I am a hockey fan. I know of nothing else that makes me happier than to be sitting within a snowball’s throw of some ice, players, sticks, gloves, puck, etc.
I went to my very first NHL game in New York City at the “old” Madison Square Garden. Thanks to the internet, I found the boxscore from the game. It’s hard to read, but it was on my 10th birthday, and I got to see Red Berenson get three points… THREE OF JUST SEVEN POINTS HE SCORED THAT SEASON.
Over the next decade I discovered pot, booze, pills, and the stuff teenagers in the early 70’s in New York City made more of a priority than sports… ROCK AND ROLL!
I got a job in the music industry in 1971 and began working records to radio stations. Had some success, moved to California in 1975, down to LA from SF in January, 1976, and there I fell in love with hockey all over again, and the Los Angeles Kings were my constant source of companionship. Literally. By 1978 I was 23, a Vice President of Sire Records, and constantly hanging with members of the Kings. Smoking pot, drinking copious amounts of Molsons and Labatts, and meeting guys like Pete Weber, who didn’t indulge in any of that crap, so far as I knew, but he and Bob Miller were the Kings radio and television announcers before the decade turned. I never missed a Kings game, unless I was on the road. I had fierce fan/player battles with a moronic hulk of a defenseman named Dave Hutchison. Not to say this guy was stupid or anything, but he did get knifed by a hooker on a Vancouver street corner on an off day, while the Kings were waiting to face the Canucks. Needless to say, Dave went on IR with a “hand laceration.”
In the early 80’s, the Kings had a fantastic team … in the regular season, but in the first round of the playoffs (Best of THREE, if you can believe that) they took a dump. I still have a BOX of unused Kings playoff tickets. I think the opening round was 11 dollars!
In the late 80s, while living in NYC, I met NHL executives, Stu Hackel and Gerry Helper (among a few) and Hackel had me help edit the NHL Guide and Record Book a couple of times, and I am pretty sure my name showed up in the book at least once. It was a big deal for a nerd like me.
Perhaps not as big as the 14 minutes of my 15 minutes of fame that was used up when I had insider knowledge on the impending Wayne Gretzky trade to Los Angeles, and being the crazed-myopic Kings fan that I was, I hated to think they would mortgage the future, and felt the trade needed to be stopped. I called on my pal Stu (Hackel) and gave him my intel, and he led me to Glenn Cole in Montreal and Steve Dryden/Bob McKenzie in Toronto. Check the issue of the Hockey News from August, 1988 with the headline “The Trade,” and read about a “New York Music Exec that called to ask us to check on a rumor…” LOL, thank God my nefarious plans were thwarted, right? 🙂
I shuttled back and forth between New York and LA over the next twenty years or so. I was in the building in Toronto, when the LA Kings beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in that semi-final in 1993 that sent the Kings to the Cup finals against Montreal, and if Marty McSorley hadn’t had that illegal curve on his stick, I’d have seen my first Cup Finals.
In 1998-99 I attended my first Stanley Cup Finals game, but had to do so in Buffalo, where the Dallas Stars ended up winning the cup, on a controversial call in triple overtime.
the 1999-2000 season I was attending a boatload of New Jersey Devils games and got to see Game One of the final between the Devils and the Stars. It was a rollicking 7-3 Devils win, and although I did not get to be in attendance to celebrate the Cup (the Devils won in 6 IN Dallas,) I considered it my FIRST “Cup” team.
I moved back to LA in mid-2000, and my love affair with the Kings began again. Additionally I started flying to Manchester, NH to see the Monarchs, the team’s AHL affiliate, and my obsession with some moderate game-worn jersey collecting began.
The Kings were pretty terrible, and as dedicated as I was, I took to the internet to rip them to shreds on a few (read: thousands of) occasions. I wrote game stuff for letsgokings dot com, and was present at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft in Nashville, where I was the first to interview Dustin Brown, after his selection by the Kings that day.
I saw my first NHL game in Nashville five years later, and as I see here, I wrote about it.
Prior to that, however, a couple years before, I was finally in the building for a Cup victory… IN ANAHEIM, no less. I was one of the few Kings fans that also happened to love the Ducks. I love hockey. That Ducks team was INCREDIBLE. Sami Pahlsson, my God, the man was a beast! Pahlsson-Moen-R. Niedemayer were the best checking line I had ever seen. It was June 6, 2007 when, sitting in the absolute last row at the Honda Center I witnessed my first Cup. Glorious.
The NHL entry draft was in Los Angeles in 2010, and my friend Stu helped get me a writing gig with NHL.com — Do you know how cool it was to open my mailbox and see a check from the National Hockey League for services rendered? I know I was giddy for a while… and there was a YouTube clip to prove it. (ABSOLUTELY NOT SAFE FOR WORK IN THE FINAL FIVE SECONDS.)
The Kings needed a Cup badly. It was a 45 year wait, and I’d suffered through an awful lot of them. Finally, I got to witness the incredible. The team was not only the “8th seed” in the West, but just a month before season’s end, we were all so happy we thought we didn’t have to waste money on playoff tickets. LOL. Well, that changed in a hurry. First came a 6 game winning streak, then a couple losses, then three of four wins before the final two losses in the regular season but, with overtimes and shootouts, the Kings picked up 21 of the final 28 points in the regular season and grabbed a playoff berth. Sixteen wins later, I cried for at least a full 24 hours. Tears of joy as Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter, Vyacheslav Voynov (so the linchpin) and a cast of characters (Penner, Richards, Scuderi, Mitchell, King, Nolan, … the whole thing was surreal) made Los Angeles a TRUE hockey market from that moment forward.
There was a lockout and I moved to Nashville a day before my friend Rich Clune, in January of 2013. I knew Gerry Helper, and certainly knew of his boss, David Poile. My love for Poile was immense, because it was he and Kings GM Dean Lombardi that worked out the waiver deal that brought Clune back to the NHL, where for better or worse, he would toil under Trotz, making friends and fans, and continuing to impress management with his attitude and his work ethic on and off the ice. I learned a little more about the behind-the-scenes mechanics that the GMs occasionally go through to help a marginal player like Dicky to get regular playing time in the show. Teammates and fans both grew to love Clune, but Laviolette’s regime brought sweeping change, and after two shifts on opening night, Rich was swept to Milwaukee, never to appear in Nashville again.
I’m a hockey nerd. Here, NHL (and Kings) broadcaster, my old pal, Jim Fox and Bob Miller get to poke a little fun at how nerdy I can get. YouTube clip here.
This year has been my fifth season in Smashville, and I’ve made both friends and enemies. I sit in 207 with WONDERFUL people I have become very close to (waving to Linda, Jordana, Leslie, Sue, Steve, Valerie and of course, my dear friends, Lee and Amy and their great kids, Jack and Caroline.)
There’s so much more, but it’s 2:30am and I promised a friend I would be up at 8 and make a drive to spend some important time with him. Tonight has been insane. The loudest I have ever heard and NHL building. In fact, throw in a lot of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and whatever concerts, and it was the loudest arena I’ve ever had the privilege to attend. My head is still ringing.
The Preds were not the better team tonight, and to beat Pittsburgh (yeah, I know… it’s not necessarily Pittsburgh, but come on…) they have to play a whole lot better… and they CAN.
I wrote before Game 5 that it was time for the fans to “buck up,” because losing Johansen and Fisher was not going to deter an entire team. Plenty of people thought the Predators would lay down and die after those two injuries, but I was CERTAIN they would not. Look at the opportunities given to guys like Sissons, Watson, Gaudreau, and Jarnkrok… Move ’em up, move ’em in, MOVE DUCKS OUT! It was that simple.
After each goal tonight it sure sounded like… HEY! HEY!! HEY!!! USED DUCK!
If you can squelch a few Ducks, this team surely has the capability of taking down some Penguins! More before the Series starts, but thank you for reading. I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am to have hockey in my life.