Thursday, June 07, 2007
Lord Stanley's Cup Finally Finds Stalag California
I discovered ice hockey only after I moved from the Great White North to the Stalag. Sure, others were swinging hockey sticks all around me as I grew up in frigid North Dakota, but I was way too interested in cars and driving to pay much attention.
I was in my late twenties, bringing up a strapping young son by myself, when I began casting about for something that would interest us both, that we could do together. In the "winter" of 1969, I took him to a Los Angeles Kings hockey game and we were both hooked.
There was a public ice rink, Klondike, not far from our apartment in Santa Ana, and I decided that we should learn to skate. I had skated a little as a kid, but not much. Still, it didn't take either of us very long, and we were scooting around the ice like the best of the rinkrats. We went skating two or three times a week for several years, as he grew up. We also attended the occasional LA Kings game, when time and money permitted.
When I relocated us to San Diego, after the couple of years it took me to rebuild my career there, Jim drifted more into friends and his own interests, and I had time on my hands. Hanging around an ice rink in El Cajon, I fell in with a group of guys in their thirties and forties, some of whom were very good hockey players. I bought a set of hockey gear and flopped about on the ice while learning to play the game. I played with that same group of guys for about fifteen years. I was able, during this time, to begin to learn the game as a player.
During this time, I followed professional hockey as best I could. I met and made friends with Willie O'Ree, the first black player to play in the NHL. One day, Goldie Goldthorpe, a minor league player who was the inspiration for Ogie Oglethorpe, an outrageous hockey goon in the movie Slap Shot, guested with our team. Also, on several occasions, brothers Chris and Steve Chelios guested with us.
Since I've moved back up to Orange County, and now, El Pueblo de Los Angeles, I haven't returned to playing. Not only am I a mite old, but I have become horribly out of shape. I still skate occasionally at a rink in Van Nuys, but I'd have to work a lot harder than I do to be able to play again--even with guys my own age......
Meanwhile, I had season tix for the Kings during three seasons while Wayne Gretzky played here, and Anaheim Ducks tix for one season (their second). I've followed these teams records for all these many years, in the hopes one of them would win the Stanley Cup. Of course, I've been a Kings fan a lot longer that the Ducks have been in existence, so I had hoped it'd be the Kings who won the Cup first. They, unfortunately, failed to cooperate.
So, the Stanley Cup resides in the Honda Ponda in Anaheim.
Go! Ducks! Go!