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Danbury Whalers of FHL Honor Paralyzed New Jersey High School Star With Draft Selection

by Chip Gianni Jr. | Posted on Monday, June 30th, 2014
(Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger)

(Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger)

The National Hockey League Draft may have finished up this past weekend in Philadelphia, but on Wednesday, June 25, the Danbury Whalers, a lower level minor league team participated in the Federal Hockey League Draft with not much fanfare.

At the FHL Draft the Whalers, which had its “war room “ in one of the local pubs in Danbury, Connecticut, drew some attention with one of their selections. With their sixth pick they decided to choose Mike Nichols, the Monroe, New Jersey high school forward who was paralyzed after crashing head first into the boards during a game on January 4.

Prior to the draft the Whalers had reached out to Nichols and his parents to discuss the idea of drafting him and the vision they had in ways they can help him and others in their challenge against spinal cord injuries.   The Whalers plan to have him make it up to Danbury for a game and along with TeamMikeyStrong23 organize a fund raising event to benefit spinal cord research and the Nichols Family Trust that has been established to provide for Mike’s medical and quality of life needs.

On the team’s website, Whalers President & CFO, Alan Friedman commented that they had heard great stories about Mike and contacted the family to find out how they could help. Friedman also said on the site, “We felt like we could do something special to recognize a young man with a lot of heart and courage and give him a goal to shoot for.  We’ll have a role for Mike when he is ready.”

The Whalers are not alone in reaching out to Nichols, throughout the past season he has received support from Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, former New Jersey Devils defenseman Kenny Daneyko, former New York Rangers forwards Adam Graves and Sean Avery, former Rutgers defensive lineman Eric LeGrand and hockey analyst Pierre McGuire.

As part of Nichols joining the Danbury Whalers organization, together they have set goals for the 2014-15 season. These include creating awareness for spinal cord injuries, promoting a safe hockey campaign, creating awareness for Mike’s cause and getting him to Danbury to participate in the season either on the ice, on the bench or in the locker room. Herm Sorcher, Whalers CEO & Managing Partner, said “We can’t wait for Mike to come up to Danbury and be part of what we are doing.”

Before the injury, Nichols had plan to attend Widner College in Chester, Pa as well as play collegiate hockey there. Instead he will begin his college life by taking classes locally. On the team’s website Nichols’s father, Steve, said “When we first read the email from the Whalers we said, WOW, when mike read it he was even more ecstatic.” He thanked the team for their gracious offer.

When Nichols was injured in the January 4 game at Skylands Ice World in Sussex County he was airlifted to Morristown Medical Center where he spent 5 ½ weeks in the Intensive Care Unit before being transferred to Kessler Institute on February 14. He was discharged from Kessler on June 5.

According to his father, he is currently classified as a quadriplegic, has no feeling below the rib cage, limited movement in his left arm and minimal movement in his right. He is now able to breath on his own after needing the help of a ventilator for months. He continues to regain the strength in his arms and upper body.

To read more about Nichols check out www.mikeystrong23.org or the facebook page Pray for Mikey 23 where updates on his progress are posted. For further information on the Danbury Whalers check out www.danburywhalers.com.

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