SUMMERSIDE – He was one of the National Hockey League’s best-known battlers on the ice but now Chris Nilan is involved in a bigger battle off the ice – to bring an end to bullying.
© MIke Carson/Journal Pioneer
Former NHL start Chris Nilan talks to students at Parkside Elementary School about preventing bullying at their school. Nilan’s visit to Summerside was sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club of Summerside
The former NHL star was at Parkside Elementary School Tuesday to speak to students from grades 4 to 6 on how to help stop bullying.
“I’m going to try and educate them about the problem of bullying and the effect it can have on kids,” Nilan said. “I’m trying to empower kids to no longer be bystanders. Be defenders or up standers. I try and get kids to pay more attention to being kind, having empathy or sympathy for other kids when they’re going through things. I try and let them know how sick a behvaiour bullying is.”
Nilan said along with the young people being empowered, there has to be parental involvement, teacher and principal involvement l to help children deal with the issue of bullying.
“Sometimes they don’t get the help they think they should get,” he said. "Sometimes they go to a teacher and don’t get the help that they need when they’ve been bullied. So, they won’t go the next time if they don’t get the help. You’ve got to let them know to keep going, be persistent and demand that they get help.”
Nilan said he is not telling teachers how to do their job. His message is aimed at the students.
“Schools today, if they don’t have a comprehensive program to deal with it, they're doing a disservice to their kids,” he said.
Nilan has always been community minded and when he moved back to Montreal he wanted to give something back.
“I started doing this when I got back to Montreal a couple of years ago,” he said. “I’ve always been involved the community. It was a way for me to get back involved with the community of Montreal.
Nilan he became interested in the problem of bullying when a young girl from his home state of Massachusetts took her own life.
“I was drawn to this by a girl named Phoebe Prince, who ended her life because she was taunted and bullied and terrorized for months and never got the help that she deserved,” he said. “When I read that and read about all of these other kids committing suicide, I think we can all do more, not just teachers but parents educators, politicians, police, everybody. Everybody can get their hand in. Anybody can understand the bevhaviour. There’s no quick fix or easy answer but there are things kids should know that they can do to try and get it to stop.”
Nilan intends to continue his efforts to stop bullying and said so far the response from students and teachers and principals has been good.
“There have been a lot of positives. It’s been a good thing.”