NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mike Nichols had big dreams of becoming a professional hockey player.
But those dreams were all but shattered when his C-5 vertebrae was fractured in a high school game in 2014, leaving him paralyzed.
Three years later, he hasn’t given up the fight to get back on his feet, and he has a lot of people behind him.
“This isn’t what I wanted. This isn’t what I planned. But I’m going to make it the best from here,” Nichols tells CBS2’s Otis Livingston.
Making the best of it means inspiring others to never give up. It means spreading the word about spinal chord injuries to anyone who will listen, including the Boomer & Carton show.
“The spirit in which he told his story to me and Craig was amazing. And that was the inspiration for the Mikey Strong, this hockey game in honor of Mikey and of course the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation,” Boomer Esiason says.
Now in its third year, the Mikey Strong 23 Game was played Friday night at the Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils who have underwritten the whole even. There were expected to be 18 former NHL players taking part.
Also in attendance was Eric Legrand, who was paralyzed in a football game in 2010 while playing for Rutgers. He was one of the first people to reach out to the Nichols family after that life altering day in 2014.
“You’re going to have to work, period.’ That’s what he told me from day one,” Nichols says. “Having him in my corner — he really is like a big brother. He’s one of my biggest inspirations, someone I try to mimic.”
“They know that their life has been altered forever, and now they want to be such an inspiration to other people. That’s one of the reasons why so many people support it,” Esiason says.
And Nichols has a inspirational message to all those who support him.
“I’m going play hockey again. There’s no question about it,” he says. “That ice that I couldn’t get back up from that day, I’m going back to it and I’m going to stand up on it.”