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Injuries Force Hockey Team Owner, 55, To Lace Up and Play Alongside Head Coach

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The Elmira Enforcers’ owner joined the team’s lineup on Friday — 25 years after his last season playing professional hockey.

Robbie Nichols suited up for his minor league team in New York state after coach Brent Clarke informed him around 11 a.m. on game day that the team would be short six players for its game against the Danbury Hat Tricks.

With five players on the bench because of injuries and one flying across the country for a personal matter, finding a substitute player could be difficult, so both Clarke and Nichols stepped in to play.

“If I’m playing, you’re playing,” Clarke told the 55-year-old owner, according to ESPN.

Nichols, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1983 and signed on with the Detroit Red Wings in 1987, played 12 seasons in the minor leagues before leaving the ice.

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According to the Enforcers website, Nichols scored 176 goals with 192 assists for a total of 368 career points and 2,145 career penalty minutes during his hockey career.

He told ESPN that he had to consider his age when he decided to play on Friday night.

“I had to think about it a bit. I knew I’d be sore,” Nichols said. “But some Advil before the game and during the game meant I wouldn’t feel pain until after the game.”

The team’s owner played two periods while injured forward Ahmed Mahfouz acted as the coach.

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“The first period was tough. I was terrible. I had three shifts and didn’t get much done,” Nichols told ESPN. “The second period, I started getting my legs. I ran over three guys. Had some good hits. And got a penalty.”

He was called for roughing at 9:56 in the second period.

The Hat Tricks had also noticed the age of one of their opponents, and one player told Nichols that his father had played with him decades ago.

“I just wanted to help the guys out,” Nichols said. “If someone got hurt, I could take a shift or two.”

Despite his age and performance, the owner said it was fun to be on the ice again.

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“As you get older, you get slower. I couldn’t keep up with these kids. My mind can go. My legs can’t,” he said. “But it was exciting to be there. You get competitive again.”

The Enforcers lost the game 5-4 and are currently in fourth place in the Eastern Division of the Federal Prospects Hockey League.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith