Darnell Nurse: “I feel like I’ve been blamed for everything from a goal against to the traffic on Stony Plain”

Photo credit:Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
By Woz
11 months ago
Darnell Nurse is one of the core pieces for the Edmonton Oilers but out of those core pieces, the player who gets the most heat out of anyone. Nurse speaks on a variety of topics on the Mitts Off Podcast with Luke Gazdic from his experience as a teammate to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Charitable initiatives as he was nominated for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, and he even gives his thoughts on the big ticket he signed that Oilers fans love to bring up whenever mentioning Darnell Nurse.
Let’s start off with the contract, here’s what Nurse had to say about the pressure that comes with signing a deal of that magnitude.
“I mean there was expectation before I signed the contract, of what I think I’m capable of performing and being at each and every night. I think the value or whatever you want to describe it is going to bring, I mean I’ve played in a high-pressure market since I first came into the league like it’s, it’s great. Me, personally I love it because there’s that juice, fire in the summer”
When it comes to the naysayers, Nurse heard them loud and clear.
“I mean you also have to take a lot of stuff with a grain of salt, like sometimes I feel like I’ve been blamed for everything from a goal against to the traffic on Stony Plain, right so like it’s just you have to be really cognizant of what the pressure you put on yourself.”
“There’s no one that’s gonna expect more out of me than me and that’s been something that has been instilled in me since I’ve been very young, so yeah there’s pressure that comes along with that.”
Now this is where my respect for Nurse went straight up and it’s because of what he did with all that money he earned. No doubt I’d do the same if I were in his shoes.
“One of the cooler things that has come from all this is like my parents got to retire last year, right, those are people made like sacrifices like you can’t put a value on that so like any pressure that you get from someone else, I couldn’t even imagine the pressure that (his parents) that they were going through when they’re trying to support three people you know to play their sports and still keep the lights on.”
“That’s why for me the pressure will never be more than I’m gonna put on myself, secondly I think any time that you’ve earned and put yourself in the position to play a lot of minutes and be a big part of your team, you don’t take that lightly, that’s a responsibility I’ve always wanted, that’s a responsibility I feel like I need to earn each and every day also and then you know there’s also a thank you to like the owners and management and my teammates because you know they trust that I could do that job each and every day and you don’t want to let them down.”
Say what you will about Darnell but his mindset is the reason why he’s in the position he is in today and it’s one that many could apply to themselves. It’s easy to be negative and that’s the feeling Nurse get’s from hockey media as well.
“I find the media, especially hockey media it’s so much about the negativity and trying to knock down and bring people down and look for the flaws in each player and each team in each game. I think, you know, for us to bring that positive attitude and to be able to believe in ourselves, be able to work for that belief because you can’t just say, ‘Hey I’m going to be a great player today’ and not work the day before and not come out for practice and put your skates on and lace them up and be ready to go like we have to work for our belief but we gotta believe that we are a great team because I believe we are”
Now this stemmed from Gazdic asking about next year and getting over the hump. For Nurse, it’s all about mindset.
“I don’t think there’s much rocket science behind it, it’s coming in, committing to the way that we want to play and bringing that work ethic that we need each and every day to keep chipping away at, look at the teams that have won in the past seems like before they do it everyone was getting frustrated and you can’t be discouraged, can’t be discouraged by failure that’s the biggest thing.
“For us to be able to stick with it to not get frustrated in the process that this game puts you through each and every year and believe in ourselves.
It might be just me, but it sounds like Darnell has a future in motivational speaking. Trust the process, stay patient and it will pay off. Then again, Nurse will have plenty of options post-hockey based on what he does off the ice and on road trips.
“Ended up taking a few real estate courses because I always loved real estate since I was young and I’m actually currently still taking courses, I’m with the UBC starter School of Business and I’m taking this thing called like the Diploma of Urban Land economics so I take a course per term so I’m taking foundational mathematics real estate, I’m doing that right now, I did micro-macro”
He mentions that he got back into taking classes during the pandemic and that a David Goggins book that a friend gave him is what really pushed him to challenge both his mind and body.
There’s no question he’s someone who loves to give back and here’s what motivated him to do so.
“I was given a great opportunity to play a sport that I love and make lots of money and then to be able to find some causes that were really near and dear to me.”
“It might’ve been during the pandemic I was sitting down with my mom and talking, I want to help out some charities because I honestly just during that time you do a lot of self-reflection right so I was like I want to find some causes that are near and dear to me and we had gone and visited a few places but I couldn’t really pinpoint something that had all the markers that I really wanted so when I was in Hamilton I said why don’t we do a scholarship at my high school.”
And next thing you know Nurse worked with the high school and put together a scholarship for two kids to get $10,000 each for four years to go towards their education.
He also does charitable work with Free Play For Kids here in Edmonton.
Of course, Gazdic has to bring up the stars of the Oilers, here’s how Nurse describes Leon Draisaitl.
“He’s like one of my best buddies. He’s just honest you know like if he’s having, if he doesn’t want to talk to somebody like he’s not hiding that, he comes in and he’s in a bad mood, he’s in a bad mood, if he’s in a good mood, he’s in a good mood. But he’s, you talk about competitors and people who just want to win and care about winning and care about, he has a genuine care about making other guys better, he brings that every day, I think as a leader he brings a lot of things that you know me, myself personally I’m like okay I need to be a little bit more like that, you know to come in each and every day and expect to be at the top of my game.”
“There’s an expectation that he has and he brings with a little bit of fire, a little bit of juice and he doesn’t hide the way he feels  and I think as a teammate it just brings out the best in everybody.”
What I loved about this interview was how Gazdic was able to get Nurse to shed light on so many areas of his life. I was surprised to hear him speak about the contract that will forever be linked with Nurses’ play, and I appreciate his honesty there because I’ve always wondered how Darnell handles all the noise about him.
We learned so much about who he is as a person because of this interview. I’ve always liked Nurse and rooted for him, but now my respect for him has gone up even higher. And big credit to Luke Gazdic for putting this together, I recommend you give it a listen to learn so much more about Darnell Nurse.

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