When Michael Nichols suffered a broken neck during a head-on collision with the boards in a January game, the hockey community rallied around the Monroe (N.J.) High senior forward.
On Wednesday, U.S. Women's Hockey star Alex Carpenter and a group of retired New Jersey Devils, including Carpenter's father Bobby, came through in a big way, raising $25,000 for the Nichols family as they embark upon the harrowing task of fulfilling Michael's promised to skate again.
"That ice that I couldn't get up from the other night, I'm going back to it, I'm going to stand up on it," Nichols reportedly told his father soon after suffering a fractured C5 vertebra in a game against Vernon (N.J.).
His pledge became an inspiration to many in the hockey community, including a number of retired Devils, who contacted Russian Kontinental Hockey League president Alexander Medvedev about putting together "The Legends Classic: Team NHL vs. Team Russia" at Newark's Prudential Center in Nichols' honor.
"This is the game we love," Ken Daneyko, who won three Stanley Cups with the Devils, told NJ.com. "And when it's for someone who had a freak accident, we just want to lend a hand any way we can."
The wrong team won, as Russia orchestrated a 17-5 blowout, but players from both sides reportedly wore Monroe purple laces on their skates and hoisted a signed No. 23 "NICHOLS" jersey in the game's aftermath. In addition to the Carpenters, the Devils' roster featured Stanley Cup champions Sergei Brylin, Jim Dowd, Bruce Driver, Johan Hedberg, Grant Marshall, Jay Pandolfo and Colin White. Along with Medvedev, they presented the Nichols family with a check for $25,000, according to NJ.com.