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Islanders top pick Nelson comes from family rich in hockey tradition

Brock Nelson is interviewed by the media during

Brock Nelson is interviewed by the media during the New York Islanders rookie camp. (July 7, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

It didn't take Brock Nelson long to realize he came from a family rich with hockey tradition.

Nelson said he was only 7 years old when he first placed his uncle's Olympic gold medal around his neck and proudly sported his jersey for some family photographs. His uncle - Dave Christian - was a member of the "Miracle on Ice" U.S. men's hockey team that won gold in Lake Placid in 1980.

"That was pretty crazy," said Nelson, who was taken in the first round (30th overall) by the Islanders last month. "That's when it first hit me."

But the formidable hockey lineage doesn't end at "Uncle Dave." Nelson's grandfather, Bill Christian, and great-uncle, Roger Christian, also won Olympic gold as part of the 1960 U.S. hockey team.

Nelson, who scored a goal in last night's Orange vs. Blue scrimmage at Nassau Coliseum, represents the family's new generation of hockey players.

The 18-year-old center had 39 goals and 34 assists in 25 games for Warroad High School this past season. That earned him recognition as a finalist for Minnesota's Mr. Hockey Award and prompted general manager Garth Snow to trade up into the first round to grab him.

And with his first prospect camp under his belt and college career ahead - he'll be playing at the University of North Dakota this year - Nelson will add some experience to the raw talent that made him so attractive at this year's draft.

Nelson's decision to play for the Fighting Sioux was not random, either. UND happens to be the alma mater of who else? Uncle Dave, who said he couldn't have been happier for his nephew on draft day.

"It was great," Christian said when reached by phone at his home in Moorhead, Minn. "I was very proud of Brock and thrilled to see him be drafted in the first round."

Nothing like seeing the family tradition continue.

"There's something to be said for bloodlines," said Islanders director of pro scouting Ken Morrow, who played with Christian on the 1980 Olympic team. "I don't know how you measure that, but I think it's really positive for a young kid to have that background, that history, that DNA, maybe.

"When I watched Brock the last couple of days, he carried himself really well out there. He didn't look out of place for a high school kid. He looked like he belonged."

Christian, who drove Nelson to the airport before his big week of draft festivities and gifted him with a book on sports psychology for the trip, said he and his family members are always willing to provide his nephew with direction when needed.

"This is his time and his experience, but if he's wondering about anything, we're always available to steer him or guide him a little bit," Christian said.

His best piece of advice to Nelson at this stage? "To enjoy it and not be in a rush," Christian said. "Anything he puts his mind to, whatever it is, he can accomplish."

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