Tyson Nash dot com


Nash, by any name, makes impact in NHL debut


Dave Luecking
© St. Louis Post-Dispatch
April 5, 1999


After the Blues called up rookie Tyson Nash on Friday, coach Joel Quenneville struggled with his first name, initially calling him "Tyson . . . Tyler Nash."


"It's Tyson or Tyler," he said, somewhat embarrassed. "I'm pretty sure it's Tyson. The other guy is Tyler. Tyler Willis."

Tyson Nash and Tyler Willis have more in common than being Blues prospects with similar first names. They're similar players as well - small, but hard-nosed wingers who bounce around the ice like pinballs.


Quenneville wasn't sure about Nash's first name, but he was confident about the attributes the 5-foot-11, 189-pound winger would bring to his first National Hockey League game.


"A lot of energy and enthusiasm," Quenneville said.




Nash, 24, brought the energy and enthusiasm that Quenneville had predicted in an impressive NHL debut Saturday against the Dallas Stars at Kiel Center.


Although Nash didn't figure in the scoring in the Blues' surprising 5-2 victory, he scored with big hits and a fight, not to mention a pesky attitude, which impressed the sellout crowd of 20,113 and won over the observers who count most - the guys in the locker room.


The Blues players awarded Nash the coveted hard hat that goes to the grittiest player in each Blues victory. And Quenneville praised him after the game.


"I liked him," he said, going a step beyond his usual high praise of "I didn't mind him."


"He played with enthusiasm. He had some jump to his stride. That's the type of player he is. He's a little like Jamal Mayers. He gets in on the forecheck. He has some speed, finishes checks and has the great enthusiasm."


Nash, who wore No. 9, replaced injured right winger Kelly Chase on the fourth line with center Terry Yake and enforcer Tony Twist. He played only 4 minutes 58 seconds, but he made an impact on each of his eight shifts, usually with one or more Dallas players, big and small. Big, as in Derian Hatcher big. Or small, as in Tony Hrkac small.


On one shift, Nash got his helmet knocked off. On another, he had a high-speed collision with the back of the net. Dallas defenseman Brad Lukowich had nailed him from behind as he drove the net in an out-of-control rush.


Nash's defining moment occurred with 1:39 remaining in the game when he got into a fight with Dallas' Pat Verbeek. Verbeek, whose nickname is "The Little Ball of Hate," usually makes opposing players snap. But after Nash hit him along the boards, Verbeek came up punching.


Nash thought he could have done better in his first NHL fight, but the crowd loved it and Twist gave him a pat on the behind.


"I love him. I love him," Twist bellowed in the locker room after the game. "He's competitive. He drove the net. He played feisty. He got under people's skin. That's his job. He did all the things that were necessary to keep himself in the lineup."


After the fight, Nash ambled to the locker room from the Blues' bench and saw a young fan reach down from the seats with his hand extended. Nash gave him a high-five.


"He was trying to lift my spirits; I thank him for that," Nash said. "I didn't do too good in the fight. (Verbeek) was wearing a visor. It's tough to get under that thing, and he's a pretty strong guy, but that's the way it goes some times. You win some, lose some, but it's nice to get the first game over with."


Nash, from Edmonton, Alberta, is in his fourth professional season. The Vancouver Canucks drafted him out of Kamloops in the rough and tumble Western Hockey League, with a 10th round pick - the 247th overall - in the 1994 entry draft. He spent three seasons playing for the Canucks' American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse, N.Y., before signing with the Blues as a free agent July 24.


Nash made an impression in training camp, but the Blues didn't have a spot for him on their NHL roster and sent him to Worcester. In 50 games, Nash scored 11 goals and 32 points, with 139 penalty minutes.


"Obviously, I'm not too much of a finesse guy," he said. "My role is to try to get under their skin and take the body as much as I can."



* Winger Scott Young, whose father, Joseph Young, died last week, will rejoin the Blues for their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Air Canada Centre. He has been unavailable for three games.


* Chase will miss two weeks with a separated left shoulder and a bruised rotator cuff, suffered when he tumbled into the boards after checking a Tampa Bay player on Thursday. Chase joins Geoff Courtnall (post-concussion syndrome), Craig Conroy (ankle), Michal Handzus (shoulder), Rudy Poeschek (ankle) and Jim Campbell (groin) on the injured list.


* The Blues are 8-3-1 since Grant Fuhr returned to the lineup March 13, including a 7-3-1 mark in his 10 starts.


* The 8-3-1 stretch also coincides with Quenneville separating top scoring threats Pavol Demitra and Pierre Turgeon. In 11 games, Demitra has nine goals and 17 points, while Turgeon has five goals and 13 points, including two goals and four points in a three-game scoring streak.