|San Diego Padres manager Bud Black never played hockey but he learned plenty about the game from his father Harry Black Sr.
And despite the fact that Bud was born in San Mateo, California and raised in Longview, Washington, not exactly a hotbeds of hockey, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, a love of hockey still burns inside of him.
As a youngster, Black played baseball, a path that led Black to a major league pitching career and today as manager of the San Diego Padres.
Despite the fact that Black never saw his father play hockey professionally, he is certainly well-versed with his career.
“He had a great career,” said Black, who played 15 seasons in the Major Leagues with the Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants. “He was born in Calgary and raised in Edmonton. He was a hockey player from the time he could walk and lace up a pair of skates. He played junior hockey in the Edmonton area and was one of the better junior players of the 1930s.
”Then in 1938, Arnold Eddie, the athletic director at the University of Southern California at that time, wanted to start a hockey program. He went up to Canada to recruit 12 players to begin that hockey program. My dad was one of those twelve.”
The elder Black went on to play four seasons of hockey at USC and became a major part of one of the country’s powerhouse college hockey teams.
“I understand that college hockey was very big in California prior to World War II,” said Black, a left-handed pitcher in his playing days. In fact, USC was considered at one time to have the best college hockey team in the U.S.”
Following his collegiate career, Harry Black only had two choices for a professional hockey career: either the “Original Six” NHL or the Pacific Coast League.
“My dad was being wooed by both leagues,” Black said. “Being a star as USC, financially he got more money to stay in Southern California and play for the Los Angeles Monarchs. It was a natural thing to do. He was a household name in hockey in Southern California at that time.
“My dad remained in the game for about seven or eight seasons before retiring and going into the retail business field. As a player my dad was shifty as a center and could skate and score.”
Bud’s mom was born in Melville, Sask., and was a great skater in her own right. But it wasn’t enough to have Bud play hockey.
“My dad knew that hockey wasn’t going to be a part of my life growing up in Washington and Southern California. He knew that the hockey there wasn’t what he had been used to. So, he put a glove on one of my hands and a baseball in the other and my baseball career was born.”
|Bud Black still follows hockey very closely and has attended numerous L.A. Kings and Anaheim Ducks games in recent years.
”There wasn’t as much coverage of hockey as a kid growing up as there is today,” Black said. “But my dad was always reading the newspapers and following the game that way. When we were living in Washington, my dad would take us for our annual trip down to Portland to see the Buckaroos play. And during the winter, my older sister and I would try and get our parents to take us skating. So I did get in some skating as a kid.
“I still follow the game today. I know the game pretty well, know who the top teams are that are heading to the playoffs. I’ll still catch hockey highlights on TV stations here in San Diego.
“Throughout my playing career, I got to see hockey games, including a playoff game or two at the old Forum in Montreal. I also got to see another playoff game in the old Boston Garden with the Bruins. I even got to the old Chicago Stadium, quite the place.
“In recent years I’ve gotten to a number of L.A. Kings games and Ducks games in Anaheim. I really get excited when the playoffs begin.”
Black is still fascinated with hockey and what its players do.
“I think it’s amazing what those guys can do on that thin blade while skating around on a sheet of ice,” Black said. “The speed of the game doesn’t translate on TV like it does in-person. The power in the legs, the quickness of the feet and the quickness of the hands, hockey players are truly great athletes. They are powerful, yet have dexterity and agility in their bodies. They are able to move and avoid checks and such high speeds. You would think that there would be more injuries.
“But hockey players are tough. They seem to bounce back from quite a few hits.”
Black believes that he could have been a good winger had he played the game.
“I always enjoy the passing game and setting up other players,” Black said. “That’s the kind of game I played when I was on the basketball court. I’ve always admired the hockey play when there are two or three good passes that results in a goal. That’s why I really enjoyed the old Edmonton Oilers teams when they were winning Stanley Cups. I followed Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier a lot. More recently, I enjoyed the play of Paul Kariya. I like the way he passes. I’ve always liked the guys that are a little smaller and quicker. Even going back to the days of Yvan Courneyer, Stan Mikita and even big Jean Beliveau. I was also a Montreal Canadiens fan in the late 60s and early 70s. They were symbolic of a true champion. A dynasty. We may never see teams like Montreal or Edmonton again. They represented a special era in hockey. I’ll never forget them.”