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Friday's Baker's Blog - 7/13/2012

by Jamie Baker / San Jose Sharks

If you walk around San Francisco you’ll see babies, young little babies, especially boys, wearing the orange and black colors of the SF Giants. These little kids don’t know baseball from badminton but the likelihood they will be lifelong Giants fans is pretty good, especially when they look back and see all the wonderful cute baby pictures.

And so it is….

August 31, 1966: I was born. September 1, 1966: I already hated and cheered against the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. My dad didn’t like either of those teams, and thus, neither did I.

And so it was…

From 1976 to 1979, the Montreal Canadians won four Stanley Cups bolstered by the goaltending of Ken Dryden, key forwards in Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey, Jacques Lemaire and stellar defenseman Serge Savard and of course Larry Robinson.

Because of Larry Robinson, I cried annually when his team won the Stanley Cup. And then a freak meeting…

The year was 1989, the month was February and I was a senior at St. Lawrence University. Unfortunately in an exhibition game on December 29th, I got slew-footed while our team was ranked No. 1 in the country and I broke my fibula and tore ligaments in my ankle. I had the exact same injury Anze Kopitar had at the end of the 2011 regular season.

As a supplemental draft choice with the Quebec Nordiques, I was excited to see them play at the cathedral known as the The Forum in Montreal against the Canadiens. I was on crutches and had a cast on my leg because of my injury so I arrived early to the Forum. It was about two and a half hours before the game as I was trying to open the door to the media/player entrance at The Forum when someone behind me opened the door for me.

I looked back and to my amazement was a huge man who was also Larry Robinson. I couldn’t believe that someone I watched my whole life was opening the door for me, and he was so big for such a skilled player. That was Larry Robinson encounter No. 1 for me.

The second time I had an encounter with Robinson happened on the ice. It was the 1990-91 season and I was playing in just my fourth game in the NHL. The Nordiques were hosting the Kings and I was excited to just be on the same ice as Wayne Gretzky.

I was assigned, with Claude Loiselle, to try and shut down Gretzky’s line. When Pierre Page gave me the assignment before the game I instantly had extra large pizzas under each of my armpits. This was also known as severe nervousness.

Near the end of the first period I was heading to our bench to change and at the exact same time, right in front of our bench, Gretzky snuck in behind Loiselle, stole the puck from him and turned to head the other direction. Problem is, I was coming and didn’t have time to change my lane. So I ran right into Gretzky. He fell down. His whole team stood up in unison and yelled, while pointing at me, “HEY!!!!!”

So in my fourth game in the NHL, I ran Wayne Gretzky. Not intentionally of course, but it happened. So at the end of the first period while sitting in the dressing room, guys were saying nice hit and all I could think of was Marty McSorley rearranging my face. Marty was big, mean and took it upon himself to send messages to anyone who went after Gretzky.

Something must have happened in the Los Angeles locker room, as in, they looked at the stat sheet, saw I was a rookie, very raw at that, and didn’t have a lot of penalty minutes in the minors. In other words, wasn’t a threat but nonetheless a message had to be sent. If you run the best player in the World, you were going to pay a price to send a message to the rest of the League to leave him alone.

And so it was…

In the second period I was heading into the neutral zone, and while accepting a pass from my defenseman I realized a RAM truck was in front of me by the name of Larry Robinson. The 19-year veteran stepped up and conveniently had his knee meet my thigh. I fell, got up and finished the game albeit in quite a bit of pain. I actually went on to score the tying goal in the third period on Kelly Hrudey, which was my first career NHL goal.

The next day the swelling in my leg because of my charley horse had taken it’s toll and I ended up being out for one week. I took some slack from the guys too – “oh ya Bakes, score a goal, run Gretzky, take the day off kid!!!!”

Those were my first two encounters with Larry Robinson. And now I get to watch him as an Associate Coach for the San Jose Sharks, joining Todd McLellan's staff. What an amazing catch, pun intended.

Nine Stanley Cups. The Sharks are trying to get to the Finals for the first time as an organization and Robinson has nine rings. One for the pinky eh! Robinson brings instant credibility and will garner tremendous respect from every player. It’s easily the best transaction of the summer for the Sharks organization.

I want to welcome Jim Johnson to the Sharks organization and must admit I am equally excited he is on board as one of the assistant coaches. Jim and I became friends when we lived in Arizona years ago and he is a great guy, tremendous professional, phenomenal teacher and is very detailed in techniques and tactics of the game. Jim has a tremendous hockey mind and is truly a student of the game… he too is a great asset added to the coaching staff.

Welcome to San Jose Jim. You will love it here because the Sharks organization is led by great people and our fan base is awesome.

With the 2012 London Olympics fast approaching I wanted to make a quick shout out to Skip Lightfoot. Skip is, yup, that Skip from Skip’s Tire. Skip has been a sponsor on the Sharks radio broadcasts for years and is a tremendous supporter of Sharks hockey. Skip is not only a great guy but is also a horse owner and two of his horses will represent the US in the Endurance event where horses race for approximately 100 miles.

Good luck and have fun in London, Skip.

I am Jamie Baker for The Daily Chomp.

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