The road to success for most sportscasters involves some pretty tough sledding.
It certainly did for Randy Hahn. Literally.
The studio host on Prime Ticket for King telecasts, Hahn began his broadcasting career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, doing play-by-play of dog-sled races in the Yukon.
Or, as King announcer Bob Miller describes it, paw-by-paw.
Hahn's partner in those dog days was the renowned commentator, Chief Van Bibber.
From such humble beginnings, who would ever have dreamed that Hahn would someday become a founding father of the National Hockey League's new wave?
But we're getting ahead of the story.
From the Yukon, Hahn, a Canadian, moved on to more standard sportscasting, working with NHL and Canadian Football League teams and doing an evening sportscast, before landing a play-by-play job with the Edmonton Drillers soccer team.
When the Drillers folded two years later, Hahn got the play-by-play job with the San Diego Sockers.
"I should be in the record book," he said, "for extracting a living out of indoor soccer for seven years."
But hockey remained his first love. He played it into his teens, although he admits, "I was never any good."
Hahn spent his last few seasons in San Diego working for Prime Ticket. When it had an opening on the Kings' broadcast team, he jumped at it.
In the meantime, he had moved to San Jose and become a long-distance commuter when his wife, Roberta Gonzales, got a job doing the weather on a television station there.
It was then that he saw The Article.
"It was just a small item in a gossip column in the local paper," he said, "saying that a couple of hockey nuts were holding a clandestine gathering at a local pizza parlor to discuss getting an NHL team for the city."
Hahn was intrigued. He wanted to be one of the nuts.
He contacted those involved, in the summer of 1988, and a group was soon formed consisting of Hahn, Jim Hager, a San Jose attorney, and three other businessmen.
"There were several ways to go about it," Hahn said. "One would be to take pennants and jerseys and jump up and down in front of City Hall. Or you could take a more businesslike approach. That's the way we went. We formed a nonprofit corporation so there would be no financial gain to us."
The corporation, Pro Hockey San Jose, offers potential fans a T-shirt and a newsletter for $20.
"My wife and I put out the newsletter," Hahn said, "but a lot of people, all volunteers, are involved. Computer specialists do the layout, people specializing in bulk mailing do that. It's fun. We already have around 2,500 people signed up."
Is this still just a dream team?
Hardly. Hockey is so close to reality in San Jose, you can almost hear the Zamboni machine warming up. The reasons:
--Approval had already been granted for a $100-million sports arena for San Jose before Hahn and his friends ever got involved. The first shovels will hit the dirt in the spring with completion expected by the summer of 1992. The arena will hold about 17,000 for hockey and include 122 skyboxes.
--Last month, the NHL announced its intention to add seven teams, reaching 28 by the end of the century. Although there is no word on when the first city will be selected, it is known the NHL is shooting for an expansion club on the ice for the 1992-93 season. There is strong sentiment, led by King owner Bruce McNall, to add one or more West Coast teams. Right now, with Vancouver the closest opponent for the Kings, every trip is a major expedition.
--Howard Baldwin has gotten involved. The owner of the Hartford Whalers for 17 years, president of the World Hockey Assn. and a key figure in the NHL-WHA merger, Baldwin sold his interest in the Whalers two years ago and moved to Los Angeles to become involved in the movie industry.
But he couldn't get the ice out of his blood.
"Once I got out here," Baldwin said, "I realized I really missed hockey."
Looking for someone with the financial clout to raise the $50-million entry fee for an expansion team, Hahn and Hager got in touch with Baldwin. They hooked him up with San Jose officials, and he is now negotiating for a lease with the new arena.
"I had a wonderful experience in hockey before," said Baldwin, 47, "and I think I'm young enough to crank it up one more time. I am hopeful that I will be applying to the NHL for a franchise on behalf of the City of San Jose."
It's a logical move. Located in the heart of the Silicon Valley, San Jose, with a population of 738,400, is the third-largest city in California. It sits in Santa Clara County, which has the highest income per household in the nation at $41,717.
Can hockey work there?
"You never really know," Baldwin said, "until you go up there and do it. Nothing is guaranteed."
And what of Hahn and Hager and the other hockey nuts who started it all?
"If it gets done," Hahn said, "we will probably disappear. We would not be necessary. That was our original intent. Ultimately, somebody else is going to sign the $50-million check. It's not going to be us."
Baldwin, however, is not so quick to rule these guys out.
"From my point of view," he said, "I would be a fool not to have Randy Hahn and Jim Hager associated with me. They have worked for nothing for a couple of years and have made an enormous contribution."
Whatever Hahn winds up doing, one thing is certain. Chief Van Bibber has forever lost his broadcast partner.
Showtime: The NHL has already begun plans to celebrate its 75th anniversary, even though it's still three seasons away. On opening night of its 1992-93 season, the league will pit its six charter members--Toronto, Boston, Detroit, Montreal, Chicago and the New York Rangers--against one another, with players wearing the teams' original uniforms.
Blow time: After averaging more than 50 penalty minutes a game last season, NHL players cut that by 15% at the start of this season.
It didn't last.
The average, down to 41.5 minutes in October, is back up to 46.3.