Rick Nash’s impact on London Knights recalled

Dale Hunter will always have a soft spot in his heart for Rick Nash.

The 15-year NHLer, who retired from hockey Friday because of unresolved concussion symptoms, was the pillar on which the Knights built their OHL dynasty.

“He was our first pick in (2000) when we bought the team,” the longtime London coach said. “We weren’t strong teams then and he had to carry the load (for two years). He worked at his game and got stronger and had a great career.

“It’s too bad his career is over, but he’s got to be very proud of what he did. We’re proud of him.”

Nash wasn’t just a terrific hockey player in London from 2000-02. He was a model teammate at the old Ice House, too.

“We all looked at him as Rick Nash, the guy going to go first overall (in the NHL draft),” recalled London assistant coach Dylan Hunter, a rookie forward in Nash’s second and final junior season, “but he was a reserved, down-to-earth, great guy.

“He would pick me and Steady (Rick Steadman) up and drive 15 minutes out of his way because that’s the kind of (person) he was. You never would’ve known from him (he was a star). He just did his work and was a great overall guy.”

The 34-year-old Nash remains good friends with former Knights teammate Logan Hunter, Dale Hunter’s nephew. The London franchise retired his No. 61 jersey seven years ago in the midst of his six-time all-star pro career.

“He was a tall kid, 6-foot-3, and skinny when he came here,” Dale Hunter said, “and then he comes back three or four years later, he’s 230 pounds. For his size, he had great speed and hands, but would also back-check and block shots.

“He was a complete player, he’s a class act and he’s a great friend.”

rpyette@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/RyanatLFPress

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