Thursday, August 13, 2009

Scotty Wazz of Face Off Hockey Show shares his Earliest Hockey Memories

Logo by Gray from Couch Tarts

Scotty probably doesn't know this, but he's actually one of the first "bloggers" I ever knew about. The reason's simple: my first online writing "gig" (gig is in quotation marks because I didn't get paid a dime) was for as the LA Kings correspondent and Wazz was one of the most prominent contributors there. That "gig" sort of kind of pushed me to drop Earl Sleek an e-mail about Battle of California and the rest is (obscure) history.

Anyway, Wazz has been around for a LONG time, as his hockey-oriented Radio Show/Podcast recently celebrating its EIGHTH anniversary! (Whoa) Make sure to give Face Off Hockey Show a listen, as it's absolutely one of the best hockey podcasts around. Also, make sure to follow Scotty's blog as well. Thanks a bunch, Scotty. You're welcome back any time.

Scotty Wazz in 1999

Living in Glen Burnie, Maryland for the first 21 years in my life was decent when it came to exposure to hockey. I was born in 1983, when the Baltimore Orioles were coming up on their third World Series trophy against the Phillies, the Baltimore Colts were about to move in the middle of the night to Indianapolis, and the Skipjacks had come back into the Baltimore Arena after the Clippers disbanded from the EHL. Down the road in the DC Metro area, the Redskins were king coming off their first Super Bowl win, the Capitals had a great young stable of talent, and had teams that could succeed, and the Bullets played basketball.

The Burnie was smack between NHL and AHL country with the Washington Capitals being to the South and Baltimore Skipjacks to the North. The Skipjacks were in a transition of their affiliation from the Pittsburgh Penguins primary affiliate to the Caps affiliate. I would learn later in my life that my grandmother was a Skipjacks season ticket holder when they first came into town in 1981 with the ACHL, then once they moved to the I-AHL and AHL. I didn't know that at all was said and done and it makes me believe that's partially the reason why my life went to hockey over everything else.

I did partake in the Orioles and Redskins early in my life because that's how my household was, mostly because dad was favorable to those teams, even to this day. I was still young and trying to figure out the simple walking, talking, and not crapping myself. It should be known, I've conquered all those things. In any case, I actually stumbled on hockey by my lonesome. I was lucky enough to get TV privileges when I was four years old and was flipping through the channels to stumble on something on WDCA 20 when the Washington Capitals took on the New York Rangers from Madison Square Garden. I had recognized the sport because I remember having a wooden hockey stick with the Caps colors on it from my godfather. My godfather had played hockey within the area too, which is another reason why I was probably more favorable to hockey over other sports, it was instilled in my family and I had no bloody clue until after I took it up.

Having watched some of the game, I immediate went running to the mother asking her to get my stick down from the wall in my room and I started to emulate the stick handling on the ice and trying to imitate the TV as much as an impressionable youth can be. It went further when I figured, "Hey, I have something like that in my (Fisher Price) adjustable roller skates!!" To which, I also begged my mom for me to put those on and just go around the hallway skating and mimicking stick handling. The skates had bells on them when I rolled and soon I had to take them off or risk my mom and dad strangling me to death.

An action shot of Wazz ('94)

I started to catch the games in that 1987-88 season and got to know most of the players' names and got into the stats of hockey like I already had done with other sports. All my friends were all about baseball and some football, but it seemed I was the only one really into hockey. While they knew all about Cal Ripken, Jr., John Riggins, and Art Monk-- I knew them, plus Mike Ridley, Michal Pivonka, and Rod Langway. It kind of made me feel a bit unique by knowing about a sport no one else really did-- kind of like I was in a secret group amongst my friends. I learned the game through the '87-'88 season and began to follow the Caps and league in '88-'89.

My dad saw this and did something for me that got me hooked into the whole game. My father worked for the Prince George's County government at the time and worked near the Capital Centre in Landover. He knew some contacts there because he did a lot of work on the traffic signals and signs around the arena. He was able to get some tickets for a game on February 3rd, 1989. Before we go on, I'll confess I didn't know the date, I had to go to Mike Liut's page on to find it out. I remember the score, the opposing team, but couldn't remember the date.

Anyway-- I believe this was my first live sporting event, as far as I remember. It was against the Hartford Whalers, which is pretty special knowing they don't exist anymore. It was also player t-shirt giveaway day, which became a tradition for me going to those games because the shirts were like the Caps home jersey, down to the red shoulders. That year's player was Bengt Gustafsson and while I knew the name, I didn't think he'd become my favorite player of all-time when I entered the Cap Centre. We were at the end where the Caps defended twice, which gave me a nice downward view of the rink where the Caps were shooting at twice, we weren't too high, but high enough to have a great view of it all.

The game was going on and it was an exciting game, but no scoring as of yet. My luck, I asked my dad to give me my t-shirt during the second period. Whilst I was struggling to get it over my head and other shirt, the crowd erupted and the siren was wailing like it did on TV. It turned out the t-shirt player of the day, Gustafsson, was the goal-scorer. It excited me because that was the first goal I saw live.....and turned out to be the only goal on the day. It made Gustafsson my favorite player since he scored the first goal and game winner in my first game.

Thanks to my dad's contact, I was able to attend more games at the Cap Centre year after year. I have a ton of ticket stubs with all the cool designs over the years on them. It was something that me and my dad really got to bond with. It was about a 40 minute ride to and from the arena, which gave us time to share moments, talking about life and that stuff. While he and I played catch in the backyard all the time, I treasure the moments at the Cap Centre more and more.

Once I started playing hockey, he was really into it-- buying a lot of Blackhawks gear, since our team was the Chesapeake Chiefs. My mom even got into it, though she thought it was too dangerous, but that's mothers for you. She wouldn't let me play football, but allowed me to play hockey. I think it worked out for the better. Both my folks supported my love of the game, regardless of the cost of it and looking back now, I'm indebted to them for actually allowing me to enjoy the game and grow with it because I enjoyed watching and then playing it.

A recent photo of Wazz with his family

Speaking of playing, it took a while for me to get the swing of things when I started at a young age, but I turned into a decent player, or at least I was told to keep my fragile ego in tact. I started playing rec hockey back in 1993 and was in the rec program until 1997, when I went onto the travel team in bantams. I was captain in my first and third year playing midget hockey for the Chiefs. I captained my high school team, Mount St. Joseph’s High School in Baltimore to it’s second JV High School title during my junior year, but thanks to a fateful knee injury while trying out in college-- I’ve been reserved to playing beer league hockey….which isn’t a bad thing. It’s competitive to a point, but everyone is out there because they love playing it.

That exposure to the game on that February night allowed me to get hooked to the game, which has led me down a road to all aspects of the hockey world. From playing locally, to being a stick boy with the ill-fated ECHL's Chesapeake Icebreakers and then going into the media aspect of the game, doing internet radio and blogging, with my peak being writing for FHM Online as a fantasy hockey guy. Now, I'm a U-List internet radio show host with a panache for randomness, crude humor, and ADHD. And I think that because I was able to flip on WDCA that fateful day, I'm the fanatic that I am today. Whether that's a good thing or not is up for debate on how you look at it and who you actually are. It is what it is.

And that’s what’s up.

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