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Sunday Long Read
(Page 3 of 4)
Sunday Long Read

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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Sunday Long Read: Samoskevich honors Sandy Hook

Sunday, 12.15.2013 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

Preparing for one of the biggest games of her career, Melissa Samoskevich heard the news that will, in many ways, shape the rest of her life.

Samoskevich, 15 years old, was on a bus with her hockey teammates from the Shattuck-St. Mary's School varsity girls team on Dec. 14, 2012, settling in for the long bus ride from campus in Fairbault, Minn., to face a powerful Chicago Mission team, considered to be one of the best in the country.

The game for Shattuck would be a measuring stick against one of the toughest opponents on the schedule. The tough task ahead consumed the thoughts of Samoskevich as the bus ate up the miles toward the Windy City. When Samoskevich wasn't thinking about the game, and the role she hoped to play in it, she was thinking of an upcoming trip home to visit family during the holiday break.

But a phone call during that bus ride would send the sophomore's world off its axis. Samoskevich's mother, Patty, called that afternoon, the bearer of bad news about the family's hometown of Sandy Hook, Conn.

"My mom called me and [said] there was a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary," Samoskevich said. "Are you kidding? In Sandy Hook? I was dumbfounded. I remember getting on my laptop and putting the news on my laptop. When we finally got to the hotel, I found out how many lives were lost. I couldn't believe it."

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Sunday Long Read: Ducks back H.S. champion

Sunday, 12.08.2013 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

Dusseldorf, Germany is a long way from the NHL, figuratively and literally.

Yet, after playing 10 seasons in the NHL, the majority of which spent with the Los Angeles Kings, Dusseldorf is exactly where Craig Johnson found himself in 2005. He went to Germany a year previously to play for the Hamburg Freezers during the NHL work stoppage. He expected it to be a one-off adventure, but an abdominal injury and complications from the surgery to correct it left Johnson out of hockey for close to a year and without a NHL contract offer.

By the time he was healthy, NHL teams had settled their rosters, so Johnson stayed in Dusseldorf for a two-year run with the DEG MetroStars of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany's top professional circuit.

After 30 goals and 51 points in 75 games, Johnson was again at a crossroads and opted to return to Southern California, where he had set up roots after playing parts of eight seasons with the Kings and a portion of the 2003-04 season with the Anaheim Ducks. While considering his next move, Johnson took some time to coach his son, Eric, who was playing with the Anaheim Junior Ducks, a youth program established in 1994, not long after the NHL came to Orange County.

There was no way for Johnson to know it at the time, but the decision paved the road for a high school hockey program in California to make history a few years later.

As the varsity hockey coach at Santa Margarita Catholic High School, Johnson has spearheaded a program that, like the interscholastic league in which it competes, has seen an unlikely and meteoric rise, one which has gained praise across the hockey world.

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Quote of the Day

I don't have a crystal ball. Predicting is a real complicated thing. If we stay healthy, have enough depth and get the good goaltending we think we're going to have, you can go all the way. But a lot of things have to happen. There's going to be a lot of teams that think the same thing. Everyone made deals. We're all are optimistic about where we'll end up.

— Rangers general manager Glen Sather after being asked if he's constructed a team that can win the Stanley Cup before their 4-1 win against the Predators on Monday
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