Does hockey live in Hollywood?
Saturday, 11 August 2007
Originally published in The Hockey News in 2005
By Lucas Aykroyd
With the NHL season likely consigned to oblivion, you may wonder if hockey has lost any glamour it enjoyed in the USA. Only 6 percent of Americans expressed a “great interest” in hockey in a recent Zogby International poll.
So when I was invited to participate in a Golden Globes weekend “Celebrity Lifestyle” press tour by the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, I decided it would be a perfect chance to find out where NHLers rate on the Hollywood celebrity meter in 2005. After all, if you’re a star in LA, you’re a real star, right?
My quest began mid-Thursday afternoon at the upscale Westfield Shoppingtown in Century City. A small covered ice rink occupied the mall’s outdoor plaza. The rink was empty as I approached the young skate rental attendants.
“Do you know who Luc Robitaille is?” I asked. Blank expressions. Of course, they knew Wayne Gretzky. “That’s like knowing Tony Hawk: he’s got a video game. But we’re baseball fans. You’re Canadian, we’re American. That simple. We’re pretty ignorant about the NHL here unless you play hockey or you’re a fanatic.”
Ouch. Well, on to Spago. Perhaps the mere mention of Robitaille’s name at Wolfgang Puck’s flagship Beverly Hills restaurant would generate a buzz.
“Sure, I’ve served Robitaille many times,” said my waiter, an aspiring actor from (ahem) Toronto. “Super-nice guy.” But he shook his head when I inquired if Luc’s luck might include phoning at 5 o’clock on Friday and getting a table for 7 o’clock. “Hockey players aren’t recognized by our front-of-house staff. I have to conspire with other Canadians who work here to slip those guys a complimentary bottle of wine or whatever.”
Later on, while having a beer with an LA tourism rep, I asked how he felt about the NHL lockout. “Oh, I know it’s hard on the city,” he said. “Hmm, what is it again, the Kings?”
Not so fabulous, baby. Only Gretzky and rumors of Gretzky seemed to have wings in the City of Angels. For instance, my tour guide at the Kodak Theatre, home of the Oscars, had an ex-wife from Red Deer, Alberta and a “hot tip” that Wayne would soon start his own new 10-team league.
The operator of Dearly Departed Tours, which mingles Hollywood stars and horrid LA history, promised to drive by “Gretzky’s mansion” in ritzy Hancock Park. The home in question had a huge Canadian flag in front and two Maple Leafs on the cast-iron gate. I thought it more believable that the Great One would pave his driveway with lucky loonies, and said so. “Well, I just assumed it was his,” sniffed the operator. (It was actually the Canadian consulate.) Onward to the site of the Menendez murders.
My American NHL dreams were virtually dead by the time I took my bleachers seat outside the Beverly Hilton for the Golden Globes red carpet arrivals Sunday afternoon.
I tried surveying some well-coiffed ladies who had paid up to $1,899 US for the privilege of watching the stars stroll by. “Who is Zigmund Palffy?” was my question. Nobody knew. A writer, a scientist, a rock guitarist, they guessed.
Soon, they were screaming “Nicole!” and “Leo!” as flashbulbs erupted everywhere. And then the harsh reality hit me. These celeb hunters weren’t desperate for hockey. If anything, they were Desperate for the Housewives.
Now I must contact Dave Bidini about adding another chapter to his book, Tropic of Hockey: My Search for the Game in Unlikely Places.