December 17, 2007
Growing up Hockey
(LOS ANGELES, CA) -- Although I've lived in Los Angeles
going on 10 years (January 8 marks the day a decade ago
when I hit the shores of Santa Monica), I will always be
a New Yorker.
As the eldest of two brothers in a middle class family
that resided a couple of stops on the D Train from
Yankee Stadium, the game of hockey didn't really grab my
attention until I was seven-years-old, circa 1965.
My first recollection of the game was reading a game story in
the New York Times about this team called the Montreal
Canadiens who had this player named Jean Beliveau. Not only
did I pronounce the name "Gene" but I wondered if they have
female hockey players in the league.
Some say my knowledge of the game hasn't increased much since
I attended my first game not long after that at New York's
Madison Square Garden. I had the misfortune of being a New
York Rangers fan, a bad habit I gave up many years later. My
dad took me the World's Most Famous Arena and we sat far from
the action in the infamous "blue seats."
t the end of the first period, a man came up to my father and
after a brief discussion, we were led to seats in the first
row behind the penalty box; in those days you weren't jammed
in behind the sin bin and they were the best seats in the
house. I couldn't tell you if the Rangers or the Blackhawks
won that night but it didn't really matter.
Since you're reading this, I'm sure you have your own tales to
tell and yours are probably better than mine. I didn't grow up
in Canada and believe it or not, never played the game (well,
does schoolyard hockey on concrete in the Bronx count? I was a
pretty mean stand up netminder back in the day).
colleague of mine, Brian Kennedy, grew up in Montreal
and like me escaped the North for the sunny climes of
Southern California. Unlike me, Brian is a very
accomplished writer and decided to recant his
experiences in the recently released book, "Growing
While hockey started as a curiosity to me, Brian had
the advantage of generations of Canadiens fans as a
legacy when he was first introduced to the game at the
age of five. Specifically, his grandmother launched
fiery outbursts that had to be cleaned up in his
presence. While a lifetime of hockey memories were
stored in Kennedy's brain, the tipping point didn't
come until he reached Southern California.
"During the 2003 playoffs, I recalled an anecdote that didn't
even make the book," he said. "I recalled sneaking a TV up to
my room to watch the Canadiens play the St. Louis Blues and I
wrote the story. The next day I came up with another story to
write and before I knew it I had 15 stories. I thought of more
instances and disciplined myself to sit down every morning and
write one story."
Brian's original thought was not to write a book but once he
gathered s many stories, it was a logical project to pursue.
I got to 50,000 words (the final book has 95,000), I knew I
had something so I wrote every story I could recall," he
explained. "After doing that, I just wrote to the gaps in the
stories. It took me a year to give the project form and these,
the innocence of the kid, the innocence of the adult and so
A major part of any creative process has to do with birthing
ideas, songs or stories. Like any parent, an author has his
favorites and I pinned Kennedy down to what his were.
"My favorite memory was when the goal was scored by Paul
Henderson to win the 1972 Summit Series and my sister and I
were on the school bus and the bus driver threw up his hands
in celebration," Kennedy recalled. "We still talk about that
every Christmas when I go home and I watch the eighth game
with my brother-in-law."
Only in Canada , eh?
"My other favorite is about the yellow hockey stick that the
bully on the pond took," he continued. "When I do readings,
it's the one I choose most often because of its narrative
And for those that have never seen or don't like the game
(perish the thought), why would someone be motivated to pick
up his tome?
"Because it's about being a kid and loving something that
makes you who you are," the author conveyed. "It's about
passion, it's about identity, it's about collecting, and it's
about schoolyard bullies. People say, 'you wrote a book about
hockey, ' to which I reply, 'no, I didn't I wrote a book about
growing up.' "
Published by Folklore Publishing, Growing Up Hockey can be
found at most major books outlets throughout Canada and
24/7/365 at amazon.com. You can also visit the dedicated
more info. The book makes for a great holiday gift for those
who love the game or those that love a great story.
Waddling Through Confusion
Hmm, so the Anaheim Ducks find themselves in a bit of
disarray. With their shootout loss to San Jose on Sunday
evening, they stand at .500 through 35 games and holding down
the eighth playoff seed in the NHL's Western Conference. They
did get a major boost when their most irreplaceable part, Conn
Smythe winner Scott Niedermayer stepped on the ice for the
Sharks' tilt. With his return to the lineup, the Ducks hope to
return to the stellar defensive play that led this team to the
Stanley Cup this season.
Surprisingly, Anaheim is fourth from the bottom in
surrendering goals in the West, a combination of Niedermayer's
absence and a sub-par first half by Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
But you know who else has had a sub-par first half? The GM.
One of the smartest guys in the league, you know him better as
Brian Burke. His bad season actually commenced in the summer.
There is one caveat as we start our rant. I STILL feel that
once Teemu Selanne gets enough of the 3AM feedings of his new
born daughter, he'll come back to the fold and the Ducks will
stand as a good a chance of coming out of the West. But with
that said, Burke, through miscalculations and
miscommunication, had left his team very exposed.
The evidence started gathering this summer with the status of
Selanne and Niedermayer. Coming off a championship, it's the
GM's job to know the status of free agents and those veterans
considering retirement. I would believe that if Burke closer
with these two veterans, he would have known what their status
would have been long before they left for the season opener in
Of course, Niedermayer reserved the right to come back but
you'd think Burke would have more of an inkling before eating
up cap space by signing Mathieu Schneider. After just 35
games, Schneider is now targeted as one of the players to deal
for additional cap space to sign more valuable younger
And if you're talking about young, more valuable players,
you're NOT talking about Todd Bertuzzi.
Through 35 games, all Bertuzzi has proven is that he's NOT
Dustin Penner, with four goals in 21 games as all the evidence
you need. To make matters worse, Bertuzzi's lack of production
was put at the feet of solid citizen Andy McDonald. Burke not
so delicately said so when he dealt McDonald (not one of
Burke's favorites) for Doug Weight, a prospect and a pick.
After playing and winning with Selanne on his wing, McDonald
was poorly matched as could be with the lumbering Bertuzzi on
his flank, a marriage made in hell for certain. Burke claimed
that Bertuzzi needed a power center to play with him. Maybe he
should have considered the reverse, maybe you replace a 40
goal scorer with another proven one to insure your point a
game center keeps pace?
I'm sure Paul Kariya in St. Louis won't be complaining once
McDonald works some chemistry with him. I'm sure he's already
got the call from his old pal Selanne about the virtues of
McDonald and it may prevent the Finnish Flash from making one
more bow in the OC. Without Selanne as a threat, the Ducks
become as one dimensional as most of the opposition.
Burke also claimed that he didn't want to break up his
defensive corps by dealing away Sean O'Donnell instead of
McDonald. OK, O'Donnell has been a nice fit for the Ducks, but
it is his sixth team, you know? He's ultimately more
replaceable than a speedy second line center, which McDonald
becomes without effective wingers.
The deal does create cap room to sign the other golden child,
Corey Perry (Ryan Getzlaf, clearly the team's best player once
Niedermayer retired, was locked up earlier). Perry and Getzlaf
play nicely together but they really need a power forward, a
road grater, a space eater, to open up space to work those two
can work their magic, something current line mate Chris Kunitz
can't physically do.
I actually have the perfect guy for them.
Whoops, that's right, there was the matter of that ridiculous
offer sheet that Edmonton's Kevin Lowe signed him to in the
Hmm….maybe it wasn't so ridiculous after all. The Ducks'
weakness two-years ago was scoring from a secondary line, it
was the reason that Edmonton and Chris Pronger shut them down.
Frankly, at the midway point they don't even have a complete
Three years from now, Penner's deal is going to look cheap and
Burke will probably regret not signing it; after all look at
the deals that LA's Dustin Brown and Philly's Mike Richards
got since then (a 12-year deal for the ninth best center in
the league, nice work by Pat Morris, Richards' agent).
While we're killing Burke softly here, we'll give him a
mulligan for the cap clearing issues for next season because
there's no way Scott Niedermayer returns next year, yet the GM
has to clear because Scott has a contract for next season,
that's a Catch 22 or Catch 27 as the case may be.
Maybe Scott Niedermayer comes in with his swift strides and
great decision making ability and turns a mediocre defensive
team into a great one, again. Maybe Selanne comes back and
takes a bit of mileage off of Weight. Maybe Bertuzzi wakes up,
scratch that, it's not happening. Maybe Giguere rounds into
form and doesn't let in the softies he has over the last
couple of weeks.
Lots of maybes, perhaps too many maybes for the defending
champs and their fans and because of that Brian Burke just may
owe you one.
Bernstein, the man behind SCORE! Media, is a columnist for
TheFourthPeriod.com and the Los Angeles Correspondent for The
Fourth Period Magazine.