Steve Nash isn’t just one of the planet’s best basketball players. No, the Phoenix Suns standout and pride of Victoria, who’s coming back to town this week to host his 3rd annual Steve Nash Foundation Charity Classic at General Motors Place, is also a huge hockey fan.
And while he lives and plays in ‘Coyote country’, his hockey heart remains firmly planted here in British Columbia.
“The Canucks are definitely my team,” the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player tells canucks.com from his off-season home in Manhattan. “I’m definitely looking for their scores on the ticker every day and I can’t wait for them to get back to the Stanley Cup Final.”
But by the time the new NHL season rolls around, the crafty point guard’s allegiance to the Canucks will be put to the test like never before. That’s because in a matter of weeks, Steve Nash will have a hockey-playing brother-in-law who will be trying to stick it to the Canucks four times a year.
In early September, the NBA and NHL will be blended together when Steve’s sister Joann, who oversees the terrific work of the Steve Nash Foundation, marries Manny Malhotra
of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“Manny’s a great guy. I’m pretty close to him,” says Steve, who is seen regularly on the big screen at GM Place during Canucks games urging the crowd to make noise for his favourite hockey squad. “But I’m still rooting for the Canucks.”
While Steve and Manny both played their respective sports in Dallas a few years back, that isn’t where the Nash-Malhotra bond was struck. Joann actually met Manny through long-time family friend Matt Pettinger, a fellow Victoria native who plays left wing for the Washington Capitals, while Pettinger and Malhotra were teammates in Slovenia during the NHL lockout two and a half years ago.
Adding a professional hockey player to the Nash family only seems natural considering Steve’s prowess on the basketball court and brother Martin’s ability on the soccer field (he’s currently playing professionally for the Vancouver Whitecaps of the United Soccer League’s First Division and recently suited up for Canada’s national side in the Gold Cup Tournament). And with Manny Malhotra
now about to join the Nash clan, it’s yet one more link to Steve’s second favourite winter sport.
“I grew up in the same neighbourhood as the Courtnalls (former Canucks Russ and Geoff); they used to baby sit me and my dad coached them in soccer and we’re still close friends,” Steve explains. “Having (Wayne) Gretzky in Phoenix has been great, he’s a big supporter of mine and obviously he was a hero of mine growing up and there’s lots of players around that I’m close to. There are a lot of hockey players that I can call friends and it’s pretty cool to be able to meet guys from other sports.”
Unfortunately for Steve, with the demands on his time not only as a professional basketball player but also as the father of young twin daughters, time rarely permits him to get out to the rink to see hockey games in person as much as he’d like.
“I went to one last year. It’s difficult for me. [The Coyotes] arena is about an hour from my house on the other side of town,” he says. “When I do have a night off, I usually stay in with my family so I don’t really have a chance to support them up close.”
As for his support for the Canucks, Nash tries hard to catch some of their games on TV, but with the NBA and NHL having such similar schedules, it’s just not that easy.
“I only get to follow them from afar because we play so many games at the same time of the year,” he says.
But this week, Steve Nash and the Canucks come together at GM Place to host the Steve Nash Foundation Charity Classic on Saturday July 21st. Last year more than 16,000 turned out as Steve brought a number of his NBA buddies to town for fun and basketball – but above all else, there were here to raise funds to help local child-focussed organizations working to grow health in kids. And they’re back to do it again.
Steve Nash has proved that as good as he his on the basketball court, he’s even better off of it. And as if he wasn’t popular enough on the West Coast already, Nash’s stock has risen in the eyes of many Canucks fans by resisting the urge to switch his loyalties to the Blue Jackets and stay true to ‘his’ hockey team