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SoCal Hockey Community Shaken by Death of Nic Kerdiles in Motorcycle Crash

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SoCal Hockey Community Shaken by Death of Nic Kerdiles in Motorcycle Crash

Nicolas Kerdiles (58) of the Anaheim Ducks looks on during the first period of a game against the Boston Bruins at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2017. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Dan Wood

Dan Wood

9/25/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

The Southern California hockey community is reeling after one of its more accomplished members, one-time Anaheim Ducks forward Nic Kerdiles, died early the morning of Sept. 23 following a motorcycle crash in Nashville, Tennessee.
Mr. Kerdiles, who was 29, grew up in Irvine, California, was captain of the LA Selects’ talent-laden, 1994-birth-year team, and saw limited duty with the Ducks, becoming the only homegrown Orange County product to ever suit up for the NHL club.
Those who knew Mr. Kerdiles well, including his former LA Selects coach, Louis Pacella, are struggling mightily to grasp the reality of his death.
“Nic was 29 years old. He’s a young kid. He should be beginning his life with a family and everything else,” Mr. Pacella told The Epoch Times. “You just get sick to your stomach thinking about what happened, and why, and how, and all that stuff. He should be in an NHL training camp right now, in the prime of his career. It didn’t work out that way, and he’s gone.”
Nicolas Kerdiles (58) of the Anaheim Ducks skates prior to a game against the Boston Bruins at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2017. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Nicolas Kerdiles (58) of the Anaheim Ducks skates prior to a game against the Boston Bruins at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2017. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

A preliminary investigation by Nashville police determined that while riding a motorcycle at approximately 3:30 a.m. Central time, Mr. Kerdiles ran a stop sign and collided with the driver’s side of a BMW sports-utility vehicle at the intersection of 14th Avenue North and Wheless Street in a residential area of north Nashville. Neither driver showed signs of impairment, and no charges were expected, police said.
Mr. Kerdiles died after being transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
“He’s always been such a kind-hearted, smart guy that you just never imagined something like that could happen to,” Christian Rendino, a former LA Selects teammate of Kerdiles, told The Epoch Times. “When you see someone who was such a leader for so many years on such a successful team, you just always expect success from someone like that. The thing that hits the deepest is his family. His sisters and him were super close. I used to spend the night over there, and you could just tell how close they were.”
Born in Lewisville, Texas, Mr. Kerdiles spent his early childhood in France before his primarily French-speaking family relocated to Irvine. He is survived by his father Michel, mother Nathalie, and sisters Marine and Mailys.
Early reports of his death headlined his former engagement to reality television personality Savannah Chrisley, something that rubbed Mr. Pacella the wrong way.
“That’s not what defines Nic, and that’s not who he was,” Mr. Pacella said. “Nic was more than a hockey player. He was a great young man. He had a lot of potential. I know he was looking forward to the next chapter in his life.”
Reaction and support arrived quickly from the hockey world, including a social-media post on X by former Ducks coach Dallas Eakins, who had coached Mr. Kerdiles with the club’s American League farm team in San Diego.
Hockey player Nicolas Kerdiles (L). (Courtesy of USA Hockey)

Hockey player Nicolas Kerdiles (L). (Courtesy of USA Hockey)

“I am absolutely heartbroken to see this news,” Mr. Eakins wrote from Australia, where he was representing the NHL Coaches Association during the league’s preseason foray to Melbourne. “Nic was an amazing kid who always put others first. He constantly had a positive effect and influence on his teammates, friends, and family’s lives. May his kind soul rest in peace.”
Mr. Kerdiles left the LA Select ’94s, perennial participants in USA Hockey’s national-championship tournaments, at age 16 to play for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He starred for two years there, winning two gold medals in the under-18 World Championships before excelling for two seasons at the University of Wisconsin.
Selected by the Ducks in the second round of the 2012 NHL draft, Mr. Kerdiles ultimately played in three regular-season games and four Stanley Cup playoff contests for Anaheim in 2017 and 2018. He had one career point, an assist in the 2017 Western Conference final playoff series against the Nashville Predators.
The Ducks traded him to the Winnipeg Jets in 2018 for another Southern California product, forward Chase De Leo of La Mirada. Mr. Kerdiles, however, appeared in only three games for Winnipeg’s American League affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, in 2018-19.
Plagued by repeated concussions, he retired from hockey after that. By all accounts, he had become a very successful real estate agent in Nashville, but there were reportedly some dark times along the way.
T.J. Sneath, another former LA Selects teammate who is still playing professional hockey, had remained in close touch with Mr. Kerdiles through the years. The two last spoke maybe two weeks ago.
Nicolas Kerdiles (58) of the Anaheim Ducks moves around Brandon Carlo (25) of the Boston Bruins during the third period of a game at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2017. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Nicolas Kerdiles (58) of the Anaheim Ducks moves around Brandon Carlo (25) of the Boston Bruins during the third period of a game at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2017. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

“The mental struggles, I know he had kind of gotten a grasp on in the last couple of months,” Mr. Sneath told The Epoch Times. “I know he was going through a hard time mentally this time last year. I definitely reached out more often when his career ended because I knew it was under circumstances that weren’t going to leave him in a good headspace, kind of unfair circumstances that I knew he would struggle with. He did, but like everything else in his life, he found a way to get through it. He always found a way to make things work.”
Mr. Pacella, who called it “more than a coincidence” that his first-born son is named Nicholas, considered Mr. Kerdiles to be part of his family.
The former LA Selects coach thought back to the first time the two met, at tryouts for the 2004 team that would represent Southern California in the prestigious Brick Invitational tournament for 10-year-olds in Edmonton, Alberta.
“He was in a green roller hockey jersey, and he wasn’t very good, but he had the biggest smile on his face, and he loved it,” Mr. Pacella recalled. “He worked so hard, and he made the team. That whole following season, he was the worst kid on the team, and he went from that to one of the most highly recruited kids at 16 years old I’ve ever seen come out of California.”
USA's No. 17 Nicolas Kerdiles - 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Francois Laplante/HHOF-IIHF Images)

USA's No. 17 Nicolas Kerdiles - 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Francois Laplante/HHOF-IIHF Images)

Everything changed one summer when Mr. Kerdiles sprouted to more than 6-feet tall and grew into his body.
“After that, his career took off, and everyone looked at Nic as kind of the standard-setter,” Mr. Rendino, the former LA Selects teammate of Kerdiles, said. “When we needed a big goal or we needed a big faceoff [win], it was Nic’s job to step up and do that. He was our leader. He was our go-to guy. We all followed Nic. That’s for damn sure.”
Perhaps the only person unimpressed with Mr. Kerdiles was Mr. Kerdiles himself.
“Nic was kind of a phenom from the time he was 14, 15 years old, and that guy never carried an ego with him,” Mr. Sneath, the former LA Selects teammate, said. “That was one thing I always loved and respected about Nic. He treated everybody with a level of respect that you just automatically wanted to give back to him.”
Dan Wood

Dan Wood

Author

Dan Wood is a community sports reporter based in Orange County, California. He has covered sports professionally for some 43 years, spending nearly three decades in the newspaper industry and 14 years in radio. He is an avid music fan, with a strong lean toward country and classic rock.

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