A series of N-(5,6,7-trihydroquinolinylidene)-2-benzhydrylbenzenamine ligands was synthesized and characterized by 1H/13C NMR and IR spectroscopy, and by elemental analysis. These ligands reacted with NiCl2 or NiBr2(DME) to form the title halide complexes, which were also characterized by IR spectroscopy and elemental analysis. Single crystal X-ray diffraction revealed that the representative nickel complexes crystallized as centro-symmetric dimers with chloro-bridges linking distorted octahedral nickel centers. On activation with either methylaluminoxane (MAO) or diethylaluminium chloride (Et2AlCl), all nickel pre-catalysts showed high activities for ethylene polymerization, producing polyethylene with narrow molecular weight distribution, consistent with single-site catalysis. The nature of the ligands and reaction parameters were investigated and discussed in terms of their influence on the catalytic behavior of these nickel pre-catalysts.