New Year book update

I have a pile of California minor hockey news and stories to post, and I hope to do so in the next few days. But first I wanted to provide an update on the hockey book.

As some of you might be aware, for the past four years I’ve been researching and now writing a book about the history of hockey in California. During this process I’m continually learning more from the people I speak to, and so the direction of the book has changed from initially being one that solely examined the game’s growth here, to one that does that but points to key events, teams and people who were part of its emergence and growth along the way.

So while history is part of it, and there are nods to many of the state’s pro teams, it really focuses on how these events added more kindling to the “hockey fire”.

I’ve spoken to roughly 400 people associated with the game’s history from the late 1930s until now, and the words of many of them will appear in the book. Their stories — to me — are priceless.

At this point I’ve written or nearly written approximately 18 chapters. I hope to complete another 12-15 in the next 3-4 months. At that time, I’ll evaluate what I have (again) and submit it to an editor. As of yet, I do not have a publisher for it, but if it needs to be self-published, I’m preparing to do that.

As the Stanley Cup Playoffs commercial asks, “Is this the year?”

Happy New Year, and keep your head up and stick on the ice.

Well-deserved first NHL goal

Alec Martinez‘s first NHL goal drew scant notice outside of the Los Angeles Kings’ broadcast and a mention in the LA Times a couple days after the fact.

Martinez, who played three seasons of youth hockey in Northern California for the Santa Clara Blackhawks and San Jose Jr. Sharks, scored during a 4-1 Kings loss at Montreal.

While happy to get his first NHL marker, Martinez — as one would expect from a hockey player — chose to focus on how that was secondary to the Kings not winning.

I’ve spoken with Alec a couple of times, mainly for some work with California Rubber Magazine, and have come away impressed. He enjoyed his time playing in California, and his youth coach — Larry Cahn, now of the San Diego Jr. Gulls — told me Alec is an example to all young players to keep working hard because you never know how things will turn out.

(For more on that, click here for a story and audio interview with Martinez at

With the Kings’ offense slumping (and it has too much talent to stay that way, so take heart Kings fans), Martinez’s abilities are a nice fit.

Here’s hoping he sticks. After all, he’s already accomplished one goal of everyone who ever laced up skates.

Miracle in Squaw Valley

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of participating in a national conference call with three of the members of the 1960 U.S. Olympic hockey team that won gold in Squaw Valley.

That’s right – the first gold medal the United States won in hockey was won right here in California … 50 years ago!

The three Olympians were Bill Cleary, Dick Meredith and Jack McCartan. McCartan’s name, in particular should ring a bell for longtime California hockey fans.

The goaltender is one of a small number of players (whom I’ll reveal in the book) who played for all three California franchises in the old Western Hockey League. So which experience did he enjoy the most? The San Diego Gulls. McCartan was extremely complimentary of the late Max McNab, who assembled one of the most beloved teams in San Diego’s history.

The Squaw Valley Olympics featured another innovation – the Olympic Village. Because of how remote the location was, all of the athletes stayed in one place for the first time.

None of the three men thought it out of the ordinary that a winter Olympics would be held in California because the site was ski resort.

Now you know!

Truly one of the more memorable discussions I’ve had the privilege to be part of.

The old WHL

A man with a deep background in hockey in Southern California told me recently that very few people remember the old Western Hockey League or the Los Angeles Blades, but it was very, very good hockey.

After spending a good amount of time researching that topic for the book, including reading an excellent book by Jon Stott called “Ice Warriors”, I am convinced he’s right on.

Think about it, when the old WHL was a thriving minor-league on the West Coast there were only six NHL teams. There were a lot more than 120 elite hockey players at the time, and many of them, especially the Western Canadians, played in the WHL.

It has been fascinating to learn about the Los Angeles Blades, San Francisco Seals and San Diego Gulls.

The Blades, for example, started Willie O’Ree’s 13-year career in the WHL. He played more games for California WHL teams than anyone. … The Seals won back-to-back hockey championships, the second over the Blades in 1964! Can you imagine the Sharks and Kings or Sharks and Ducks playing for the Stanley Cup Finals. … And the Gulls not only outdrew the NBA’s San Diego Rockets by nearly 3,000 fans per game, but they actually outdrew the San Diego Padres (on average per game) during one season. Such was the love affair the Gulls and their hockey fans had in the 60s and 70s.

The history of the sport here never ceases to amaze me!