When Bernie Nicholls recounts his hockey career, he fondly remembers “Tag Alder Gardens”, the community rink his dad built behind the West Guilford schoolhouse. Bernie was four when he joined his cousins and local kids on the ice.
According to Bernie, his father, George, was his earliest and best coach, and his mother Marge was his biggest fan. With their full support, he left home at 16 and joined The Navy Jets, the Junior B team in Woodstock where he won award for the League Rookie of the Year. Next, he played for the North York Rangers and the Kingston Canadians (under the management of Wren Blair).
His high scoring performance paved the way to the NHL, where Bernie proved himself as a professional, scoring 32 points in 22 games for the Los Angeles Kings, and was a key contributor in the Stanley Cup playoffs. During his seven years in L.A., Bernie became one of the most prolific scorers in the NHL, and a favourite among fans. In one season, playing alongside Wayne Gretzky, Bernie notched an amazing 70 goals, and 80 assists. Bernie went on to play for the New York Rangers, the Edmonton Oilers, the New Jersey Devils, the Chicago Black Hawks, and the San Jose Sharks.
He retired in 1999, having played 1127 games, scoring 475 goals and 734 assists. With a nose for the net, he was the one of the truly great hockey minds in the history of the sport.
Although hockey took him throughout Canada and the USA, he has always remained close to his family and his community. He was honoured with the West Guilford Citizen of the Year Award in 2019. Tag Alder Gardens, the rink his father built, still offers free skating to local families every winter, with lights that shine on today’s NHL hopefuls well after dark.