Tyson Nash dot com


For Blues' Nash, homecoming is still a bash


Tom Wheatley
© St. Louis Post-Dispatch
November 7, 1999


* The Edmonton native was a witness to the Oilers' dynasty during the Fuhr-Gretzky years.


This trip has been a homecoming and a coming out for Tyson Nash.


He was born and reared in Edmonton, as was his wife, and his father has since moved to Vancouver. So Nash was swamped with pass requests for Friday night, when the Blues played in Edmonton, and for Sunday night's game here.


He is also popular with Blues coaches and teammates and fans. They enjoy watching a 5-foot-9, 180-pound pinball careen around an ice rink.


Nash is less beloved by Blues opponents. He is a professional pest. He h as an uncanny talent, an absolute knack for banging and crashing and enraging other teams.


He's even annoying to skaters outside the National Hockey League.


"When I come home," Nash said, "guys come up to me all the time and say, "'You're in the NHL? Are you kidding? I should have stuck with it.' Or some guy will say, 'Remember that time I scored three goals? You didn't have any. I was better than you were.'"


Were they?


"Yeah, probably," Nash said. "But when I was little, like from 5 to 15, I was one of the best kids on the ice. I used to score goals, if you can believe it. When I got to junior, they turned me into a grinder, a third-line and fourth-line guy.

"Hey, as long as you have something you can do better, and do it well, it doesn't matter how you get here. But it's a long road, a lot of ups and downs."


That's why he almost gets misty when he steps on the glassy ice at Skyreach Centre, the old Northlands Coliseum of his stargazing youth. This was Nash's second game against the Oilers in Edmonton, where the Blues won 4-2 on Oct. 9th. He still can't believe he is paid to skate across that sheet of memories.


"My dad had season tickets every year," Nash said. "I still remember where they were: Section Y in the lower bowl, right by the Zamboni. We had two seats. My brother and I switched off for every game."


Nash is 24, old enough to remember basking in all five Stanley Cups in this self-styled City of Champions.


"I saw them hoist the Cup," Nash said. "Every parade downtown, every ceremony at City Hall, my dad took us to. That was a big part of our life growing up, the Oilers. It's a big thrill to play against them.


"You come out and skate across that logo. There's the siren when you come out. It's all that stuff that you remember growing up, like the guy who announces the goals and the penalties. He's been there forever.


"It was weird to hear his voice. I remember when he'd say, 'Here they come! The Edmonton Oilers! Led by Grant Fuhr!' Grant Fuhr was always my brother's favorite."


Nash also has some personalized memories of the Oiler playpen.


"When you're a kid," he said, "they bring you out during the games to shoot on the goalie. I think Jamie McLennan did that, too."


"Sure. The Dairy Queen Shootout," said McLennan, whose family has the photo of him alongside Fuhr, his future Blues goalie partner.


Coming home is no grand event for a veteran like McLennan. But it's all fresh and new for Nash, his family and his friends.


Nash had about 50 names on his pass list in Edmonton, including his mom, who lives in Calgary. He will have a similar number Sunday night in Vancouver.


"But I'm not getting stuck with the whole bill," he said with a grin.


Somehow, on game night, this engaging lad becomes the pesky gnat that whole teams want to swat. He is often amazed by his irksome success.


"When I was little," Nash said, "I did a TV commercial with Kevin Lowe and Dave Semenko of the Oilers. It was a pizza commercial."


Lowe is now Edmonton's coach.


"That's why it was funny to hear him yelling at me when we played them in St. Louis," Nash said. "I think I kind of hit (Tom) Poti behind the net. Lowe was just screaming at me.


"I was thinking, 'Hey, remember me? We did a commercial together. I was your little buddy back then.'"


Nash is now the little buddy of fellow winger Kelly Chase. They have much in common: Canadian Westerners, hustling underdogs, scrappy and sassy, tireless and fearless.


Chase is by far the better fighter, a skill being phased out of the NHL. So instead of Chase's fists, coach Joel Quenneville calls on the young legs of Nash and Jamal Mayers on the fourth line.


The anti-fighting stance also might extend Nash's lifespan past Christmas, although nothing is guaranteed.


"Guys are always hacking and whacking me," he said. "But I think the two-referee system kind of helps me. Guys can't get away with too much."


Chase, the ultimate team player, feeds survival tips to the gung-ho lad who has taken his place.

Nash is smart enough to listen.


"Chaser's taught me a lot," he said. "Those veterans are stick masters. They know all the little secrets. Every veteran's got a thousand tricks."


Nash is learning well. He seems to draw at least a penalty per game and rarely puts his team short-handed. With one goal in a dozen games, he can't afford to strike back when opponents come after him.