“Mystery, Alaska,” the only one focused on outdoor puck, skates into our Top 10 of important hockey movies of all time

Mystery_Alaska_Hockey_GalleryNeed a Hollywood primer on what it’s like in the world of outdoor puck?
In the 1999 film, “Mystery, Alaska,” Russell Crowe plays the sheriff of the fictitious small town way up in the Last Frontier, but he may be more well known as the veteran player trying to keep his spot in what’s called the “Saturday Game” – a four-on-four game of pond hockey where the whole town comes to watch.
Mystery-Alaska-Hockey-Movie-580x435Eventually, a Sports Illustrated writer (played by Hank Azaria) who is a native of the town does a story about the game. A promoter latches onto it, and suddenly the New York Rangers are dispatched to this place to play a nationally televised exhibition game against the locals, coached by the town judge (Burt Reynolds).
Mystery-Alaska_lThe place is inundated with all kinds of unwanted attention. Even famed hockey studio host Donnie Shulzhoffer (Mike Myers), a spin-off of Don Cherry, is credited with the line: “This is hockey, OK? It’s not rocket surgery.”
This “Mystery” story, co-written by famed TV producer and Kings fan David E. Kelly, is about the closest thing in movie form that conveys some of the simplistic beauty of what outdoor hockey is all about, and how it can get sidetracked by a lot of media attention.
Kind of like the L.A. version of the “Saturday Game” at Dodger Stadium between the Kings and Ducks?
There is a common denominator – Kings analyst Jim Fox, who played himself as a studio host in “Mystery, Alaska,” will be working for the NHL Network on Saturday’s telecast.
Again, as himself.

On our own list of the Top 10 hockey movies we’d watch if they popped up on cable one Sunday afternoon, there’s no mystery — “Mystery, Alaska” makes it easily. In no particular order (unless you’re reading between the lines), we’d also jump on:

slap-shot-hansons-premiere_scruberthumbnail_1== “Slap Shot” (1977):
slapshot28129Sports Illustrated noted once that the late film critic Gene Siskel said his greatest regret when the film was release was giving it a lukewarm review. He later decided it was worth including as one of the greatest American comedy movies of all time. The 50th anniversary issue of GQ magazine in 2007 included it on a list of the “30 films that changed men’s lives.” Paul Newman as player-coach Reggie Dunlop. The Hanson Brothers puttin’ on the foil. Ogie Ogilthorpe. Ned Braden skating in his jock strap. The Charlestown Chiefs will live in silver-screen infamy. (And please, do not locate 2002’s “Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice,” with Stephen Baldwin and Gary Busey, or 2008’s “Slap Shot 3: The Junior League.” Both may include reprised roles of the the Hanson Brothers, but they can’t save either one of these straight-to-DVD sequels from the penalty box for low-shticking). Continue reading

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Play It Forward: Jan. 20-26 on your calendar — Hockey gods, refrain from rain, and grant one cool evening of puckish pleasure at Chavez Ravine for the Kings and Ducks


An artist rendering of what this could look like, with a roller hockey rink near home plate and a beach volleyball court in left field. Courtesy/NHL

An artist rendering of what this could look like, with a roller hockey rink near home plate and a beach volleyball court in left field. Courtesy/NHL

KINGS vs. DUCKS at Dodger Stadium, Saturday at 6:30 p.m., NBC Sports Net:
Catholic Archbishop Jose Gomez sent a tweet out last week, asking for all of those in Los Angeles to pray for rain. “Send down your rains from the heaven in this time of drought,” he pleaded. “California needs rain!” Heavens to Gretzky. We understand the gravity of this request. We’ve been going through the driest winter in years, and the ramifications are already being felt.
nhl-stadium-series-press-conference-02But for mercy’s sake, and in all due respect, could the hockey gods divert any wet stuff away from Chavez Ravine this Saturday night, at least for a few hours? When the puck drops for this one-of-a-kind event in L.A. sports history, a full house at Dodger Stadium will be witness to something that could be considered its own kind of religious experience.  Especially if there’s no bad weather, or incredible heat wave hanging over everything.
“This is a wonderful day, not only for Kings fans and for Ducks fans, but for the NHL itself,” said Kings Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, who will be in attendance. “It shows how much the game has grown. I remember sitting and watching on New Year’s Days, the games in Buffalo and Philly, in cold and snow, and always said it would be so cool to see it played in Dodger Stadium in 65 degrees (with fans) in shorts and T-shirts. The dream is going to come true.” Dodger Stadium has hosted all kinds of things over its 50-plus years. The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Michael Jackson. The Harlem Globetrotters, championship boxing matches and an Elvis Presley movie. Oh, right, Pope John Paul II also popped by in September, 1987 for a memorable Mass. It didn’t rain that day, either.
Also: The NHL Stadium Series continues when the N.Y. Rangers face the N.J. Devils at Yankee Stadium, Sunday at 9:30 a.m., Channel 4.

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When ‘The Professor’ played the role of ‘Rusty,’ the Yankee pitcher griping about Lou Gehrig booting a grounder

Thanks to a great find by a keeper of the game Dennis D’Agostino:
That’s the late Russell Johnson, aka “The Professor” from “Gilligan’s Island” who died Thursday, playing in maybe his second greatest role — as “Rusty,” the Yankees pitcher in the 1956 CBS “Climax Mystery Theater” made-for-TV movie version of “The Lou Gehrig Story.”
(OK, maybe his third greatest. We did enjoy his work in “Attack of the Crab Monsters.”)
From Television City in Hollywood to your YouTube channel, just go to the five-minute mark of this black-and-white gem to see Rusty get all huffy with Bill Dickey about Gehrig’s poor performance. Soon, Gehrig (not played by “Pride of the Yankees” Oscar winner Gary Cooper, but someone named Wendell Corey) steps in to assure Rusty that it was a “my bad” moment. Classy.
(That’s also L.A. legend Sam Balter in the role of the sportscaster.)
Too bad the real Professor, Casey Stengel, wasn’t around to settle this rhubarb.
And if you’ve got the time, watch the whole drama play out on your computer, starting with the Chrysler car ads. Then go to the 59:20 mark to find out how you can give to the “mental health campaign.” Kind of explains who the target audience was for this series.

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Posted: media column version 01.17.14: Drop the Doppler references — Whether or not you care about the weather for the NFC, AFC title games, it’ll get talked about

Peyton Manning practices as the Denver Broncos' Englewood, Colorado facility on Dec. 6. 2013. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

Peyton Manning practices as the Denver Broncos’ Englewood, Colorado facility on Dec. 6. 2013. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

What made it into this week’s media column, posted Thursday night:
Everyone’s talking about the weather expected for Denver and Seattle this Sunday. If it’s 50 degrees and clear, will that draw fewer viewers? CBS and Fox aren’t so much concerned — wait until the Super Bowl rolls around in early February for the real hand-wringing.
With that, we’re also covering these talks that will open up for a network to nab part of the NFL’s Thursday night game package, a new feature on CollegeInsider.com posting the documentary “Basketball Guru: The Pete Newell Story,” and a condensed version of the Baseball Reliquary’s decision to include Bob Costas on its 2014 ballot, but not Vin Scully.

What wasn’t included but could have easily been incorporated:

== “Pretty much everyone who gets in trouble ends up calling me,” former CBS Sports studio host, former “Access Hollywood” host and former Fox Sports Radio host Pat O’Brien fesses up to Seth Davis in the next installment of the “Seth Davis Show,” which will be posted on Friday at 10:30 a.m. on CampusInsiders.com.

== The Southern California Sports Broadcasters are offering a limited number of tickets for public sale to their 23rd annual award lunch, set for Monday, Jan. 27 at Lakeside Country Club in Toluca Lake. The tickets at $75 each can be obtained through Russell Ono at 805-987-8366. KNBC-Channel 4 sportscaster Fred Roggin is the newest Hall of Fame inductee. Also honored will be former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley, Dr. Frank Jobe, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, UCLA baseball coach John Savage (also named this week the 2013 coach of the year by the L.A. Sports Council) and Mater Dei basketball coach Gary McKnight, as well as winners in various radio and TV sportscasting categories.

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Who’s new on the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals ballot? Bob Costas … but not Vin Scully … because …

This original post Tuesday at 7 p.m. was updated Wednesday at 10 a.m.:

The list of 50 candidates made eligible for 2014 induction into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals includes 13 newbies.
One is Bob Costas.
One isn’t Vin Scully.
csullysThat revelation isn’t meant to pit one famed baseball broadcaster against another. If anything, both should be candidates based on merits and criteria of the organization, and at this point, it’s a bit more surprising that based on the altruistic goals of the Pasadena-based non-profit, both have not been honored already.
No doubt, over the years, we’ve had our favorites come up for discussion and inclusion by this selection committee appointed by the Baseball Reliquary board of directors. But more often than not, we’ve been more intrigued by who the group has uncovered through spirited research and historical digs that result in the eternilization of those who otherwise would not get their due in the “People’s Hall of Fame.”
At date, the list is already at 45 who have been given their plaques by Reliquary executive director Terry Cannon, and each one can be mighty justified.
It’s just that this latest ballot kind of struck us as a case where … if we were to nicely offer our two cents … and would someone be paying attention that might be open to third-party guidance …
Is there an oversight committee?
The only real guidelines for the ballot construction, as per Cannon’s cannon, is that it be comprised of “individuals – from the obscure to the well-known – who have altered the baseball world in ways that supersede statistics.”
Neither Costas nor Scully have stats to base their impact on the game. Just fan connection that goes deep for both, in different degrees probably. Scully, put into the Baseball Hall of Fame’s broadcasting wing with the Ford C. Frick Award in 1982, has the loyal Dodger fans base as well as a respected network career going back to 1950.
Costas, without a connection to a local team, has an exceptional network broadcasting career for decades on behalf of the game. He’s not in the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Frick winner, as network broadcasters are finally getting a bit more of their due and it should only be a matter of time when he is recognized for that.
In the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine, there are several baseball authors and writers. But no broadcasters. Yet. Continue reading

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