Remember Bernie Nicholls? The three-time NHL all-star and two-time 100+ point scorer jumped on a phone call with me to discuss the latest around the NHL today and throwing it back a little to discuss some old timers hockey.
Here’s what he had to say:
Jacob Stoller: What are your thoughts on the early stages of the NHL season so far?
Bernie Nicholls: I did an outing for the Kings opening night in San Jose, I watched a bit of Toronto’s season debut and ( so far) the games are great. I love what McDavid is doing and I think he’s going to have an unbelievable year. Also Auston Matthews, what a start to your NHL career, right? And we’ve seen guys like Jonathan Quick get hurt which is going to be a tremendous blow to the LA Kings for sure. But the league looks good, hockey looks great.
JS: You mentioned Auston Matthews and he’s been compared to the likes of Jonathan Toews from this generation but dating back to the days when you were playing, does he remind you of anyone in that era?
BN: I honestly think it’s too early ( to tell). He’s young, a big kid and he has great touch ( to his game). Jonathan’s more of a two-way player and I think ( Auston Matthews) is going to make his own mark. It’s always tough and it’s not fair for individuals to be measured by other people. Obviously it’s a compliment if he reminds them of Toews because Toews is a phenomenal hockey player.
JS: You also mentioned Connor McDavid. We’ve seen McDavid in just a bit over 50 games now, does he remind you of anyone? While it is early, are there any similarities to him and number 99?
BN: No. They are different players. There isn’t a quicker player in the NHL than Connor McDavid. He is so fast, Gretzky was never that fast. Wayne was smart and quick but he was never that fast. Gretzky understood the game so well, he understood the play so well and he put himself and his teammates in such a good position. Connor is so fast and that allows him to get so many opportunities, he’s a tremendous playmaker, not in Gretzkys category because there is nobody that passed as well as 99. It wouldn’t surprise me if Connor McDavid was the MVP of the league this year. it really wouldn’t, he’s that good. ( McDavid) doesn’t have the supporting cast that many teams have and especially one similar to what Wayne had in the 80’s. ( McDavid) is just a tremendous talent, an unbelievable hockey player.
JS: When Gretzky was around, when you were around in that era, scoring was in it’s peak. Now, scoring is in a bit of a decline, do you think thats better for the game? Having bigger guys, a more physical game and lower scoring games or was the era of more goal scoring better?
BN: I think the only reason scoring is down is because goaltenders are so good. When we played, goaltenders were 5’10, 5’11, 6 feet tops. Today, goaltenders are 6’4, 6’6, 6’7 and they weigh 230 lbs. Jonathan Quick looks like a middle linebacker and he’s still flexible as can be and he’s like gumby out there. They are such great athletes and thats no disrespect to the goalies that played when I played. These guys now are so good and that’s why goal scoring is down.
JS: Does goalie equipment need to be reduced in size?
BN: No, absolutely not. That’s not fair to the goaltenders. ( Goaltenders ) are so good, ( the league) wants to make the net bigger, the equipment smaller and not enough credit is given to the goaltenders themselves. ( forwards) have one piece sticks, they can have as big of a curve as they want and they can shoot as hard as they want, are you going to take that away from the players? Give credit to the goaltenders.
JS: As someone that played in an era where statistics wasn’t as magnified as it is today where we have advanced statistics and people hired by teams to utilize those. Do you pay attention to analytics? Do you think it serves a meaningful purpose in the game?
BN: You know, they have statistics for everything and i’ve always said even with coaches they dissect the game so much and it’s not that difficult. I think the statistics are good for fans if they want to read in to things but for the most part it doesn’t hurt the game, it doesn’t help the game it’s just part of the game. As far as scouting goes for teams against other teams, it’s not that difficult and you don’t need all the stuff that they have today. To me, it’s something for the fans to maybe talk about.
JS: Shifting back to someone you are very high on, Jonathan Quick just went down with an injury that will sideline him for a long time, can the Kings carry on without the guy that’s been their heart and soul for the last little while?
BN: No, they can’t. It’s like Montreal last season, they started the year out like 10-2 and then they don’t make the playoffs because their best player goes down. You need great goaltending to be a top team in this league. When arguably your best player Jonathan Quick goes down, You can’t overcome that. I think it’s going to hurt LA big time. They rely so much on their goaltending, they don’t score a lot of goals. They play a lot of great team defense but the corner stone to their team is their goaltending. He is their best player bar none and I don’t think the Kings can overcome that and you hope he isn’t out too long.
JS: What are you up to nowadays besides watching hockey?
BN: We just launched a sports stock market company called AllSportsMarket.com where you can buy shares in your favourite sports team and if you actually go to AllSportsMarket.com/Bernie, you can get a free sports share in any team you want. You can sell ( the stock), buy it, or trade it. It’s not gambling and if your team loses you don’t lose your investment. You hold on to your stock as long as you want. It’s so much better than gambling and fantasy sports. I don’t know any person that wouldn’t want to feel like they owned a piece of their favourite team. You can feel a part of your team for a small fee of 2.25$.
JS: To wrap things up here, who was the best player you played against and why?
BN: I’ve always said Wayne Gretzky was the greatest of all time and Mario Lemieux was the most talented of all time.