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Chili Peppers' Smith lives hockey dreams on the road

by Tal Pinchevsky

Between the sold-out arena concerts, millions of fans, and recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith has lived out most people's wildest rock star fantasies. But the longtime Detroit Red Wings fan has also been lucky enough to live out some of his childhood hockey dreams.

For the Michigan-born Smith, a lifelong infatuation with the Wings reached a new level in 1997, when he found himself in the locker room at Joe Louis Arena as the Red Wings celebrated their first Stanley Cup in 42 years. At the game to promote a charity hockey event, Smith gained access to the team's locker room, where he was quickly recognized. Moments later, he was drinking from the Stanley Cup.

"All the photographers were thinking, 'He's not a player,' so they didn't take any pictures. I was yelling, 'Please, please take a picture.' This one guy took a picture and he said, 'Give me your information and I'll get you the picture.' I never heard from him," Smith said. "Three years go by and I'm playing in a charity game in Boston and he was the ref. He came up to me and said, 'Hey, I have a picture of you drinking from the Cup.' I grabbed him and yelled, 'Give me your information right now!' Finally, he sent the picture. It's now at home prominently displayed."

A Los Angeles resident for decades, Smith has adopted the Kings as another NHL favorite. For the drummer, who occasionally attends Kings games when the band isn't touring, their current run to the Western Conference Finals has been exciting. And the longtime goaltender has been especially impressed by the play of Jonathan Quick.

Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and wrestler Chris Jericho pretend to scrap at the 2002 All-Star Celebrity Game. The exchange accidentally left Jericho with a bloody nose.
(Photo: Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

"I'm a fan of Quick. He's played great all year," Smith said. "I'm a goalie fan, and he's an American guy, too."

Smith would like to have watched more of the Kings' recent surge through the postseason, but the band's hectic schedule has made that difficult. It still hasn't stopped him from crossing paths with a few NHL teams, though. As the Chili Peppers have spent the spring playing a number of NHL arenas, they've found their schedule constantly conflicting with many NHL teams.

"In Ottawa, we played and they had just lost in New York. Our dressing room is the team dressing room and I saw the scorecard and everything. It was kind of sad," Smith said. "We were in Montreal and they hired their new GM and they wanted to do the press conference at the arena, but we were doing our gig. So we kind of screwed that up for them."

By the time the band arrived for two shows at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., they found themselves squarely in the middle of the Eastern Conference Semifinal between the Devils and Flyers.

"We had Friday and Saturday there. So they [Flyers and Devils] played Sunday after the extra days off and the Flyers were complaining the ice was a little soft. I say Philly's a little soft," Smith joked. "So the Devils can thank us for the soft ice."

Smith's hockey fandom even came in handy when it was time for the band to hire a new guitar player. When guitarist Josh Klinghoffer turned out to be a Red Wings fan, the Chili Peppers' search was over.

"When he grew up, Sergei Fedorov was his favorite player. So we have a bond," Smith said. "I said, 'You can be in the band. You're cool.'"

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