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The Demon and the Canucks

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

Gene Simmons knows first hand marriage changes you.

In his case, it’s for the better. Hockey is now a part of his life.

The 62-year-old Israeli-American entrepreneur, singer-songwriter, actor, and rock bassist for KISS was happily unmarried to former Playboy Playmate and actress Shannon Tweed for nearly 30 years.

Then, as fans of the family’s reality show Gene Simmons Family Jewels know, Gene and Shannon finally tied the knot this past October.

The couple is happily married and getting to know each other like never before, which includes Gene truly paying attention to one of Shannon’s favourite pastimes. She’s a hockey fan. She took up skating growing up in St. John's, Newfoundland, and continued hitting the ice when the family moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Gene, on the other hand, didn’t have hockey in Haifa, the largest city in northern Israel, where he lived until his family emigrated to New York City when he was eight-years-old. Even in the Big Apple, hockey was nonexistent.

“In New York there was handball and running from gangs, that was it, there wasn’t much,” he laughed.

The game remains a mystery to him as was evident Sunday at Rogers Arena when Gene, Shannon and daughter Sophie watched the Vancouver Canucks take on the Anaheim Ducks.

Gene stared at the ice puzzled, questioning the sanity of those playing below.

“I never was a hockey fan because I couldn’t fathom how you could stand on ice, much less go 30 MPH on razor blades. I don’t get it. And they go backwards! You’re kidding me. And also, they’re gentlemen. If anybody swung at me, we’d take it outside.

“Obviously through Shannon, my wife, I’ve gone to more hockey games in a few weeks than I have in my entire life.”

If you’ve caught an episode of Gene Simmons Family Jewels, you know Gene is a smooth talker; he could sell ice to Eskimos. So to hear him talk hockey, it becomes very evident very quickly he’s new to the sport.

“It’s clear the Ca-nooks (Shannon: “It’s Ca-NUCKS”) are much better players than the Ducks, than the Dooks I mean. They’re covering the court much better on defence, but things happen.

“However, maybe it’s not a good idea for me to go to any more games.”

I spoke to Gene and family during the second intermission with the Canucks down 3-1, the same position the team was in when Gene and Shannon last took in a Canucks game against the Kings, in Los Angeles, this past New Year’s Eve.

Vancouver lost that game and dropped Sunday’s contest as well. No one’s pointing fingers…wait, sorry, Shannon is pointing fingers.

“It’s Gene’s fault. When I go alone, we win.”

The visit to Vancouver was not a complete loss as the family was able to spread a lot of joy while in town. Here to shoot an episode in Whistler for their upcoming season, they timed their trip with the unveiling of Sophie’s Place, Vancouver’s first dedicated multidisciplinary child protection centre.

The Sophie in question is Gene and Shannon’s 19-year-old daughter, who couldn’t be prouder to be a part of the centre for abused children aged 12-and-under, which opens in February in Surrey.

“Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and Howard Blank (Great Canadian Casinos) brought it to our attention that this place was being put together and it’s something that I’ve always been really passionate about is children’s rights and everything that encompasses that,” said Sophie. “I felt like it would be a perfect fit and I was honoured they wanted to use my name on it.”

The joy didn’t stop there.

Gene, Shannon and Sophie took in pre-game warm-up Sunday from the penalty box and Jannik Hansen, typically the one asked for his autograph, put the shoe on the other foot and approached Gene to sign his stick.

“It caught me off guard a little bit, it’s something you see when you play down in LA,” laughed Hansen. “I figured I had the chance so I might as well see if he would sign my stick.

“I asked him before I skated over there and obviously I had to get a pen, it’s not something I run around with in my pants. I had a couple of short steps to take before I went back over there.”

Hansen then used the stick for warm-up, and the game, and now it’s a keepsake.

And it better remain a keepsake, said Gene.

“He came over and got the stick signed and it was fun, of course if I see it on E-Bay, I’ll have to sue him and take his house, but that’s another story,” laughed Gene, in an I’m-not-really-kidding kind of way.

“I’m not surprised he came over. He’s clearly a powerful and attractive man and he recognizes the God of Thunder who walks the Earth and he came to pay homage.”

No word yet on when Gene and family will again pay homage to the Canucks.

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