Kings’ Nick Nickson gets the Hockey Hall call — he’s joining Bob Miller as a Foster Hewitt recipient

i-0373ab8727acc078f193d3298ebfe656-GYI0062132446_crop_450x500Nick Nickson, the Kings’ radio voice for the last quarter century and a member of the organization as a broadcaster about to start his 35th year in the fall, has been named the latest Foster Hewitt Memorial Award winner for outstanding contributions to broadcasting, the Hockey Hall of Fame announced in a release today.
That gives the franchise three Hall of Famers — current TV play-by-play man Bob Miller was the recipient of the same award 15 years ago.
Jiggs McDonald, who called Kings’ games from their inception in 1967 to 1972, got the award in 1990 after his career included calling games for the Atlanta Flames and N.Y. Islanders.
“I’m kind of speechless, to be honest,” Nickson said Thursday afternoon. “When you get news like this, maybe it’s a little unusual in my profession to say it, but as a broadcaster, I was speechless when I first got the news.”
Nickson, a Rochester native who moved to L.A. after the calling games for the franchise’ New Haven affiliate, started his time with the Kings in 1981-82 as Miller’s analyst on games primarily for radio but simulcast on TV.
“I remember one day when Pete Weber left (as the broadcast analyst), and Parker MacDonald was the Kings’ head coach,” said Miller. “He told me if I was looking for a new partner, the guy he once worked with in New Haven might work well with me. I gave Nick a call and told him that the job was for a colorman, but he said he wanted to give it a try, to get his foot in the door, and we worked for nine straight years.”
In 1990, when the Kings split their TV and radio teams, Nickson moved to the radio booth and has called games there ever since, currently heard on KABC-AM (790).
He has worked with five different analysts, with current partner Daryl Evans having been there the longest, since 1999.
In addition to that, Nickson has coordinated the team’s radio network, written stories for the team’s media guide and program and hosted the “Kings Talk” post game shows for many seasons.
Nickson was at his Santa Clarita home with his wife Carolyn about to babysit their granddaughter when the call came from Chuck Kaiton, president of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association and the Carolina Panthers’ radio play-by-play man.
“Nick has been one of the most popular radio and TV personalities in Southern California for over three decades,” said Kaiton. “He is extremely worthy of this award and we from the NHL Broadcasters’ Association congratulate him on this distinct honor.”
Miller said Nickson’s honor is a “great accomplishment, because none of us start out in a career — as athletes or announcers — with a goal of being in the Hall of Fame. That’s so far removed from just getting a job and staying with it. But when that call does come, it’s such a great feeling.”
Nickson said the news announced today still feels “out of the blue,” especially when he was out in his car running errands and heard KNX-AM (1070)’s Randy Kerdoon relay the news during a sports update.
Aside from getting a congratulatory call from Miller and his wife, Judy, Nickson said he has heard from many others in the NHL broadcasting fraternity, including Weber, Ducks broadcaster Steve Carroll, and Pat Foley, the Chicago Blackhawks’ broadcaster who won the award last season.
Miller is one of several past Foster Hewitt recipients who are on the selection committee, which includes NBC’s Mike Emrick, who has known Nickson from his days doing Rochester minor-league games.
“There are many names discussed and opinions given and then voted upon, but longevity is one of the important criteria for this award, and that really means something with Nick,” said Miller. “What’s really neat is that Nick’s dad is in his 90s now and we hope he can be there on that night to see Nick get a plaque that will have his picture on it in the Hall forever.”

1403099527000-stanley-cupThe fact that the Kings have won two Stanley Cups in the last three seasons, and Nickson’s calls have been used on many highlights during that span since he was the primary Kings’ voice with NBC taking over network TV coverage and replacing Miller, could have played some role in giving Nickson new-found exposure along with his longevity.
“Maybe the name gets out there and the voice is heard in early June by fellow broadcasters and it turns a light on in their thinking,” Nickson said. “I would like to think it’s all based on my work over a number of years.
“For many years when we were on the West Coast, it felt like we were on an island, long before expansion into the Sun Belt, and before cable and satellite TV and even satellite radio and the Internet. People didn’t get the opportunity around the league to hear each other much. Put that all together, and for all of us in this business, it gives you the ability to be heard quite frankly and you get more of a chance.”
Nickson, who has called more than 3,000 games as a Kings broadcaster, was inducted into the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2009.
In 2011 he was inducted into the Frontier Field Walk of Fame in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y.
It was also announced Thursday that Bob McKenzie, a longtime writer in Toronto, a former editor in chief of The Hockey News and an “insider” for TSN as well as NBC, was given the Elmer Ferguson award for excellence in hockey journalism.
Kings fans may remember it was McKenzie who wrote, during the 1993 Western Conference finals between the Kings and Maple Leafs, that Kings’ star Wayne Gretzky “looked as though he were skating with a piano on his back.” The line seemed to wake Gretzky up as he had a game-winning OT goal in Game 6 and a hat trick in Game 7 to push the Kings to their first Stanley Cup Final.
Both Nickson and McKenzie will be honored at the Hall during its Nov. 9 ceremony this year.

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Charter subscribers to have Dodgers’ SportsNet LA by Tuesday — at no additional charge

The purported 300,000 subscribers of Charter Communications cable service in Southern California will have access to the Dodgers’ SportsNet L.A. channel beginning Tuesday at no additional charge, the company and the team said Thursday morning.

241-6026The move that affects Charter subscribers —  the bulk of which in Southern California make up parts of Long Beach, Pasadena, the West Covina and some of the San Gabriel Valley, Glendale/Burbank, San Bernardino and much of the Inland Empire, Malibu and other parts of L.A. County– also allows residents of those areas who have DirecTV, Dish, AT&T Uverse or Verizon FIOS to change providers if they want access to the Dodgers-owned channel that launched in February, 2014. To date, it has only been available to Time Warner Cable subscribers as well as a small pocket of Bright House and Champion Broadband in the San Gabriel Valley.

SportsNet LA will on Charter’s Channel 44 for standard-def and Channel 789 for high def in the L.A. market. Because the Dodgers’ territorial rights expand to parts outside of Southern California, it will also be on Charter’s systems in San Luis Obispo and Porterville. The SportsNet LA Spanish-language telecast as well as secondary audio that has Korean language service is also included.

“The Dodgers are an iconic franchise and part of the fabric of the community,” said Tom Rutledge, President and CEO of Charter Communications, in a statement.  “We are very excited to be bringing the Dodgers back to Charter customers in the L.A. area.”

On May 26, it was announced that Charter would seek approval to buy out Time Warner Cable in a $55-billion merger, and a promise was given that Charter customers would begin to get the Dodgers channel while the government approval began. No date was given at that time.

The fact that Charter customers will receive SportsNet LA immediately at no extra charge, as confirmed by a Charter spokesman on Thursday, is an about-face change in recent negotiations, brought on by the merger talks.

Before these merger talks began, however, Charter had dug in against Time Warner Cable, along with DirecTV and many other competitors, claiming the reported $5 per subscriber fee was too high and it did not want to pass that on to its customers who were not interested in having that channel added to their system. TWC, as well as DirecTV, have recently added surcharges to customer bills to augment the costs the companies have incurred for sports-related channels that have higher monthly fees based on rising rights fees involved in the negotiation of those deals.

The Dodgers’ deal with Time Warner Cable was reported in early 2013 to be a 25-year contract that will bring the team some $8.35 billion over that period. TWC outbid previous Dodgers’ rights holder, Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket.

The Charter launch on Tuesday will have Vin Scully calling the Dodgers’ home game against Arizona at 7:10 p.m.

Meanwhile, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) took the opportunity to issue a statement again requesting binding arbitration for DirecTV and other cable and dish companies that have yet to accept the Time Warner Cable parameters to adding SportsNet LA.

“I am pleased that Charter Communications will begin carrying SportNet LA, but the work is not done yet,” he said. “Too many Angelenos still won’t have access to the Dodgers because of a 14 month dispute between cable companies over how to provide Los Angeles residents with access to Los Angeles Dodgers television broadcasts.

“I am reissuing an earlier request for Time Warner Cable into enter binding arbitration with DirecTV and others. This would be a fair and fast way to return programming to consumers. Time Warner Cable has agreed to enter into the arbitration process. They have offered to make SportsNet LA available immediately to all fans upon the initiation of binding arbitration. Immediate binding arbitration is the only mechanism that will get the Dodgers games on the air now.”

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Circling back to the ESPN/’Homeless’ Rams players piece on Sunday … a tear-filled bravo

Rams DEs William Hayes and Chris Long went undercover to raise awareness of a life most people ignore. (Courtesy of St. Louis Rams)

Rams DEs William Hayes and Chris Long went undercover to raise awareness of a life most people ignore. (Courtesy of St. Louis Rams)

Without a lot of real context to what was going on here — other than trusting an ESPN press release and a few photos — my blog post last week prior to the airing of Sunday’s “Life on the Streets” piece involving the St. Louis Rams’ Chris Long and William Hayes had many concerns about the intent and end-game for two NFL players pretending to be homeless and mixing it up with a community that may not take well to their “experiment.”
My opinion completely needs a re-write after having watched the nearly seven-minute story, as well as read the accompanying piece by ESPN.com’s Elizabeth Merrill (with the video included).
Yes, the “power of sports,” even as an advertised slogan for a series, can work. Here’s why:
The story was not about a game these two were playing.
“I wonder if we could handle that,” Hayes once told Long as they were on a bus and passed by a homeless encampment.
I’ve wondered that plenty of times myself. I doubt I could. My mind would break down quickly. My will to survive would be crushed. I could see myself not using the situation as motivation to move forward, but to accept this fate.
I’ve tried this, alone, just for an afternoon. It’s self-defeating. But its also a powerful awakening.
With more background, we learn that these two have been donating to a local St. Louis homeless shelter, and Long was almost embarrassed he had never visited it as much as Hayes did.
Long’s narrative was touching, crediting Hayes for shining the light on this and showing empathy. You need a teammate to bring you along. It’s a tough go alone.
Bravely, Long and Hayes had not only the desire to go try it, if only for 24 hours, but come away with an action that spoke louder than their words — finding some temporary housing for a man and a woman who just needed to try to get their dignity back.
Yes, they did have an escape plan if things went wrong. They weren’t stupid. They also had the prep with the social worker who ran the shelter. She was with them the whole way.
Despite preconceived concerns, this finished product can definitely be not just a starting point, but a call to action. That if it takes these two men in the sports world to step up and do something that puts a voice and face on something so tragic, something that most take so much for granted, we’ll back it 100 percent.
Web-DorothyDayPOster-5x6.667There’s a famous quote attributed to The Catholic Worker saint Dorothy Day (even if she may have never said it):
“Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.”
If Long and Hayes accepted it before in some way, or accepted the idea that their donations were a great place to start but really that’s all they could do, then they just raised the bar on awareness about a system that’s not just broken, but can be fixed if enough raise their hand.
If only we knew more before we went and wrote that first post. Maybe it’s like looking at a homeless person on the street and making a judgment without  having all the facts, or circumstances, or thoughts of some redemption. You have to ask politely if you can share the space, talk to those hurting, and find out what they need, not just what you think they need to “fix” it. Long and Hayes did that.
A huge thumbs up to not only putting their NFL paychecks to a worthy cause, but causing the rest of us to think harder about what we can do as well.
Do you think you live in an area without a homeless issue? It’s not just downtown.  The homeless count is rising. Shelters aren’t there. More transitional housing is going away.
Locally, there are groups trying to help. Check out Family Promise, for one. The South Bay Coalition to end Homelessness. The San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission.
Learn about how things work. Give your time. Be in the moment.
Should the former L.A. Rams relocate back to the City of Angels, and Long and Hayes comes along for the ride, we’d love to be there to help take a tour of Skid Row, meet the people and listen to their cries for help.

Also:
== A follow up by ESPN writer Nick Wagoner

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Play It Forward June 1-7: A Warrior mentality versus a Cavalier attitude

hi-res-1cd75389cad349a348cd10bea1cd25a0_crop_northTHIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

NBA FINALS: GOLDEN STATE vs. CLEVELAND
Details/TV: Game 1 at Golden State, Thursday at 6 p.m., Channel 7:
index
They’ve had more than a week to rest up for this – Steph Curry and Klay Thompson should have their heads screwed back on straight, and LeBron James has lined up all his endorsers for optimal exposure as he’s back to this stage for the fifth straight season. So the wait is over — let either the Warriors win their first title in 40 years, or the Cavs capture their first ever in their 45-year existence. The storylines are abundant, but most focus will be on how Curry, the regular season MVP who averaged 31.2 points and almost shot 50 percent from 3-point range in the Western Conference finals, goes shot-for-shot with James, third in the MVP voting and posting an average of almost a triple-double in the Cavs’ sweep of the Eastern Conference finals. Golden State may have a more-than serviceable spike strip for James in Draymond Green, who has been asked to do this before.
warriors-cavaliers-basketball In December, 2012, Green, a second-round draft pick out of Michigan State and on the Warriors’ bench for his rookie season, was assigned to guard James, then with Miami, during a regular-season game. James failed to score twice with Green on him. After a missed jumper and a turnover, the 6-foot-8 James backed Green down and drew a foul. Then he yelled at Green. “He said, ‘You too little,’ and I hate when people say that to me,” the 6-foot-7 Green told the San Jose Mercury. “So I said something back to him. I think that’s where I gained respect. And it’s mutual.” By the way, in that game, Green also made the game-winning shot, a layup with 0.9 seconds to play. After the contest, James, who scored 31 of the Heat’s 95 points in the two-point loss, sought out Green to congratulate him. “He played hard, it was great competition out there between me and him,” James said. “He knows how to play the game and (Golden State) is a good fit for him. It was good to see him out there.” Maybe now, not so much. During the regular season, James scored 42 points with 11 assists in a 110-99 win in Cleveland in late February. Curry had 18 points in that game, but only six after the first quarter and was 5-of-17 from the field. An injured James missed the prior meeting in early January at Golden State, a 112-94 Warriors’ win where Curry and Thompson combined for 47 points, and Green had 10 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
Game 2 at Golden State is Sunday at 5 p.m.

American-Pharoah-THE-ARKANSAS-DERBY-79th-Running-Grade-I-04-11-15-R11-OP-005ALSO:
147th BELMONT STAKES
Details/TV: At Elmont, N.Y., Saturday at approx. 3:30 p.m., Channel 4:
It’s the third time in four years that we’ve had a Triple Crown chance and the 14th time since Affirmed did it in 1978. Again, it’s just a chance. American Pharoah will see about turning back as many as nine competitors in this latest attempt in the “Test of the Champion” at a mile and a half. Seven key horses skipped the Preakness to rest up for this one, including the three trained by Belmont-based Todd Pletcher – Materiality, Carpe Diem and Madefromlucky. “I understand,” said American Pharoah trainer Bob Baffert said of the loaded field. “It just shows the respect they have … It’’s something you can’t control.  You have to earn it. I’ve seen a lot of great horses leave here and (lose) the Belmont — Smarty Jones, Big Brown, Real Quiet, Silver Charm, Funny Cide, I’ll Have Another … you just don’t know.” Maybe American Pharoah’s best shot is praying for rain, like in the Preakness. The problem here could be that American Pharoah has never raced at Belmont before, which gives Pletcher’s Madefromlucky an advantage to some bettors here. The one thing we do now know is how American Pharoah came to be named, even with a common misspelling of “Pharoah.” Marsha Baumgartner, a 64-year-old registered nurse from Barnett, Mo., is apparently the one responsible. In a recent New York Times story, we learned that Baumgartner entered a contest held on the website of American Pharoah’s owners, Zayat Stables, to name a dark bay colt sired by Pioneerof the Nile and Yankee Gentleman. Baumgartner had the winning entry and it was submitted on Jan. 15, 2014 to the Jockey Club. She did not win any kind of prize for it. Except maybe the satisfaction for having some insider knowledge on how things happen in the racing industry.

THE REST OF THE WEEK:

UCLA must defeat Maryland one more time Monday at 8 p.m. (ESPNU) at Jackie Robinson Stadium, or else the No. 1-seeded Bruins’ baseball season is over. A win pushes them into the 16-team Super Regionals starting Saturday, likely against Virginia, which eliminated USC  … The Dodgers have four games to finish in three days at Colorado before a four-game series over Thursday-Sunday at home against St. Louis (with the Sunday game at 5 p.m. on ESPN) … The Angels win an all-expenses paid trip to New York to face the AL East-leading Yankees to end the week after playing host to Tampa Bay to start it … The Chicago-Tampa Bay NHL Stanley Cup Final best-of-seven starts Wednesday (5 p.m., Channel 4) in Florida ….  More at this link.

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Sunday Q&A: Jason Whitlock, on how there’s nothing watered down in the process of launching The Undefeated

 If people judge us on the work we put out, we’ll be fine. If people judge us on what people who don’t know me think about me personally, uh, that’ll be a problem. National sports columnist Jason Whitlock will serve as editor-in-chief of ESPN's new website, TheUndefeated.com.  The site will focus on sports, race and culture and is set to launch later this year.(Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)

“If people judge us on the work we put out, we’ll be fine. If people judge us on what people who don’t know me think about me personally, uh, that’ll be a problem,” says Jason Whitlock about his ESPN website TheUndefeated.com.(Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)

Jason Whitlock’s career has taken him from the “the hood” in Indianapolis, living with his  mom and brother, to the Indiana Sports Writers and Sportscasters Association’s Hall of Fame.
From an offensive lineman on the Warren Central High team, to getting a football scholarship at Ball State. And a journalism degree.
From a long run at the Kansas City Star, then to ESPN.com, AOL Sports, moving to L.A. to join Fox Sports, then back to ESPN. And now, he’s going all in with The Undefeated, a website set to launch officially this summer with ESPN’s backing, a name inspired by a Maya Angelou line of poetry.
ESPN president John Skipper had been to the LA Live offices just the day before to check on the progress, and Whitlock called the visit “excellent” with the launch on target for later this summer.
Following up on Sunday’s media column posted here and after all he’s said and said and said more about the launch of The Undefeated at this point in his career, we were curious that when we caught up with him at his ESPN office space, the 48-year-old was clearing some plastic water bottles off his desk.
That had to be our first question in this edited down Q-and-A exchange:

vendingmachine-in-hell1Q: What’s going on with all this excessive drinking water program? Is that important for your existence going forward?

A: It’s very important. I’m on a diet. It’s funny, I’ve been a columnist my entire life. I never went into the office for maybe 20 years. So I started coming into this office in September. I’ve basically had an eight-month war with the vending machines. And the machines have won. Plus all these restaurants all over here. They’ve slaughtered me. I probably put on 40 pounds. You’re catching me at Day 43 of perfect eating and exercising and a big f#$&-you to the vending machines. I try to drink 12-to-15 servings of water every day, whether I’m on a diet or not. Water is all I drink. Continue reading

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