Here's A Funny Story About Growing Up With L.A. Kings Goaltender Jonathan Quick…
I'm from Hamden, Connecticut. A mostly middle-class town outside of New Haven, sandwiched between Quinnipiac and Yale University. Two years ago, the schools played each other in the Men's NCAA Ice Hockey final down the street from where I grew up.
Understatement: It's a hockey town.
I myself never played hockey, mostly because I hated skating, but even more because hockey culture (in a hockey town) was a bit much. The term "hot head" gets thrown around a lot. Parents and kids both were very intense about the sport, often driving to Canada early in the morning to practice with some junior all-star super sub-development prep squad that cost about $5,000 just to be a part of.
Even at a young age, that seemed a bit odd to me. I played basketball. It felt more, I dunno, equal.
Because I wasn't a hockey kid, it was definitely harder for me to be friends with those I went to school with. All they talked about was hockey and, as much as I tried to figure it out, I just didn't know how to jump into that conversation with anything other than questions. Let's be honest, when you're barely able to understand shoe tying, the strategy and rules of a sport that resembles neither basketball nor baseball, are nearly impossible to grasp.
I'm also an idiot.
One of those hockey kids I grew up with was Jon Quick, and in 1994, he got me into watching hockey because the Rangers were really good. It was the first championship I had seen a New York team win, and even at 8 years old was profoundly exciting and awesome (despite not really knowing what the hell was going on).
Ironically, I now find myself rooting against Jon as the Rangers play his L.A. Kings in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final -- 20 years later. A weird feeling to say the least.
The interesting part of the story happened during baseball season, however. Jon and I played on the same team -- the Jewish War Vets (best jersey ever) -- as my Dad-coach-human-hybrid drafted him because we hung out.
It didn't hurt that he was MAYBE the greatest defensive catcher/first baseman in the history of Little League baseball.
The season he joined the team, he missed the first four practices because of a prior commitment to some hockey thing that was being held in Massachusetts/Canada/Minnesota/Sweden/somewhere cold. Like I mentioned before, the hockey kids in my town would travel ridiculous distances to play as much hockey as possible. It was strange, because they were kids and it's just a sport, but the parents could not suppress their (kind of pathetic) dreams of having a child go to the NHL.
Some people want their kids to be doctors, others wish for a lengthy career beating people up on live TV. Hey, it's your kid -- more power to ya.
So when Jon arrived at the first game of season without having even so much as met his teammates, my Dad played him half the game (three innings), in the outfield. Left field, actually. This did not go over well with Jon's father, who made his opinion of the coaching move very clear from behind the backstop.
Loud and clear (emphasis on loud).
"You're punishing the kid for playing hockey," he was saying. "What the hell are you doing to my son?" he asked my Dad who was, ya know, in the dugout trying to keep 11-and-12-year-olds from killing each other with aluminum bats. My Dad bit his tongue, though he isn't exactly the kind of guy who can tolerate much verbal abuse without some retort.
But he did a good job of doing the whole, "Ok, buddy, relax," routine. If you've ever seen a Dad fight, this one had all the makings of a classic.
So, after the game, as my Dad and I were carrying the bats and helmets and catching equipment back to his car, Doug (Jon's Dad) and Jon (the left fielder, apparently), walked with us. Doug Quick was still very pissed about how much his son played. I can't blame him -- Jon was really good at baseball.
"He couldn't make the practices, it's not like he just didn't show up. You're punishing him for playing hockey," he kept shouting. Then he threw something in about the car my Dad drove, which I think pushed him over the edge, and prompted a response.
"Doug, I'm not punishing him for playing hockey, I'm rewarding the other kids for playing baseball," my Dad rather diplomatically screamed back. "If you want him to play hockey all the time, fine -- just don't expect him to have time for baseball, as well."
Then he said something I will never, ever forget.
"Besides, it's not like he's gonna play in the NHL."
Welp, so much for that prediction.
Our team went on to win the town championship, and Jon went on to leave our high school to play at some hockey-specific prep school, then UMass, then the Kings, then become one of the greatest playoff goaltenders in the history of the sport; win a Stanley Cup Championship, a Conn Smythe trophy, an Olympic silver medal on Team USA, and become the most likely reason the Rangers will come up short in this year's final.
My Dad was eaten by wolves.
Just kidding, he's fine -- he's just more careful about making predictions now.
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