As a kid, Brock Nelson didn't have a full grasp on what it meant for his grandfather, Bill Christian, to have an Olympic Gold hockey medal. Bill was a part of Team USA's first gold medal in hockey at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, but it's easy to think that a gold medal in hockey is normal when three members of your family have one.
Nelson even brought his grandfather's medal to school for show-and-tell - and kudos to Christian for trusting a grade schooler with one of his most prized possessions.
With age comes appreciation and Nelson now understands how impressive it was for his grandfather, his great uncle Roger - who also won in 1960 - and uncle Dave - who played on the Miracle on Ice team - to have won an Olympic gold medal.
"There have only been two gold medals for the U.S. and to have him be on that team that won in 1960 is pretty special," Nelson said.
Christian was an influential figure in Nelson's hockey life. The two would get together during Nelson's lunch break at school when he was in kindergarten and first grade to skate and just have fun on the ice. Nelson also remembers skating for hours on the river at his grandfather's house and estimates a couple hundred pucks are scattered on the riverbank.
"Just having fun, shooting around, skating, learning different things from him," Nelson said. "You kind of love the game when you get to go out there and do that."
His grandfather kept hockey at the forefront of his life even after his playing days, starting Christian Brother's Hockey Sticks with his brother Roger and brother-in-law Hal Bakke. Their motto was "Hockey Sticks by Hockey Players" and as a kid, Nelson played with the family brand until high school and was a fixture in the factory, playing mini sticks or making a few of his own.
Christian sold the company in 2002 and with his son Dave's 15-year NHL career in the books in mid-1990s, Nelson became his connection to the game.
"It keeps me in hockey," Christian said. "It's been part of my life for 70 years probably. It's a treat for me to be blessed with grandchildren that play at a high level. It gets kind of sentimental a little bit. Hopefully we have some great grandkids that come along and play."
Christian was a popular guy in Warroad, MN, but now resides in Florida. He comes to see Nelson play when the Isles visit and goes back up to Minnesota when his grandson is back home. Nelson said his grandfather texts him before or after nearly every Islanders game.
"He's probably my biggest fan," Nelson said.
So the dads and mentors trip is a small token of appreciation from Nelson, who has brought his grandfather on the trip twice now. It's a thank you for the lunchtime skates, the custom sticks, all the support and even for letting him take the Olympic gold to school.