcoming season?
“I’ve been here for a little over two weeks now. Before that, I trained back home in Chicago for most of the summer.”What have you been working on during that time?
“I had a personal trainer that I trained with every day and I hit the ice about three or four times a week.”Did I hear correctly that you played a little roller hockey this summer?
“Yes. The tournament was in San Jose and is one of the largest roller hockey tournaments in the world; it’s called NARCH (North American Roller Hockey Championships). It’s something that I’ve done since I was seven years old. I’ve been really loyal to it and they’ve treated me really well. It’s helped me with my hands and vision a lot. It also lets me hang out with a different group of buddies in the summer and it’s just a good time. Our team ended up in second place.”Were there any other players at that tournament that hockey fans might know?
“Definitely. One guy is Billy Sweatt, who plays at Colorado College and is drafted by the Blackhawks – he’s one of my best friends – and his older brother Lee, who used to play at Colorado College. I grew up playing roller hockey with Jack Combs, who gave it up a few years ago. Rhett Rakhshani from the University of Denver used to play with us too. There was a huge following of people who played, but some of them have given it up now and moved on. But it was something I enjoyed so much that I had to do it. This was probably my last year playing, but it was awesome while it lasted.”