On Friday night, some of the biggest names in the history of the New Jersey Devils returned to the ice to support a member of the greater hockey community. For the third time, Boomer & Carton of WFAN hosted the Mikey Strong Charity Hockey Game. Michael “Mikey” Nichols fractured his c-5 vertebrae on while playing high school hockey for the Monroe Falcons in Middletown, New Jersey.
Three years ago, Nichols partnered with Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton to raise money for the Nichols Family Trust and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Years prior, the event was hosted at the Ice World Sports Complex in Middletown, NJ. Friday, the event reached a milestone and moved to NHL ice at the Prudential Center for the star-studded event. The New Jersey Devils underwrote the expenses for the event. Therefore, all tickets sales and donations go directly to both charities for services and research. Before the game, Double G Sports spoke with Mike Nichols, “[For Boomer and Craig] to be doing this for the last two years, along with Middletown, it’s been absolutely amazing.”
There were indeed Devils, Rangers and Riveters on Team Boomer and Team Carton last night. Local hockey fans were treated to an 8-6 game including the likes of recently retired Patrik Elias, three-time Stanley Cup champion Ken Daneyko (NJ Devils), 2014 Olympian Michelle “Shelly” Picard, six-time Stanley Cup Champion Glenn Anderson and more. However, the reason for the event wasn’t lost on the players. From the casual player to the professional, everyone who hit the ice did so for Mikey and others dealing with spinal cord injuries.
Will Reeve, son of Christopher and Dana Reeve, scored three goals on the night. Despite his personal performance, Reeve used his post-game interview to honor his mother and father, and bring attention to the cause, “It was such a pleasure to be here and see so many fans in the stands,” said Reeve. “The work I do with the [Christopher and Dana Reeve] Foundation is some of the most meaningful work in my life because it is a representation and embodiment of my parents legacy. To be able to uphold my parents legacy, preserve it, and further it, is something I take very seriously.” The #MikeyStrong game is one of many fun ways the Reeve Foundation helps grow awareness, “it all fun to play in games like this, but it’s also incredibly important we spread awareness and we raise money.”
Winning captain Boomer Esiason was blown away by the level of detail and hospitality the New Jersey Devils offered for the event, “[The Devils] reached out to us, we didn’t reach out to them – they really wanted to be a part of it. All the guys that came today were like, ‘Wow! This is like a really NHL game’ … Tie Dome’s like, ‘this is awesome [laughs], I haven’t been treated like this in 25 years.” With the bells and whistles comes a higher profile stage for the event, and more opportunity to raise money for Mike and others.
Boomer, who has a son, Gunner, that was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 1993, also knows the importance of having a fun day to relieve some of the stressors of everyday life with a disability, “The best thing about tonight … is know that, at least for three hours we can distract him and make him feel really good about what he’s accomplished since his injury.”
In addition to the help of his radio friends, Nichols and his family have felt the support of the greater hockey community, “the hockey community comes and steps up because, they’re never going to leave one of their brothers or sisters behind … they’re making me feel like I’m still a hockey player, they won’t let me forget that.”
As for Nichols, when he is not raising awareness for spinal injuries, he is focused on his own recovery. Nichols continues physical therapy, and is taking classes at a local community college. He is focused on his future, one in which he can fully return to the game he loves.
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