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Where Are They Now: Bernie Nicholls

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Center Bernie Nicholls arrived in New York in January 1990 in a trade from Los Angeles for Tomas Sandstrom and Tony Granato and had an immediate impact with his new club, posting 12 goals and 25 assists for 37 points in 32 games with the Blueshirts.

He'd rack up 73 points in 71 games the following season before being involved in one of the biggest trades in Rangers history, when he was sent to Edmonton as part of a package for Mark Messier on Oct. 4, 1991. recently caught up with the former Ranger at Madison Square Garden to talk about coming to New York, his memories as a Devil facing the Rangers in 1994 and coming back to The Garden after all these years.

You spent two seasons in New York and had great success. Is there a moment that sticks out above the rest?

BN: Probably my favorite memory even though I wasn't with New York, I was with the Devils for that series in '94. I always say to people it was the best series I was ever involved in. I was just on the wrong team. 

Just coming to New York for me after being traded here, to play at Madison Square Garden - the fans here are just amazing. As a hockey fan, to have the opportunity to play here, there was nothing more special than that.

What stands out most from those seven games? The games were so tight and the proximity in the area for the two teams and their fans I'm sure added to the intensity.

BN: We were just so close. We win the first game here in overtime, and then they win two games in overtime. The last game double overtime. Game 6, the one that Mark kind of predicted. We're up 2-0 late in the second period. If we could have gone in there (after the second period) probably 2-0, the chances are good we could have won. They score a late second period goal and the tide just turned.

For me personally, when you play against a guy like Mark Messier, I always said he's been my fiercest competitor as a centerman. I played against him a lot. The challenge of playing against him every night was awesome. You can go to any series that's ever been played, it's got to be top-three of all time, I would think.

You had great success out in Los Angeles before coming to New York. How do the two cities compare?

BN: I was devastated to get traded. We just got Wayne Gretzky the year before. I had the opportunity to play with Wayne for one year. I can't imagine what it would have been like to play with him for five or 10 years. Devastated for that point to be traded. That part was really tough.

But I think once the smoke clears and you realize where you're going. I'm going to New York. Madison Square Garden. A tremendous Original Six team, a hockey town. When I first went to L.A., you couldn't really call it a hockey city. When Wayne came it obviously helped, but now I'm coming to a mega hockey city. If you had to get traded, I couldn't think of a better place to get traded to.

How close are you following the game in your post-playing days? Do you keep up with the Rangers?

BN: I still follow the game and I still love the game. I played for six teams. You always cheer for former teammates, but I always cheer for former teams I played for. I always follow them and wish them well. I still love watching the game. They're tremendous athletes. Still love playing it any chance I get. Since I retired I still do a lot of charity hockey games.

How much do you enjoy coming back to The Garden and meeting some Rangers fans?

BN: You'll be walking and a fan will come up to you and they're thrilled to meet you. For me, I don't know any person - if you're that big of a fan, I want to meet you. Obviously I was proud to do what I did, but I love the fans. I always did. I remember after practices I'd throw every puck on the ice to the kids. I just love that. To see fans this day or see former players, to me, there's nothing better.

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