On Sunday, the NBC Sports Group will celebrate Hockey Day in America with an NHL quadrupleheader while featuring grassroots hockey stories from across the country.
Today, we look at the path Islanders forward Brock Nelson took from Warroad, Minnesota.
A big reason for the Isles’ recent turnaround?
The play of Brock Nelson.
The 25-year-old forward has three goals and six points in seven games this month, helping New York climb to within three points of Toronto for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
On the year, Nelson has 13 goals and 31 points through 55 games, and is on pace to set a career high in scoring.
He’s emerged as a vitally important player in Brooklyn. Which is an awfully long way from where he came from — a tiny town in Northern Minnesota.
Warroad, with approximate population of 2,000, is renowned for pumping out hockey talent. Caps forward T.J. Oshie starred for Warroad HS (as we wrote about yesterday) prior to launching his NHL career, and the city is also famous for the Christian clan — Bill, Dave, Roger and Gordon, who all represented the U.S. at various Winter Olympics.
The Christians are royalty in Warroad, and Nelson’s part of that. He was born and raised there, starring at the local high school like Oshie did years prior.
And then there’s the Christian family lineage.
Bill, Nelson’s grandfather, captured Olympic gold in ’60.
Dave, his uncle, was on the Miracle on Ice team at Lake Placid in ’80.
More on those ties, from SI:
Looking back now, the benefits of Brock’s bloodlines are easy to spot. He golfs over the summer with Dave, who led the U.S. in assists at Lake Placid and eventually played 1,009 NHL games.
As a child, Bill would pull him from school during lunchtime to skate at the local rink. Today, an Islanders game rarely passes without Bill texting beforehand to wish Brock good luck, or afterward to offer some advice.
“A lot of people don’t really know the history, the hockey history,” Brock says. “Some do back home. Some don’t. It’s hit or miss.”
As mentioned above, Warroad and its rich hockey history will be profiled as part of Sunday’s broadcast. It’s part of a massive slate that begins with Oshie and the Caps taking on the Rangers (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), followed by Detroit-Pittsburgh (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC).
From there, Hockey Day in America shifts to NBCSN. First, it’s Chicago-Buffalo (6 p.m. ET) followed by Boston-San Jose (8:30 p.m. ET).