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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

Entire Day Turns Out to Be a Big Bust for Kings

April 24, 2002|T.J. Simers

I was trying to explain to the wife what a tough decision this is: Do I join the guys in Colorado for the fifth game of the hockey playoffs, stay overnight in a Denver hotel and miss her?

Or do I cover the unveiling of the 2002 Playmate of the Year at the Playboy Mansion, and get the chance to come home some time Thursday night to be with her? Or early Friday morning?

She seemed to think it was a pretty easy decision, and while I can't remember the last time she packed my suitcase for me, she must be a little out of practice because she packed like I was going away for a month or two.

*

I TOLD Kings' center Jason Allison Tuesday morning at the team's practice facility I had to decide between the Pepsi Center or the Grotto, and right away he jumped to conclusions: "So I guess we won't be seeing you in Colorado."

I can't imagine leaving Allison alone at a critical time like this. I've taught the guy how to score goals, and frankly nobody would be going back to Colorado if I hadn't made him into the player he is today.

For that reason, I thought Coach Andy Murray would try to talk me into joining the team. "We need you to keep working with Allison," he said. "I'll give you Allison's cell phone number so you can talk to him before Thursday's game.

"That way you can stay here, as long as when we come back Friday, you have pictures."

*

WHEN I caught sports editor Bill Dwyre pocketing the invitation to the Playboy Mansion the other day, I had to show him it was in my name, and nontransferable.

I know there are going to be Playmates from the '50s at the party, and they'd probably bring some great early-adult memories back for Dwyre, but I think it's pretty obvious he'd be out of place.

My concern, of course, is I'm not at my best right now with a scruffy week-old beard, but it was Hugh Hefner who reminded me Tuesday afternoon that I'm a journalist, and not just another pretty face.

"You have an obligation to your readers to leave nothing uncovered so you really have to be here," Hef said.

"You know, that's kind of what I do for a living, too."

Hefner refused to divulge who will be crowned Playmate of the Year, which would have allowed me to break the story and still go to Colorado. I told him I spent all day studying the candidates--month by month, but finally focused my attention on Miss July because of her measurements--5-6, 106 pounds, and her ultimate ambition is to become an elementary school teacher.

"We have some other criteria we use in selecting our winner," he said. "You'll have to see for yourself."

This would mean abandoning the Kings. I told Hefner about my efforts to help Allison score more, and he said he might have been able to help.

"You know, I'm a big sports fan," he said, while telling me had recently taken seven girlfriends to a Laker game. "That's a big tab," I said, and he admitted, "there is a down side" to having seven girlfriends, but "you have to weigh the pros and cons."

I don't have a big enough car for seven girlfriends, which would probably be a con, along with a wife of 29 years who would probably insist on riding shotgun.

*

WHEN YOU get right down to it, there's no question I'd rather be at the hockey game. In fact, what could possibly be more exciting than a hockey game?

"How about frolicking in the Playboy pool?" said a magazine spokesman.

"I don't have a bathing suit," I said.

"No one does," he said.

*

ALLISON SHOOK his head. "What's the Playmate of the Year got to do with sports?" I was beginning to feel like Master Kan counseling young Grasshopper: "The fleeting sand in your hand is a reminder of how quickly the season can end for your hockey team, you big lug, if you try to get a grip on things you cannot grasp."

I reminded Allison he has only scored a goal in three consecutive games once this season, and after scoring the last two games, his attention should only be on duplicating that feat.

"I'm going to call your editor and make you go to Colorado," he said, and now I understand why Colorado's Adam Foote punched him in the nose the other night.

"Maybe I'll score two goals tonight," Allison said, and maybe the Playmate of the Year will ask me to give her a lift home.

*

NO ONE scored in the first period Tuesday night, and I blame the guy who hired the guy with the electric guitar to play the National Anthem. Instead of a rousing version of the Star Spangled Banner to capture the excitement in the building, the Kings brought the festivities to a slumbering halt.

The Avalanche, using a former Kings' player, found the net in the second period, and Grasshopper wasn't doing a thing.

After the third period, the largest crowd to ever watch a hockey game in the state of California went home frustrated. I would imagine for those of us who will be going to the Playboy Mansion on Thursday, it's just going to be that kind of week.

However, one way or another, I expect to find the wife waiting for me Thursday night--with razor in hand.

*

TODAY'S LAST word comes in an e-mail from Associated Realtors:

"Hey, T.J. I saw sign in Staples that said, 'TJ Simers move to Denver.' I was a student at CU and I know for a fact they already have some terrible columnists there, and they don't need another."

Did you notice if Tom or Aida were holding up the sign?

*

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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