N.L.-born player ready to make the leap to pro soccer with CPL contract
He was raised in England and studied in the United States, but Daniel Nimick is set to become the first Newfoundland and Labrador-born player to play in Canada's top soccer league.
Nimick, born in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, signed a contract with the Halifax Wanderers of the Canadian Premier League on Feb. 17, bringing him back to Atlantic Canada to begin his professional soccer career.
"I've bounced around all over the place," he said.
Nimick, 22, was born in Happy Valley-Goose Bay while his father was stationed there with the Royal Air Force.
The family moved back to the England just after Nimick's first birthday, eventually settling in Harrogate in North Yorkshire. He joined the youth program at Leeds United, now of the English Premier League, where he played until he was 16.
Nimick joined his local side, Harrogate Town, in England's fourth division, before heading to the U.S. for college, playing with Western Michigan University in the NCAA.
Before signing with the Wanderers, the Vancouver Whitecaps also selected Nimick in the second round of the 2023 Major League Soccer SuperDraft.
Now Nimick is ready to make the jump to the CPL on his first professional contract.
"It's going to be a high standard. It's going to be higher than anything I've played at before," he said.
"I've watched games of Halifax and different teams in the league, and I'm confident that I can play at that level. I'm excited to test myself at a standard that I haven't experienced before."
Nimick's time in Labrador was short, but it has opened up opportunities for him in his soccer career.
He said a Canadian passport made life a bit easier while he played in the States, but it also makes him an easier fit on Canadian pro teams, which are limited to just a few international players.
According to the CPL's 2022 roster rules and regulations, a team's primary roster has to have at least three Canadian domestic players but can have no more than seven international players.
"Having that Canadian [citizenship] has really helped with me taking up a domestic spot on a team instead of having to use up an international roster spot, which helps out Halifax and also helps out me with getting contracts," he said.
Nimick said he's played several positions in his career but has developed into a defender with a scoring touch.
"I'm a pretty physical defender, but I think my time at right back and in the midfield has meant that my passing and physical ability is pretty good for a centre-back," he said.
"I think that's what appealed to Halifax and to Patrice [Gheisar], who's the coach there."
The team's sporting director, Matt Fegan, says that's the kind of player the Wanderers are after and jumped at the chance to sign Nimick.
"His representatives kind of made it aware to us that he was going to be available, then we moved pretty quickly for him. Obviously, the regional connections, things like that, made it a nice transition for him and some connection there, which is really good," said Fegan.
"He's also a terrific ball-playing defender, which is the style of play that we like to play."
Fegan said signing players like Nemick help to grow the game in Atlantic Canada and build bridges with local fans.
"Anytime you can show that there's players that have started here, or grown up here, or moved here and developed their game while they've been here and have found their way into the professional environment, I think what that does is, it gives the next generation of player some inspiration," he said.
"There's also an aspect where the fan base as well like to have a connection to some folks and maybe see a little bit of themselves in players that are out on the pitch."
While registration and participation in soccer is actually down slightly, Fegan said there is some measured optimism about the the growth of the game in the region. He said the Wanderers hope to have as many as six Atlantic Canadian players in the squad within the next few years.
It's possible that some other Newfoundland and Labrador players may also soon join Nemick in Halifax.
Felly Elonda, Jacob Grant, Owen Sheppard, Hashem Khalifa and Harry Carter all took part in the Wanderers' under-23 and reserve team camp for university soccer players last week.