The Rochester Americans are pleased to announce today that the team will induct forward Scott Nichol and longtime reporter Kevin Oklobzija into the Amerks Hall of Fame as the Class of 2017. The duo was unanimously selected by the Amerks Hall of Fame Committee to join the prestigious club on Friday, March 3 when Rochester hosts the St. John’s IceCaps at The Blue Cross Arena at 7:05 p.m. on a Seneca Resorts & Casinos Legends Night.
Nichol played parts of six seasons for the Amerks from 1994-95 to 1999-00 and helped Rochester capture the 1996 Calder Cup championship during the team’s impressive run of six straight postseason appearances. In 326 career games with the Amerks, Nichol amassed 173 points on 80 goals and 93 assists while also adding 19 points (9+10) in 34 playoff contests in the red, white and blue. A two-time former captain, Nichol’s 173 points rank 37th all-time among Amerks forwards and his 813 penalty minutes are seventh-most in franchise history. In addition, he was named the organization’s recipient of the McCulloch Trophy for the 1997-98 season for his dedicated service to the Rochester community.
“It's an absolute honor to be inducted into the Rochester Americans Hall of Fame,” said Nichol. “To be recognized beside all the great hockey players and great people is very humbling. I would like to thank the Buffalo Sabres for drafting a 5-foot-8, 160-pound kid from Alberta and giving me a chance to fulfill my childhood dreams. I have so many great memories from my days here in Rochester. I fell in love with the team, the organization, my teammates, the fans and the great city of Rochester. This is why we still call Rochester home now and raise my family here.”
An 11th-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, Nichol joined the Amerks for the 1994-95 campaign after playing just two seasons of junior hockey for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. In his first season with the Amerks, the Edmonton, Alberta, native recorded 27 points (11+16) and finished fourth on the team with 136 penalty minutes while appearing in all but nine games for Rochester.
He upped his offensive contributions the following year to 31 points (14+17) in 62 games as he and the Amerks made a late-season surge during their unprecedented run to the Calder Cup Finals despite a third-place finish in the regular season. Nichol recorded 13 points (7+6) in the playoffs with perhaps his biggest goal as an Amerk coming in overtime in Game 5 against the Portland Pirates to give Rochester a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. He also made his NHL debut that season, appearing in two games for the Buffalo Sabres.
Nichol enjoyed his best season in Rochester in 1996-97 when he set career-highs in goals (22), assists (21) and points (43) to rank tied for seventh on the team in scoring. He went on to add 71 more points (33+38) over 124 games over his final three seasons with the Amerks, which included another trip to the Calder Cup Finals in 2000.
After departing Rochester following the 1999-00 campaign, Nichol rounded out his 20-year playing career by scoring 127 points (56+71) over 662 NHL games with stops in Buffalo, Calgary, Chicago, Nashville, San Jose and St. Louis. Perennially one of the NHL’s top face-off men, Nichol led the league in face-off efficiency in 2007-08 with Nashville and again during the 2009-10 season with San Jose. He enjoyed success in the playoffs, helping his teams advance to the postseason in six of his final eight seasons, including back-to-back trips to the Western Conference Finals with San Jose, before hanging up his skates for good at the end of the 2012-13 campaign.
Immediately following his retirement, Nichol returned to the Nashville Predators organization as the team’s Director of Player Development, a position he’s held since the start of the 2013-14 NHL season. In addition to his current role with Nashville, Nichol also serves as head coach of the Rochester Monarchs 2003 and 2004 squads and remains actively involved in the Rochester Americans Alumni Association.
Joining Nichol in this year’s Hall of Fame Class is Oklobzija, who holds the distinction of becoming just the second reporter in franchise history to earn the honors and first since Hans Tanner was inducted as part of the inaugural class of 1986.
“When I look at the members of the Amerks Hall of Fame, the true stalwarts, builders and champions of this franchise, I’m quite sure I don’t belong alongside them, especially since I merely chronicled the endeavors and exploits of those who wore the Amerks sweater,” said Oklobzija. “Covering this team and the American Hockey League for 31-plus seasons was much more of an honor and privilege than it was a job or vocation, and the passion and loyalty of the legions of fans fueled my desire to tell stories and inform.”
Oklobzija’s first-rate coverage of the team spanned more than four decades during his 31-plus years with the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Media Group. Since taking on the Amerks beat prior to the 1985-86 season, the Minnesota native has had the privilege of covering two Calder Cup championships (1987 and 1996) and 23 of the team’s 44 playoff appearances, including five other trips to the Calder Cup Finals. Additionally, Oklobzija has witnessed and covered four ownership changes, eight Division Championships, two regular season point championships, the continuation of hockey’s longest standing relationship between an NHL club and its AHL affiliate following the long-awaited reunion of the Amerks and Buffalo Sabres in the summer of 2011 and has worked with 10 different Amerks head coaches during his tenure. Adding to his list of professional hockey coverage includes four of the five most recent Winter Olympiads (Nagano, Japan in 1998; Salt Lake City, Utah in 2002; Torino, Italy in 2006; Sochi, Russia in 2014) for the USA Today Sports Group.
A two-time winner of the American Hockey League’s James H. Ellery Award (1992-93, 1995-96) for outstanding media coverage in the newspaper category, Oklobzija provided consistent and first-rate coverage of the Amerks and the American Hockey League in an ever-evolving industry. In addition to providing game stories, player features, previews and daily practice coverage of the Amerks for the newspaper, Oklobzija also utilized the emergence of digital media to keep the fans closely engaged and informed. His blog, appropriately named the “Hockey O-Zone,” was the most-read sports blog on democratandchronicle.com since its launch prior to the 2008-09 season, and provided fans with daily notes, quotes and anecdotes, while his utilization of Twitter to cover the team enhanced the overall media coverage of the Amerks.
Oklobzija also implemented the use of video along with his traditional methods in an effort to expand and diversify his online coverage of the team. He regularly introduced player interview videos to supplement his game stories, contributed hockey content to the D&C’s “ROC Sports Talk” podcast, and most recently, played an instrumental role in bringing Amerks game highlights to the paper’s website. Oklobzija also hosted, along with Amerks Hall of Famer Jody Gage, a meet-and-greet for fans on the concourse of The Blue Cross Arena prior to the home opener for each of the last two seasons so he could talk hockey and preview the season with Amerks fans.
In recent years, Oklobzija’s beat expanded to include not just the Amerks but the entire local hockey scene as well as Rochester’s Triple-A baseball team, but his coverage of the Amerks over the years has been a staple in Rochester sports.