Strangers In A Strange Land

All the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey
I’ve been for a walk
On a winter’s day
I’d be safe and warm
If I was in L.A.
California dreamin’
On such a winter’s day
— The Mamas and the Papas, “California Dreamin'”

Thursday, April 1, 1999

9:00 am PST

I have to get up. I don’t want to, but I have to do it. I need to get my credentials, and in turn I need to get a parking pass for the Pond or else I might have to lug my laptop over a mile. It goes back to this laziness thing. Always look for the closest spot, even when going to the supermarket.

I know that somewhere I read that you can pick up your credentials in the Hilton in Suite 315. Unfortunately as I search around the third floor, I can’t find a Suite 315. There is a 314, but no 315.

Maybe I’m in the wrong place.

So I head downstairs and try to figure it all out — to the Help Desk.

“Let’s see, media credential pickup. Hmmm. Can’t seem to find it.”

You’re kidding, right? I know I saw it; I wasn’t dreaming.

“Ah, yes, here it is. Suite 315 of the Marriott.”


Luckily for me, the Marriott is right across the street. You see, the Marriott is the hotel where all the bigwigs stay. Us lowly media types get to stay in the Hilton, whereas the NCAA, the coaches, et al., get to stay in the official headquarters, which usually happens to be the Marriott.

I head on over, make my way upstairs to Suite 315 and find that it is indeed the correct room. I get my credentials, my parking passes and an authentic Ulu-Knife of the Arctic. I make my way out the door and realize to myself that I can’t accept a knife as a gift!

In my culture, a knife can never be given as a gift. In order for you to accept one you have to pay for it.

I make my way back into the credential room and I pull out a dollar. I tell the lovely young woman that I need to pay for this knife. She’s taken aback a little bit and waits a moment before saying something.

“Uh, I’ll make sure the folks in Anchorage get it.”

I can tell that she is absolutely shocked at this. She really didn’t know what to say. I shrug and I walk out.

Heading back to the Hilton, it’s pretty damn cold for California. I have shorts and a T-shirt on and there just is no chance that that’s all I’ll be able to wear for the rest of my stay.

Then out of nowhere, it’s the guru of USCHO! Tim is in the lobby with Lee, Scott, Lisa and Dave heading into the restaurant to eat. Exchanging pleasantries and ignoring Pops’ pleas to just go in and eat, we chat for a moment, and then I head back upstairs.

11:00 am PST

Time to head for the Pond. This is what we came here for — what it’s all about. Credentials in hand, car parked, we head for the real purpose. Why we came to Anaheim and the Frozen Four.

Free food.

We will find things to eat and eat them
We will find things to drink and we will drink them
That’s what we do, that’s why we’re here.

We head for the media meal, which Todd has already scoped out. He’s on point, with Lee and I flanking.

I forgot one thing: I have to call back East to take care of other business. I have found things to eat, but I can not eat them yet. Sad I am that I can not have my green eggs and ham.

I finally make it to the buffet and am a bit disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong. A free meal is always a good meal, but sometimes you wonder. It certainly wasn’t the feast that Ed Carpenter put on in Worcester.

With a sausage, pepper and onion sub in my tummy I head up to the press box. There I run into a lot of people that I haven’t seen in a year, who all seem to be glad to see me.

I deposit my gear at my assigned seat. It would seem that the USCHO contingent is sandwiched next to the Riverside News and behind the L.A. Times. We would come to learn more later.

Game one is underway, a great battle between Boston College and Maine. It’s classic hockey, real tense around the Pond. So I scan the crowd for superstars. I see Kurt Russell. Does he count?

Even more outstanding was the load of hot pretzels in the press box. Salted and non-salted. Soft and chewy. No one could ask for more.

Then they play the trivia game on the giant screen scoreboard. Some guy is being asked which of the following players did not participate in a Frozen Four: Paul Kariya, Brett Hull, Adam Oates and Tony Granato. Any hockey fan knows that it’s Granato, but this guy gets it wrong. Maybe the young lady holding the microphone distracted him?

Soon, we’re headed into overtime. Not bad, except everyone in the crowd is swearing because it’s ruining their between-games plans. I can tell that it’s ruining the plans of the woman next to me, from the Riverside News.

“You mean they play 20 minutes overtime?”


An exciting game ends with a Maine victory, and now the mad rush is on to get down to the press conferences. I decide to stay up in the press box because I have heard my fair share of stupid questions and I just want to relax.

Needless to say, we couldn’t go anywhere between games so we wound up hitting the buffet again.

Game two is a tight one between New Hampshire and Michigan State, at least until the Wildcats pull away in the third period.

We close up shop. Pops, who’s working lead on USCHO’s recaps this weekend, finishes his story and we head back to the hotel knowing that there will be people we’ll want to see later on in the evening.

11:00 pm PST

We head downstairs. The Hilton is looking a little thin on people so Pops, Todd and I slip over to the Marriott — we’ve heard this vicious rumor that there’s a Pizza Hut open in the lobby of the place.

Hell, right now my hand with ketchup on it sounds appetizing.

The rumor is true! We find little pan pizzas and, after wolfing them down, we’re all set to go with the fun.

I’m dressed pretty comfortably for a cool California evening. I have that Princeton T-shirt (see Part I) on and shorts, and who do I run into? The man himself, Princeton head coach Don “Toot” Cahoon.

Now Toot knows me as the ECAC guy for USCHO and the radio voice of Rensselaer, so naturally he’s a little taken aback that I have a Princeton shirt on. He does a double take, says hello and then he’s on his way with Joe Bertagna somewhere.

I then run into Kevin Beattie, the SID at Rensselaer. He and I chat for a while along with Lisa Audi, who has a hand in running the Pepsi Arena, the site of next year’s East Regional and the 2001 Frozen Four. They then hear about that vicious Pizza Hut rumor and head on off.

At this point, I am wondering where Pops is. I look over and there he is, buying a drink for Bertagna. Ever seen anyone suck up like Pops can? Not me.

Then I turn around, right into Dan Fridgen, head coach at Rensselaer. He spots the Princeton t-shirt that I am wearing and stares in disbelief.

“What are you doing wearing that?”

“I’ve got one for every team in this league.”

“So where’s your RPI shirt?”

“Uh, it’s up in the room.”

Then I do my best Dave Hendrickson impersonation.

“Would you like me to go put it on?”

Dan and I chat for awhile, until Bowling Green head coach Buddy Powers shows up, as does Kevin Sullivan, an ECAC official. We chat and then I head on over because the great guru Brule has shown up at the Marriott.

Tim, Todd and I then get into conversation with Jeff Sauer, the head man at Wisconsin.

I also run into some real good people — John Painter of the NCAA and Tim Danehy (better known as Danzer) of the ECAC, along with some of the staff from the tournament. Again more engagement of conversation and another weird look.

I know she’s thinking back to that dollar that I gave her for the Ulu-Knife of the Arctic.

I will always be the first to tell you that friendly conversation has led to some of the best leads that I have ever gotten. This night was no exception. Someone had mentioned to Todd and Tim that a certain coach in a 10,000 Lakes state would step down on Tuesday.

Then the second good tidbit came up. The Don Lucia to Minnesota thing.

2:05 am PST

Looks like things are winding down as we run into our good friend Charlie Shub.

2:06 am PST

The rest of the USCHO crew and Danzer wind up back at the Marriott, where we find the rest of the crew.

We hear that the traditional Barkan Bash is still going on upstairs, so we decide that we’re going to see what it’s all about. Then we think better of it. It’s time to get some sleep — plenty to do tomorrow.

Riding up the elevator I remember a conversation that Chris Lerch and I had earlier on in the day.

“Jayson, are you going to the Pond tomorrow to watch the practices?”

“Chris, I don’t think so. We’re in L.A.”



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