Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Hockey And Baseball

With today being the day of baseball's mid-season classic, featured at the legendary Yankee Stadium no less, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the two sports that keep me moving in the summer and winter. Hockey has always been my favorite sport, and there's nothing else even close in that regard. However, baseball has always been a curiosity to me. Whether it's a double-play turned to perfection or a mammoth homerun, baseball has always captured my attention with its intricacies wrapped within a sport. With the best players on display in New York City this week, I commend the three Canadian kids who are there, as well as the rest of the all-stars for both teams. With that, here's a little bit of info as we blur the lines between hockey and baseball.

We'll start with Clark, the Canadian Hockey Goalie. Clearly, Clark has some talent in both sports, and he could be the next two-sport athlete along the lines of Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders.

Of course, this is more comedy than reality, but the man playing Clark actually comes from a very good pedigree in terms of NHL talent. The man playing Clark is Nicholas Vachon, son of former NHL goaltender Rogie Vachon. Nicholas was drafted 241st overall in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was signed as a free agent by the Los Angeles Kings before the Kings traded him to the New York Islanders for Chris Marinucci. The left winger played one NHL game total in his career, suiting up for the New York Islanders wearing #21. Unfortunately, Nick didn't record a point in his only NHL game. To clear room for Nick's debut against the Los Angeles Kings, a team his father also suited up for, the Islanders sent Mike Vukota to their minor league affliate in Utah.

Nick retired from professional hockey in 1998, but hasn't fallen off the map. In 2003, he starred as Clark, and also scored a role in the Hollywood film known as S.W.A.T., alongside some notable stars such as Colin Farrell, Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J, and Michelle Rodriguez.

Today, Nicholas Vachon continues to work in Redondo Beach, California, running his own production company called Vachon Productions. Take a look around Mr. Vachon's site to see what they've been up to regarding television productions. "Clark" is doing some fine work.

The next junction in which we find baseball and hockey intertwined comes courtesy of a soon-to-be Hall-of-Fame pitcher. The boy out of Concord, Massachusetts has recorded 300 wins as a pitcher in Major League Baseball, but he was also a pretty good hockey player in his time. Tom Glavine was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings 69th overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft out of Billerica Memorial High School in Billerica, Massachusetts. The fourth-round pick of the Kings has won a World Series with the Atlanta Braves, so it's not like his baseball career was a wrong choice.

Considering that this draft was loaded with future NHL stars, Mr. Glavine was in some lofty company. He grew up a Bruins fan, so it was understandable that he was pretty psyched about getting drafted by the Kings. However, five days earlier, the Atlanta Braves had drafted Glavine in the second-round of the MLB draft. Considering that the Braves put up first-round money in a contract, Glavine made the decision to follow the money.

Mr. Glavine makes his home just outside of Atlanta and still tries to attend as many Thrashers games as he can. His three sons - Jonathan, Peyton, and Mason - also play hockey, and keeps Dad going in the winter months.

In 2007, Mr. Glavine was honoured by both the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers for achieving 300 wins in his career while with the New York Mets. For more information on Mr. Glavine's achievements, please read my 2007 article.

Opposite to Mr. Glavine, the guy who chose hockey over baseball has had a pretty solid NHL career thus far. It has been well-documented that Chris Drury was a Little League World Series Champion during his childhood, and his athleticism has allowed him to win the Stanley Cup in the NHL. The 1989 Trumbull National Little League team of Trumbull, Connecticut went all the way to the finals of the Little League World Series where a young Chris Drury pitched five-hit ball in the final game to stifle Kang-Tu Little League of Chinese Taipei en route to a 5-2 victory. Mr. Drury also picked up two RBIs in the win. With success in both hockey and baseball, it was simply a matter of time before he had to decide which sport he wanted to focus on.

Drury chose hockey, and hasn't looked back. Chris Drury was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques 72nd overall in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. In 1998, he won the Hobey Baker Award with Boston University after his senior year. He was the Calder Trophy winner during the 1998-99 season with the Colorado Avalanche as the rookie-of-the-year in the NHL. And in 2000-01, Mr. Drury helped the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup. He has also represented his team in a number of international events, including the 2006 Torino Olympic Games.

Today, Chris Drury is skating for the New York Rangers, and looks to be down the middle again in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games for Team USA. He is still the only player in NHL history to win both the Hobey Baker Award and the Calder Trophy, and is the only Boston University player with over 100 goals and 100 assists in his NCAA career. In fact, his 113 goals is still a team record today.

And I almost forgot about Youppi!, pictured here with Canadiens' GM Bob Gainey at his press conference, who got his start with some team that was sold to Washington. I miss the Expos. They looked so much classier than the Nationals. Youppi!, however, looks good in Canadiens' red. The big orange furball is the first mascot to have successfully become a two-sport mascot. His first appearance in the Bell Centre in a Canadiens' uniform occurred on October 18th, 2005. Vive Youppi! He even has his own website!

Youppi! was designed by Bonnie Erickson, formerly a designer for Jim Henson, and the creator of Miss Piggy, Statler & Waldorf and other Muppets. Youppi! is in the MLB record books as being the first mascot to have been thrown out of a game. This happened on August 23, 1989 during a game versus the Los Angeles Dodgers. Youppi! took a flying leap and landed heavily on the Dodgers' dugout. Tommy Lasorda, manager of the Dodgers, complained to the umpires, and Youppi! got tossed.

Youppi! is also one of three mascots currently in the MLB Hall of Fame. Youppi!, along with the Phillie Phanatic and the San Diego Chicken, have been permanently enshrined in Cooperstown for their work in baseball, despite the trio not having been "officially" named as Hall-of-Famers. Youppi! is now working on getting a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame with Les Habitants.

Clearly, baseball and hockey have a close relationship due to their schedules. Both sports allow kids to play without much overlap, and both work on some excellent skill sets - hand-eye coordination, teamwork, speed and agility, and core power. The best part of both games is that you only need five or six players, and you can have your own fun game anytime, any place, anywhere.

Enjoy the MLB All-Star Game from Yankee Stadium, everyone!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Kirsten said...

No Justin Morneau?