Believe it or not, New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain is a rabid hockey fan.
He appreciates the strategy involved, the finesse and the rough stuff that makes the game so entertaining. In fact, listening to him for five minutes, you kind of get the feeling the 6-foot-2, 240-pound right-hander missed his calling.
"I started watching hockey as a freshman in college and my roommate at the time was from Calgary and Jarome Iginla was his favorite player," Chamberlain told NHL.com. "Really, I like watching any player that's good at what they do. To see guys sensational at their sport is awesome, so it's fun watching all those guys -- the 6-foot-3 guy skating so fast and then [Martin] St. Louis skating around and weaving through everybody."
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When Chamberlain's sister told her brother she was hopefully devoted to a hockey player 10 years ago, the big guy was set on checking out his future brother-in-law before the walk down the aisle.
"I knew I would like him and knew he was a keeper when, the first time I saw him skate, he got into a fight and got kicked out of the game, so I approved that my sister marry this man," he said.
Chamberlain's nephew, Toby, and his son, Karter, are hockey players -- and he couldn't be happier.
"It's been something that I've grown to love and I'm excited to see my family go through it," said Chamberlain, a native of Lincoln, Neb. "It'll be exciting to be a hockey dad."
Chamberlain, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery performed last June 16 to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow, has had plenty of opportunities watch his hometown Rangers during his rehabilitation. The fact they currently lead the Eastern Conference has made it that much sweeter.
But why did he become a Rangers fan with two other teams to choose from in the metropolitan area?
"It was one of those things where being in New York, I really got into it and seeing the guys at the games and talking hockey with my brother-in-law made it an easy decision," Chamberlain said. "The thing is, the Isles' run was over and I'm not a really big Devils' fan. The Rangers were it. Gretzky played for them and my brother-in-law loved him."
Chamberlain said there are subtle similarities between the art of baseball and hockey.
"There's so much more than the three periods you see on TV," he said. "There's game's within a game … like baseball. They switch up lines and there's a strategy behind that, whether that's the second or third period. In baseball, going to the bullpen is like the line changes. It's fun and when you get to really understand the game and get to know the guys, it's so much better.
"I love watching [Brandon] Prust go out there and skate and do his job and protect Duby and Gaby and all those guys," he continued. "It was fun to see guys mature. DZ [Michael Del Zotto] got sent down last year and to see the progress he's made and what he had to prove … that's always great to see."
Yankees fans would like to see Chamberlain back on the mound again to establish a pretty formidable bullpen with David Robertson and Rafael Soriano in front of Mariano Rivera in 2012. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told the New York Post on March 12 that Chamberlain is still 12 months away from returning to the majors.
Until then, it's a full dose of rehab and Rangers.
"We just have to make sure we get everyone healthy prior to the playoffs, first and foremost," Chamberlain said. "If we're able to go in with fresh legs, that'll be good. It's been fun to watch them grow as a team and progress -- I think they have a good chance. Obviously, we've got Henrik (Lundqvist) in goal, which is always a good thing. You have these last couple of weeks to get prepared; the playoffs are a grind and it's like another long season. To see how they do is going to be exciting."