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A tribute to Allan Nicholson - Estevan's first athlete to play in the NHL

Nicholson played 19 games for the Boston Bruins in the 1950s

ESTEVAN - A new plaque unveilled at Affinity Place on Wednesday pays tribute to Allan Nicholson, one of the best hockey players ever to come out of Estevan.

Nicholson was Estevan’s first home-grown hockey player to reach the NHL. He played 19 games over two seasons with the Boston Bruins, recording one assist. The plaque, which is on the south wall of Affinity Place, features photos of Nicholson throughout his NHL career, along with his career hockey statistics.

Nicholson’s friend Frank John was the one who started the process in getting the plaque installed. John remembers that Nicholson’s father was big in the community and ran the concession in a rink for a while.

“Allan was a big boy,” said John. “I can still see him when we lived in the west end of Estevan, he came down our basement, we had the basement fixed up, and he came down those stairs and I can remember I thought he was going to bump his head.”

Nicholson was born in Estevan in 1936, the second child of Charlie and Rose Nicholson. His love for hockey began at an early age in the then-LERKS Hockey League, named after its sponsors – the Lions, Elks, Rotary and Kinsmen Clubs. At the age of seven, Nicholson asked his parents for permission to attend the league’s wind-up banquet.

“It was only then that his parents learned that he had played the entire year without telling anyone,” the plaque states. 

In 1951, his skill had become apparent and after one season with the Souris Valley Miners of the intermediate league, he was picked up by the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Humboldt Indians under coach Scott Munro. Ironically, it would be the Indians who would move to Estevan to become the Estevan Bruins in 1957.

During Nicholson’s four seasons with the Indians, he became a skilled player, highlighted by 37 goals in 48 games during the 1954-55 season, earning him all-star honours and the attention of the NHL’s Boston Bruins.

At age 19, Nicholson signed with the Boston Bruins and played 19 games during the 1955-56 and 1956-57 seasons.

Nicholson’s professional career spanned 17 seasons, ending in 1972. During this time, he played with many teams, including the Boston Bruins, Hershey Bears, Springfield Indians, Victoria Cougars, Winnipeg Warriors, San Francisco Seals and San Diego Gulls, where his career ended.

Off the ice, Nicholson participated in hockey schools in his hometown of Estevan. He died in 1978 at the age of 42 after a bout with cancer.

“Allan was known to be a man who gave 100 per cent to everything he did,” the plaque states.

John laments that Nicholson was only 42 when he died. He has fond memories of Nicholson, on and off the ice, including their visit together with another Estevan hockey icon, long-time junior hockey coach Ernie “Punch” McLean.

Mayor Roy Ludwig praised John for bringing the idea of the plaque to the city’s attention. John spoke with the previous council initially, and then it was a matter of bringing the effort together.

Ludwig hopes the plaque will reintroduce Nicholson to local fans.

“This will allow a lot of our community members to read his history, and the fact that he was in NHL, and so many of our people are not aware of that. So it’s great to be able to showcase that.”

The plaque notes the City of Estevan, the Estevan Bruins Alumni Association and the Estevan Strippers Hockey Club are honoured to recognize the life and career of Nicholson.