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Driver among NHL alumni to participate in charity hockey game

Former Devils defenseman will play in fourth annual event to benefit spinal cord research

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Bruce Driver will be one of many former NHL players participating in the fourth annual Mikey Strong Charity Hockey Game to benefit spinal cord research at Prudential Center on Friday (6 p.m. ET).

The game is named after and benefits Mike Nichols, who sustained a C-5 fracture in the second period of a varsity ice hockey game for Monroe High School against Vernon at Skylands Ice World in Stockholm, New Jersey, on Jan. 4, 2014. Nichols had three points (goal, two assists) to help Monroe to a 7-2 lead at the time of his injury.

Driver, a former defenseman who spent 12 of his 15 NHL seasons with the New Jersey Devils, was a member of the 1995 Stanley Cup championship team and is president of the Devils alumni association. He said you only need to be around Nichols for five minutes to feel the inspiration and determination he exudes. 

Driver, who will be playing in his fourth straight charity game, first met Nichols at Kessler Rehabilitation Center in West Orange, New Jersey, shortly after his injury. He looks forward to seeing him again.

"It's truly mind blowing how hugely passionate he is about the sport of hockey, and he's channeling everything in the right direction with his attitude in what he's been through and what's upcoming for him," Driver said. "He's never going to say no. He's never going to stop trying."

Proceeds from the event will go to the Nichols Family Trust and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which is dedicated to curing spinal cord injuries by funding innovative research and improving the quality of life for individuals living with paralysis.

The inaugural charity game at the Ice World Sports Complex in Middletown, New Jersey, raised more than $57,000 in 2015. Driver said the money helped the family purchase a vehicle that transported Mikey to his rehabilitation. Last year, the event raised more than $100,000.

"Everybody knows who [Nichols] is in the sport of hockey in New Jersey," Driver said. "He's able to support others and be that type of role model for other people and kids in his high school that he played for. You constantly see him around doing things and supporting others."

In addition to Driver, other former NHL players scheduled to appear in the game include Brian Mullen, Alex Kovalev, Rick DiPietro, Jim Dowd, Tommy Albelin, Grant Marshall, Marek Židlický, Colin White, Randy Velischek, George Parros, Arron Asham, Tom Laidlaw, Kevin Westgarth, Rob Scuderi, Colton Orr, Steve Webb and Scott Clemmensen. Former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason is also scheduled to play in the game.

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