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Sunday Long Read
(Page 2 of 3)
Sunday Long Read

Sunday Long Read: Messier helps Ice Center in NYC

Sunday, 01.26.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

On Dec. 10, 2013, the New York City Council approved plans for the Kingsbridge National Ice Center (KNIC) to occupy the Kingsbridge Armory space in the Bronx. The complex, as proposed, will be, upon completion in 2017, the world's largest indoor ice center. The nearly unanimous vote capped three years of efforts by KNIC Partners, led by Kevin Parker, former global head of asset management at Deutsche Bank, and CEO Mark Messier. The success of the venture, the "alignment of the planets and stars" as Parker calls it, was the culmination of thousands of hours of research and planning. It also involved a healthy dose of community cooperation and, curiously, a bus trip to Philadelphia.

Kevin Parker had an ice problem.

A hockey dad living in the middle of New York City, Parker's two boys, then 8 and 10, had graduated from Pee Wee hockey and were in search of a stiffer challenge. So the Parkers searched, and searched, eventually only finding competitive hockey some 45 miles from their home, traveling to Mennen Arena in Morristown, N.J., and Stamford Twin Rinks in Stamford, Conn. The shorter of those two trips, to Stanford, is 34 miles from midtown Manhattan.

"That just made the situation seem even crazier to me, that if you love hockey and want to play hockey growing up in New York City, you have to travel 35 or 45 miles to go play," Parker said. "So I asked the question: 'Why are there no ice sports? No ice surfaces in New York City?'"

It's a common question among hockey families, school programs and city leagues, and especially pertinent this week. How, in a city that will host two 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series games featuring the three metro-area NHL teams during the next week, can there be almost no year-round ice to be found?

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Sunday Long Read: Roots take hold in California

Sunday, 01.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- Emerson Etem could have gravitated toward a number of sports. He sometimes played soccer and tennis when he was younger, and his parents and sister have backgrounds in rowing and swimming.

Actually, if it wasn't for his chosen profession, Etem might not have ended up in sports at all.

"I think I'd be an artist," Etem said. "Or maybe a surfer."

Instead, Etem followed his brother Martin and put on roller-hockey skates at the YMCA in his hometown of Long Beach, Calif.

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Alec Martinez: Transplant finds hockey home

Sunday, 01.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Alec Martinez - Special to NHL.com

Alec Martinez is a fifth-year defenseman for the Los Angeles Kings. He grew up in Michigan but spent his junior-high years playing for the Junior San Jose Sharks and Santa Clara Blackhawks before his family moved back to the Midwest. He was a fixture during the Kings' 2011-12 Stanley Cup championship run.

My father, Frank, worked for General Motors for 30 years and he got transferred. GM had a joint venture with Toyota just outside of Fremont, Calif., and my family had to move out here for two or three years before we moved back to Michigan.

The hockey scene was a lot different. In Michigan, there were a lot more teams and lot more kids played. There were only a select few clubs in Northern California, so you had to come down to L.A. a lot. In Michigan, in terms of tournaments growing up, you don't really have to leave except for Chicago or Toronto. But, really, that's not very far. When you move to California, the tournaments are in Alaska or Las Vegas.

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Jonathon Blum: The accidental hockey player

Sunday, 01.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Jonathon Blum - Special to NHL.com

Jonathon Blum was born in Long Beach, Calif., and grew up in nearby Rancho Santa Margarita. He was a first-round pick of the Nashville Predators in the 2007 NHL Draft. The defenseman played 91 NHL games for the Predators before recently returning to the League with the Minnesota Wild.

Playing hockey where I grew up wasn't traditional at all, for sure. I owe a lot to my parents. It's very expensive playing in Southern California, traveling four or five times a year just to help me develop, paying for lessons. The ice time was $600, $700 an hour back then.

I was probably about 5 or 6 years old when I started. We lived on a cul de sac and there were probably about 10 or 15 kids on my block. When school was done we'd get on rollerblades or sneakers and we'd play street hockey or roller hockey. If we didn't have nets we'd use little sewer holes as nets and try to shoot the balls into them. That's how I started.

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Thatcher Demko: A Gull takes flight

Sunday, 01.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Thatcher Demko - Special to NHL.com

San Diego native Thatcher Demko is a freshman goaltender at Boston College, and he recently represented the United States at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship. He was the top-rated North American goaltender in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings for the 2014 NHL Draft and is considered a strong candidate to be a first-round selection.

The first time I tried going ice skating I was 3 years old. My dad took me to the rink and he said I hated it and was crying and complaining the whole time. So he said we'll wait another year and we'll try it then. Then one day he said he was putting roller skates on me, and got one skate on when the phone rang inside the house. He ran back in to grab the phone and when he looked outside he said I was wheeling around on one skate. That's when he thought I was ready to go back to the ice.

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Nelson Emerson: A player pays it forward

Sunday, 01.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Nelson Emerson - Special to NHL.com

Nelson Emerson is a former Los Angeles Kings player who works in player development for the team. Following a 13-year NHL career as a five-time 20-goal scorer, Emerson spent two seasons as an assistant coach before his current role.

He is involved with the Junior Kings youth program and co-coaches his sons with Kings assistant general manager Rob Blake. Coincidentally, Emerson and Blake were sitting in a dorm room at Bowling Green State University in 1988 when they heard the news that Wayne Gretzky had been traded to the Los Angeles Kings.

I have twin 12-year-old boys who have been playing youth hockey here since 6 or 7. They're both forwards. One's a goal-scorer and the other's a grinder but they don't play on the same line. They started playing on ice. Some kids do start on roller hockey, but I think now, because of the facilities available, they're able to start on ice earlier.

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Emerson Etem: Local player makes good

Sunday, 01.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Emerson Etem - Special to NHL.com

Emerson Etem is one of the more promising young forwards in the Anaheim Ducks organization and likely would be an NHL regular on any other team without the logjam of talented forwards on the Ducks roster. He was the American Hockey League Player of the Month for December.

Etem has a unique background, born from the roller hockey rinks near his hometown Long Beach, Calif., halfway between the locations the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks call home.

My parents put me in roller hockey classes at the local YMCA when I was 3. I don't know why they picked hockey. My brother Martin played and I picked it up. It was just out of curiosity. I played soccer in the summer and tennis when I was younger but I stuck with hockey. I just wanted to try it out and I liked it.

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Hwangbo turns ambassador after North Korea escape

Sunday, 01.05.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, generally known throughout the world as North Korea, isn't a country where athletes typically get a chance to shine on the world stage.

The socialist republic holds elections but is considered one of the most ironclad dictatorships in the world. Known for its elaborate cult of personality, the country has been governed by a tyrannical family that entered its third generation with the inauguration of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in December 2011. The grandson of "Eternal President" and republic founder Kim il-Sung, and son of Kim Jong-il, who governed for 17 years before his death in 2011, Kim Jong-un established a precedent for his reign in December when, in what was termed a purge of "counterrevolutionary factionalists,” he executed his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, for treason.

But there are some stories of hope, stories of people who managed to flee the country and make new lives for themselves. Hwangbo Young is one of those stories.

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Sunday Long Read: Discovering joys of outdoors

Sunday, 12.29.2013 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

A fresh sheet of ice covering a lake. The powdery snow shoveled off to the sides. A sharp chill hanging in the air. If you're lucky, a warm drink waiting for you at the end of the day.

These are the elements that made outdoor hockey so special for a generation of players. As the game began to move indoors, they became symbols of a bygone era. But with a little help from the massive annual spectacle that is the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, many modern players are discovering the joy of the outdoor game.

And a generation of Hockey Hall of Fame members who grew up playing on the local pond couldn't be happier.

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Alums from 2005 WJC should dominate in Sochi

Sunday, 12.22.2013 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The events are separated by nearly 10 years and more than 5,500 miles, but the similarities between Grand Forks, N.D., and Sochi, Russia, are many.

The off-the-beaten-path sports cities will be remembered for giving fans some of the best hockey ever played.

The list of players who made Grand Forks, site of the 2005 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, one of the most memorable tournaments in history should be among the participants who will make the 2014 Sochi Olympics arguably the most competitive Olympic hockey tournament since NHL players officially began competition in the Games in 1998.

Lay the rosters side-by-side. Look at the players from the nine nations that sent a team to Grand Forks in late December 2004 and the ones that will make the journey to Russia in February 2014.

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Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp