When Chicago Wolves assistant coach Bob Nardella was growing up in Melrose Park, the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame was located next door in Elmwood Park. His father, Robert, relished taking his son to the institution’s conventions hosted in Rosemont.
“It was a big thing for my father,” Nardella said. “He took me all the time. There would be athletes and everyone else there. You could walk right up to their table, take a picture with them, get an autograph.”
Bob Nardella’s late father would be delighted to know his son has been selected for induction into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. The announcement was made Saturday night at Allstate Arena during the Wolves’ American Hockey League season opener against the Rockford IceHogs.
“It’s a great honor,” Nardella said. “You look at some of the names that are in there…there are some NAMES. Italian-Americans are proud people and we like to support each other.”
The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame was founded in 1978 and the first induction ceremony featured Lou Ambers, Eddie Arcaro, Charlie Trippi, Gino Marchetti, Dom DiMaggio and Joe DiMaggio. In addition, Vince Lombardi’s widow, Marie, attended to accept the honor on behalf of her late husband.
Over 40-plus years, membership in the Hall has grown to nearly 300 inductees — and the NIASHF possesses such artifacts as Mario Andretti’s Indy 500 race car, Rocky Marciano’s first heavyweight championship belt and Matt Biondi’s Olympic gold medals.
Nardella joins their ranks thanks to a 30-year professional hockey career that includes three championships in nine seasons with the Chicago Wolves (1998, 2000 and 2002) and two appearances on Italy’s Olympic team (1998 and 2006). The prolific defenseman ranks second on the Wolves’ all-time list in games (476), fifth in assists (239) and sixth in points (298). He’s in his fifth season as a Wolves assistant coach, which was preceded by two years as the team’s skating and skills coach.
This year’s NIASHF induction ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 10, with more details forthcoming.
The Wolves return to Allstate Arena on Saturday, Oct. 23, to face the Milwaukee Admirals on Breast Cancer Awareness Night. To get the best deals on tickets, contact a Wolves representative here or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.