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PRINCIPE: First and Goal

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers

It was too bad that Darnell Nurse couldn't fully enjoy what happened to him. It's a moment in a young athlete's life that should be enjoyed but that's tough do in a loss. The Edmonton Oilers, and Nurse for that matter, were more disturbed than delighted with what happened against Minnesota. With his parents, Richard and Cathy, in attendance the blueliner scored his first National Hockey League goal. It came on a screamer of a shot and against a goalie, who for part of last season, was as good as anyone in hockey that didn't have the last name Price.

Nurse poses with his first goal puck. Photo by Getty Images
A 3-2 goal that looked like it might hold up in an Edmonton victory. Unfortunately just like another youngster's first goal, Connor McDavid against Dallas, it was part of a defeat. However not lost in all of this should be the way Darnell Nurse has handled himself in the face of bitter disappointment. It was on Tuesday morning that Darnell spoke about being assigned to the minors before the season began. He was open and honest about how he felt. Luckily for him he has no shortage of resources to speak with but he kept much of it to himself. He has two sisters who have played basketball at the university level in the U.S. A mom who did so in Canada and a dad that spent six years in the CFL. Any of them would understand what their son or brother was going through. However, he didn't want to dwell on it. Instead looking ahead to the future.

His future in the NHL arrived abruptly. Justin Schultz was out and so Darnell Nurse was in. His dad spoke of how his only son wanted to but wasn't allowed to play football. Yet the 48-year-old former Hamilton Tiger-Cat said there is some football in Darnell's hockey. He likes to roam up and down the ice and it's pretty obvious that Nurse isn't afraid of contact. I look at him as a big personality. At the rookie slo-pitch game this summer with the Edmonton Police Service, there was Nurse movin' and groovin' to some of the music. Just doing his thing even if he was surrounded by teammates, coaches and fans. He's a carefree spirit but that doesn't mean he doesn't care about the growth of his game.

You could see that happen at the World Junior Hockey Championships. A gold-medal performance by him and his team. If you didn't know who the blueliners was before the world juniors you had to know who he was after. It all set him up to come to camp, win a job and live happily ever after. It didn't happen quite like that. He said about his being assigned to Bakersfield that he first met with Peter Chiarelli, Craig MacTavish and Scott Howson. From the management team he moved onto the coaches and met with Todd McLellan and his crew. The message was sent on what he needed to do and he went about doing what his bosses wanted.

Last season his parents had their bags packed and were ready for a trip to Edmonton to watch Darnell play in the NHL for a first time. Unfortunately for him and them after two games he was returned to the OHL. A year later, the setting was Minnesota; Darnell was back and so were his parents. A night that entailed their first game watching him and his first goal. Just what the doctor ordered for the Nurses.
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