By Darren Lum
August 2 2016
Retired NHLer and West Guilford resident Bernie Nicholls knows about concussions first-hand having to deal with the dizzy spells and difficulty with short-term memory related to his hockey career.
Nicholls was an electric player amassing 1209 points during a 17-year NHL career over 1127 games with the Los Angeles Kings the New York Rangers the Edmonton Oilers the New Jersey Devils the Chicago Blackhawks and the San Jose Sharks.
He remains close to the game with his public appearances as a consultant for the Kings en route to the Stanley Cup win in 2012 and with his business venture All Sports Market an online sports stock
Now Nicholls hopes to be successful in reducing concussions.
Nicholls endorsed the SkullTec Gel Cap a product created by American Bob Ferguson. Like a skull cap the headgear has soy-based gel pads which are positioned at the front sides top and back of
the cap and are designed to disperse the impact and reduce the amount of trauma to a head. It can be worn alone or under helmets and is a blend of nylon and spandex.
There are plans to have it available in local retailers such as Haliburton’s JoAnne Sharpley’s Source for Sports who said it retails between $40 and $50.
Currently it is available online at www. skulltec.com.
Nicholls admits there isn’t anything that can completely eliminate concussions but said as far as he is concerned anything that can help prevent a concussion is a good thing to consider. He believes in this product because of information the company sent him regarding results of research and endorsements by people in the medical industry to support its benefits.
He wants to encourage parents to consider this cap for their children for a variety of sports and activities ranging from team sports to biking and skateboarding.
Specifically he’d like the high school football players to be wearing them this autumn.
“Their helmets are only so good so if you can [add] a little something to it to help why wouldn’t you do it?” he said.
When he was young he played quarterback at the local high school and said he would have worn one.
This cap is good for more than just football as it has applications to other sports and activities such as ice hockey.
“Most of the kids if they buy it they’ll turn around and wear it in hockey” he said.
Nicholls has tried on the cap under his helmet and found it fit snugly and actually made it comfortable.
He believes current NHLers would wear it particularly players who have had a concussion.
“Guys who have had it and know the severity of what one more hit could do … it’s a no brainer. It’s just stupid not to” he said.
He has sent one to Sidney Crosby’s agent.
During his professional career he played through injuries but always listened to the medical staff if they told him playing would jeopardize his health. He expected arthritis but never expected to harm his brain. It’s something you just can’t live without he added.
“When it’s something like that someone has to say ‘you can’t play.’ That’s where I’ve always stood with that. I’m playing no matter what until the doctor says you can’t” he said.
Nicholls is part of a class action lawsuit against the NHL for concussion-related injuries.
There is a lot of misinformation related what the players will get when it comes to the lawsuit. He is more than willing to support the cause and believes others would too if they knew more about it.
“When people understand what I’m doing then they’re good with it. A lot of people think it’s a money grab. That’s all I’m doing it for. Once they understand … I’m not doing it for me because I don’t get
anything for it. I’m doing it for the other guy then they understand it” he said.
He said the lawsuit if successful will primarily benefit the care of the players who are really suffering.
Nicholls said as a class one he’s not suffering with the same severity of symptoms related to concussions who are categorized as class two.
Concussion-related symptoms are part of his life now which includes dizzy spells and memory loss.
“Like my mom my wife people who know me they realize how bad my memory is. I used to have a great memory. I’d remember phone numbers. I’d remember addresses from when I was younger and
different places from when I first started playing” he said.
Part of his strategy to remember appointments is to have the person he’s meeting text him an hour or two before as a reminder.
“For me it’s just frustrating as hell” he said.
For all the frustration he knows his challenges are manageable unlike the guys he is standing up for through the lawsuit.
“I’m just fighting for my brother” he said. “If down the line I get something from all this as far as my head something gets bad then they’ll cover me for that” he said. “Right now if we win it any money goes to these guys the class two that need it. That’s all it is. I’m just standing up for this guy because chances are good someone probably got a concussion sticking up for my ass when I played fighting for me or something.”
He wishes more former players would join the class action lawsuit. He acknowledges the pressure and the fear of becoming blackballed by teams but also hopes greater understanding of the matter will lead to more support.
“The thing is especially our sport it’s such a team sport. From your top player to your average player. It’s just so close. To think you’re going to fight for one of your guys. That’s all you’ve ever known to do. This is no different so why wouldn’t you do it?” he said.
Although the NFL had settled with its players for their class action suit the NHL remains steadfast.
Nicholls is not dissuaded by the chance of a loss.
“We might lose but at least I went down trying to help a former player. Win or lose I’m going to continue to do it and do the best I can” he said.