RIP to the great Jimmy “The Good Doctor” Nehls. No, he was not a medical doctor. He was “Doc”! Cross a hockey player with an entrepreneur with a stand-up comedian…that was Jimmy Nehls. He was the guy you know you had to get through. The guy that would most definitely look you in the eye. And window dressed behind a constant playful nature lay the heart of a fiercely loyal businessman. There was not a ton of “gray area” with Jim Nehls. You either got him or you didn’t. Fortunately, I did. It came after a completely unwarranted ass-chewing I took because of his mistake. It just took me a couple of weeks to figure out that the guy on the team that seemed to hate me the most, was a guy that would be a life’s asset til the end.
Some people wear who they are on their sleeve. I don’t believe Doc really did. From a distance, he was an attention-getter. He’d be in the middle of the diamond, directing traffic, or have the entire beer shack at Cenni’s hanging on his every word while he tells a story everyone has heard 15 times before. He was THAT guy, and he was great at it. But the personal guy was really the exact opposite…very guarded, extremely focused, plan-oriented and was absolutely going to take care of the people he was responsible for. He did it how he saw fit, he made no apologies for it and he earned a lifetime of respect and gratitude for it from those who benefitted most.
My best “Doc” story that I told at his memorial service was…in 2012 or 13, I ended up staying at Doc’s place in AZ for a couple of days. When I got back I thanked him several times and asked why did it seem like his whole neighborhood was watching me while I moved around? He said “well, the old lady and her husband across the street are kind of a pain in the ass and my buddy next door and the guy down the street are huge sports fans. So I told em to keep an eye out because John Kruck was going to be staying at my place for a couple of days”. And you know damn well, that is exactly what he did. Whether it be a semi-elaborate hoax or a stinging one-liner, you knew you were loved when you were mixed in with this dude.
The team would always kinda bitch that we never got to play in the 2 big tournaments because our LC was from Wilmot and or LF was from about 300 yards into IL in Winthrop Harbor. Nellie didn’t give a shit about that. Go get Razz to sponsor us, go out to the county and win a tourney and make $600 bucks while someone in KTown uses guys from different parts of the country to win a trophy. Then lay $300 across the bar at the Brat and go give the other $300 to Mike and Lance Cenni and you NEVER have to worry about asking for money. Jimmy Nehls didn’t care who the other team was…maybe more so than any guy I ever played with. He just didn’t care. He knew what his team could do, and he knew he was gonna have a good time with em after, regardless of the outcome of the game.
To close, let me say a few things I know. I know the man adored his wife. I know he was immensely proud of his sons. And I can only imagine what an amazing grandpa he was. I know he was a playful, quick-witted, quick reactions winner. And I know that anyone that knew him, and certainly those closest to him, are experiencing a great loss in their lives. I am most thankful to Doc for unconditional tough love. Literally up until the last time I saw him, I kinda felt like that 22-year-old kid that was on the wrong end of his angst…Nehls was the kinda guy that could make you feel comfortable in the role and then he knew you understood him. I feel fortunate that I did…and I know EVERY guy on our team feels the same way. RIP to The Good Doctor.