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Hockeywood

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
Moscow – May 5, 2007 – In refreshingly chilly Russia today I learned of the greatest summer job ever held by any human being in the history of humankind.     


Back in 1985, 15-year-old Ontario resident Macpherson spent his summer vacation from school in his hockey skates, for upwards of 15 hours every day, skating as a hockey double for Rob Lowe on the set of ‘Youngblood.’ You didn’t really think Hollywood produced fleet-footed power forwards for the occasional hockey movie, did you?

Casablanca, of course, Youngblood’s not, but it is a small part of hockey culture lore, a minor bit of ice kitsch classic, and Macpherson, whose career in hockey would include a stint as a pro scout with the Washington Capitals in 1998 and 1999, identifies it as his “claim to fame” in the game.

If I spent my summer vacation as a 15-year-old on a movie set with 21-year-old Cynthia Gibb, the experience would be my claim to a presidential-sized autobiography. It would be all downhill after that.

He barely got the words “Youngblood” and “hockey double” out his mouth when I immediately associated the film with my first on-screen crush, the Zamboni-driving brunette who serves as Rob Lowe’s love distraction. I began thinking about Macpherson’s first day back at school that September, when students recounted their family vacations  and swimming pool trips before yielding to Macpherson’s feat.

Imagine. Months of a shared movie set with Lowe, Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, future hockey big leaguers Steve Thomas and Peter Zezel, and . . . . Cynthia Gibbs . . . the most gorgeous Zamboni driver in the history of the big screen.

A less smitten blogger would report that the summer of ’85 was the mere starting point for a remarkable career in hockey and business for Macpherson. Today he is Managing Partner of his own sports media empire, SpoJo Entertainment, with offices in Manhattan and Boston and an arm’s-length list of A list clients. He also owns two sports magazines, boasts the title of Vice President of HC Slovan, recent winners of their professional hockey league in Slovakia, and is busy these days organizing prestigious and glamour-name-laden hockey old timers games around the globe. One takes place this week in Moscow, in the big new rink downtown, He’s been so successful with it that the International Ice Hockey Federation has sought to associate itself with Macpherson’s ice party of legends.

How did a kid who spent the first 10 years of his life living in Florida find himself, at 15, so accomplished a young hockey player in less than five years after taking up the sport that Hollywood would cast him as Lowe’s skating double for a major Hollywood release? Here his inquisitor is first confronted by Macpherson’s overflowing modesty.

“I worked hard [at hockey], but it was also just a case of being in the right place at the right time,” he told me.

Over the course of nearly two hours of conversation in game traffic congestion in outer Moscow Saturday, Macpherson would deflect credit away from himself in all aspects of achievement his hockey career. The youngest coach in all of Division I college hockey, for seven consecutive years, beginning at the age of 21? Scott Macpherson.  He shared with me the names of the Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning he scouted and signed while serving as the team’s head scout from 199-2001, but he wouldn’t allow me to list them here because “the truth is I had a lot of help from my fellow scouts.”

This summer his next big project will debut: “Breakfast of Champions,” a two-hour  radio program he’s developed with the help of the Hockey Hall of Fame that will feature a handful of interviews with the game’s greats each week. The program will be streamed on the Internet.  

Behind hockey’s scenes today he is playing a lead entrepreneurial role for some high-profile events for the betterment of the sport. You will be hearing about one of them early in the NHL’s 2007-08 season.

While serving as an assistant coach for the Cincinnati Cyclones of the International Hockey League in 1998-99, Macpherson joined the Caps scouting staff and assisted Shawn Simpson in monitoring the development of two high-profile Russian prospects, Alexander Volchkov and Alexei Tezikov. So not everything he’s touched has turned to gold.

“[Portland Pirates’ coach] Mark Kumpel lost most of his hair over those two guys,” he told me with a chuckle.

Macpherson expressed to me only one regret about his career to date in hockey, and that was accepting the head coaching job with the ECHL’s Augusta Lynx, against the advice of his father, his formative influence in the game. His father passed soon thereafter, and Macpherson lasted just 33 games in Augusta, unable to disassociate the experience with his grief. He left the team and spent the next few years directing his energies into business, but the connections he made inevitably led him back to hockey.

“Getting back into hockey was like putting on an old pair of shoes,” he told me.

I was shocked to learn that Macpherson’s children hadn’t seen Youngblood. They don’t even know of his role in the film. He’s apparently too modest to tell them.

The film ends with Rob Lowe’s character winning a championship playoff with a penalty shot. Macpherson’s shot, of course. I asked him how many takes it took.

“One,” he told me.

Of course.

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