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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

With More Ice Time, He'll Put Biscuit in Basket

March 20, 2001|T.J. SIMERS

I went to the big hockey game Monday night and I put in a vacation request for the rest of the week.

To be honest, the two are not related--because I was not forced to attend the game with Stu Nahan, hockey honk and former L.A. broadcaster.

Frankly, I wouldn't have enough vacation time on the books to recover from an experience like that.

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THE PROBLEM WITH writing about hockey, of course, even for a big game like Monday night's clash between the Kings and Phoenix Coyotes, is that you've already stopped reading. I'd like to stop writing now, so I know how you feel.

Do you know we actually have people here at the newspaper who write about hockey almost every night, big game or not? I'm told that once they start screaming and have to be hauled away, they become editors.

Anyway I'm here, so to make the best of it I went down into the bowels of Staples Center. Imagine for a moment going down into the bowels of the Sports Arena. I wouldn't do that if you told me this month's Playmate was waiting for me, let alone a bunch of sissy hockey players who won't go on the ice without putting a sweater on first.

But as bowels go, Staples Center isn't bad yet, and I really wanted to get close to the hockey players, and maybe learn what it takes to put the old biscuit in the basket.

Right away I had a problem. I couldn't tell the hockey players from Staples Center workers. One worker was using a blow torch and a hacksaw on a hockey stick, and I asked him if he could point out any of these sissy hockey players if they happened to walk by.

I was told later I was talking to Luc Robitaille, who was kind enough to point out Ziggy Palffy. With a name like Ziggy, I understand why he walks around with a stick in his hand.

Outside the Kings' locker room--the players call it a "dressing room" or just "the room," the guys were preparing for the season's biggest hockey game by getting in a circle and kicking a soccer ball. I felt badly that no one had ever introduced these poor souls to a baseball or a basketball when they were kids. They probably go home and watch polo highlights.

"I kind of like that, getting loose and talking to each other like that instead of sitting around the room," said King Coach Andy Murray. "At 5:50 we'll bring them in and I'll talk to them."

I've gotten peppier talk from the guy manning the McDonald's drive-thru window, and I started to suggest to Murray that he better make like Knute Rockne until I realized I better mention someone he's more familiar with. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with anyone he might be familiar with.

*

I WENT BACK to the Chick Hearn Pressroom, but all they had on was Bob Miller and the hockey game. So I went upstairs to the Bob Miller Press Box and listened to Hearn broadcast the Lakers' game from Atlanta. Apparently, Phil Jackson has never heard of Knute Rockne either.

Later a team official had me come out to the Kings' bench, and after standing in the same place that Murray would be occupying, I can tell you he is the bravest man in L.A. He wears no pads, has no glass protecting him, and while I know at his age good looks no longer matter, imagine sitting behind home plate with no screen and Rick Ankiel pitching.

When it came time for the Kings to take the ice, Ian Laperriere stood outside the room, yelling the nicknames of his teammates as they walked by. This is one of those little traditions the fans never really see, which makes it much like a Duck game.

Stu Grimson was the first one out, and as goalie Felix Potvin walked by, Grimson hauled off and whacked Potvin across the shin pads. Every time Potvin walked by Grimson all night long, he whacked him. You watch: Some day Potvin is going to just explode and say, "Stu, please don't do that." Unfortunately, Potvin speaks French, and Grimson won't know what he's saying.

*

THIS WAS A big game because the Kings, who haven't been the same since Wayne Gretzky left town, are in ninth place and had a chance to tie Phoenix, the latest team to be ruined by Gretzky, for the final playoff berth.

I took position by the glass at the Kings' end of the ice, and while I would never admit this to Nahan, because he'd start calling my house more often, these guys were good, and entertaining.

I wish they'd turn up the heat in the building, but the Kings won.

*

THE NFL SCHEDULE has not been released yet, but the Denver Post is reporting that the Denver Broncos will play the first Monday night game of the season Sept. 10 in their new stadium, Invesco Field at Mile High.

The NFL is not happy with the report because it had hoped to tell Dennis Miller the opening Monday night game was in Baltimore.

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MARCH MADNESS? I believe the most exciting shot taken over the weekend was Tiger Woods' second on the par-four 18th hole just off the cart path over rocks and water to set himself up for a winning birdie putt. I guess you could say it resulted in a three-pointer on the 18th to win.

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OFFICIALS IN ARIZONA are concerned they cannot make enough ice to keep up with what's needed to treat Jose Canseco's aches and pains.

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TODAY'S LAST WORD is waiting on Kevin Malone:

It has been 67 hours since Dodger Boy said something ridiculous. His personal best is 83. I trust, now that I'm on vacation, someone will keep track.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address: t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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