One Of The New Girls In The NHL
Aug 01, 2022Posted by james

A woman on the ice to coach hockey players was a rare sight 25 years ago. At that time, one or two would be seen at rinks on Long Island, teaching speed skating and other skills to boys from eight to 13 years of age. Whenever the young players saw the ladies on the ice, their eyes would roll. The reaction had nothing to do with getting schooled in hockey by a girl. The boys just wanted to play and they knew that these coaches were going to work them until they barely could make it off the ice for the comforts of the locker room.

Well, girls and women on the ice are much more common now at all levels of hockey, including in the NHL. Soon after the New York Rangers season ended, the team hired Jessica Campbell as a coach for the recently held development camp. While only 29 years old, Jessica carried with her strong credentials to work with future NHL players. She was the first woman to coach in a men’s tournament when she served as an assistant for Team Germany at the World Championship. Previously, she had been captain for Team Canada in international competition and played four years at Cornell University. Jessica has earned MVP and many other awards.

Since her playing days ended, a personal goal for Jessica has been to coach the game she loves. To her, it’s not about the women’s game or the men’s game. It’s about player development at all ages and all levels. Jessica’s long-range game plan did include working with pro athletes and she has learned that her transition to the men’s pro game offers unique challenges. Jessica feels that she has the voice and perspective to meet these challenges and that the older boys will embrace her contributions as they develop and advance in their careers.

Jessica prepared for this opportunity with the Rangers by focusing on learning, growing and remaining on top of her game first as a player and then as a coach. Her style, influenced by Doug Derraugh, who served as her coach at Cornell, relies on one simple yet critical principle that is valuable in all sports and in all other areas of life at all levels—strong communication.

Catching One Last Wave
Jul 15, 2022Posted by james

No matter how often fun, fun, fun as a group is celebrated in Beach Boys surfing songs, the sport is a lonely one. Surfing is a solitary journey as the surfer tries to catch a wave to sit on top of the world. This secluded ride on a board at the ocean’s roar has embraced Dan Fischer for many years.

The loneliness for Dan was altered a few years ago. He now casts his eyes over thousands of names etched on his surfboard as he rides the waves along the beaches of Rhode Island. His boards are covered with the names of people who have died, mostly from cancer, and who shared his love of the ocean.

Dan created the One Last Wave Project this past January. He captures the healing power of the ocean to help people celebrate the lives of parents, siblings, partners, children and friends. He was in the same boat, or on the same board, during 2019. Coping with the loss of his father, Dan etched Karl’s name on his board. They had shared a love of the ocean and of adventure—mountain climbing, paragliding, hockey and cycling. Soon after, Dan’s dog died and he etched Rudy’s name on the board.

As Dan remembered his father and dog, he recorded a video from a beach near Newport and shared it on social media. He offered to etch names onto his boards to honor people who have passed away and to celebrate their lives. He takes the boards into the water to catch the waves while, in a spiritual way, memorializing each person who enjoyed the ocean.

Dan’s first two boards contain 3,500 names. The third board that he took to the water over the Memorial Day weekend contained the recently added name of Kinley Sexton. She, too, loved the ocean, according to her mother, but the love affair was short. Kinley died from an aggressive brain tumor at age six just a few years ago.

Dan regularly receives names to add to his boards through email and social media (learn more and contact Dan on the project website. He plans to continue to add names to surfboards for as long as this tribute resonates and helps the people who have remained behind to mourn their losses.

A Young Champion Of Concussion Protocols
Jul 01, 2022Posted by james

Sports leagues at all levels increasingly have become aware of the many serious life issues associated with concussions. The youngest athletes are monitored closely, as are older players, including professionals. In most leagues, when observers determine that a player may have been compromised by a head injury, the athlete is removed quickly from competition as part of concussion protocol initiatives.

Following numerous concussions over a number of years, Meredith Greenberg likely has played her last competitive lacrosse game. Meredith is only 19 but she already has suffered seven concussions along with a case of Post-Concussion Syndrome when symptoms persisted beyond the typical recovery period. The Westchester County (Bronxville) native personally understands the health setbacks caused by head injuries, and she already has moved forward with her post-athletics mission to support other players who have suffered or may suffer from concussions.

Meredith feels that many young athletes and their parents might not possess all the important information about the dangers associated with head injuries, potentially jeopardizing critical decisions about proper medical treatment and future playing options. She is committed to helping these athletes enjoy the positive on-field opportunities she experienced while ensuring that parents are informed about the latest medical information and resources that address contact sports health issues.

Athlete Concussion Foundation (AFC) is Meredith’s advocacy organization that educates students and parents about the importance of reporting head injuries to coaches and reducing the risk of permanent brain damage. AFC is focused on prevention through education and the inclusion of mental health resources.

A few months ago, Meredith’s initiatives were discussed during a filmed program about a treatment that might be adapted for concussions. Stellate Ganglion Block is an injection of medication into nerves to help relieve pain in the head, neck, upper arm and upper chest, and to increase circulation and blood supply to the arm. After seeing the interview, a neuroscientist who is a personal friend of former Green Bay Packers and New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre, introduced Brett to Meredith. The doctor and the football player are raising money to develop a drug that, through a nasal spray, quickly might treat concussions. The three-way conversation also embraced Meredith’s long-term goal to develop an affordable EEG device that is easy to use and can quickly detect concussions in an ambulance and on the sports field.

It is very unfortunate that Meredith’s competitive sports career has been compromised at such a young age. She is, however, one of the young pioneers, a sports champion, who is seeking solutions to help protect the health of current and future athletes of all ages.

Supporting A Special Field Of Dreams
Jun 15, 2022Posted by james

Todd Frazier recently retired from baseball. He impacted the game for a number of seasons, including stints in New York for the Yankees and the Mets. Nearby, though, in his hometown of Toms River, New Jersey, he has had a more significant impact on the lives of many children and adults.

A Field of Dreams has been created in the community. The RWJBarnabas Health Field of Dreams is a one-of-a-kind athletic complex where children and adults with special needs are welcomed to enjoy the game and engage in other fun in a safe environment. With Todd’s support, and the support of many others, the concept that was just a thought by Christian Kane five years ago recently was unveiled for the community. Christian developed his idea for his 11-year-old son, Gavin, and many others.

On July 12, 2012, Christian’s vehicle was struck by a beer truck. He was not injured, but Gavin suffered a traumatic brain injury. While doctors suggested placing Gavin in a long-term care facility, Christian and his wife, Mary, decided to take Gavin home and begin the rehabilitation process. Gavin cannot walk independently and he communicates through a tablet. Otherwise, he is the same as any other child. When Gavin was about five or six years old, his parents researched a special needs baseball league. Unfortunately, the closest league was almost 90 minutes away.

This was unacceptable to the Kane family, considering that Toms River has such a huge youth baseball program. So, Christian decided to start his own program and build a special needs complex. The plan included a playground, basketball court and additional facilities. He then reached out to Todd, a hometown baseball hero, who made an immediate financial ($50,000) and personal commitment to the project. The Todd Frazier Special Needs Baseball League at the complex opened this past April 30. Gavin took the mound and tossed the ceremonial first pitch to Todd.

The many smiles and helping kids swing the bat touched Todd. The field is within walking distance of his home, and he plans to visit often to have fun with the boys and girls.

The complex remains unfinished for daily activities. While the Kanes have raised $3.6 million, another $300,000 is required to compensate for pandemic setbacks and inflation. The Kanes keep moving forward with their dream. They know that if you build it, they will come.

They’re Rowing To Success
Jun 01, 2022Posted by james

San Miguel Academy is Newburgh, New York, has a rowing program. Recently, the school sent double and quad boats to the USRowing Northeast Youth Championships, and students and coaches crossed fingers and hoped to qualify for the national championships.

San Miguel is a Catholic co-educational middle school for inner-city children. The rowing program features seven boats. Practice on the Hudson River is supplemented by 18 rowing machines at the school. Boats and machines were donated to the school.

San Miguel enrolls 64 students, and more than half are engaged with the rowing program that has been attacking the water for 13 years. The rowers competed in a regatta for the first time last year—twice in Philadelphia and another in New Jersey. This year is the first attempt for the school to qualify for a national championship.

The mission of the academy is to prepare students for further education and life. The athletes work hard and are dedicated to their studies. Students who embrace the sport see significant improvements in their grades and qualify for competitive schools. Many will continue to row in high school and college.

Tito Jimenez is a graduate of the academy and the rowing program. His life path is one of many San Miguel education and rowing program success stories. Following his graduation, Tito attended Canterbury School in Connecticut and then SUNY Maritime in the Bronx. Currently, he is an ensign in the U.S. Navy stationed on the USS Blue Ridge in Yokosuka, Japan.

The Interesting Career Of Buck Lai
May 15, 2022Posted by james

During this month in many communities, including New York City, we are celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. Current Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa is from Hawaii. He is of Samoan, Hawaiian, Japanese and Caucasian descent. Bet you didn’t know, though, that 100 years earlier another native of Hawaii played locally at shortstop and then third base. He just missed his chance to play in the major leagues before influencing the college game, along with basketball, in our area.

William Tin Lai was born in Hawaii during 1895. Known as Tin Lai or Buck Lai, he was the son of Chinese immigrants who had arrived during the late 1800s. Buck was an exceptional athlete. At age 17, he joined the Hawaiian Chinese University Nine traveling baseball team. From 1912 to 1916, the team barnstormed the U.S. mainland, playing against other college opponents in stadiums around the country. During 1918, Buck was signed to participate in spring training with the Philadelphia Phillies. He never played with the team. He was sent to the Bridgeport Americans, a Phillies minor league affiliate, for more training and experience.

Following several seasons with the Americans, Buck opted to join the semi-pro Brooklyn Bushwicks that played home games at Dexter Park in Woodhaven, Queens. On May 10, 1922, the team moved Buck from shortstop to third base. He would excel at the hot corner, earning raves from teammates, opponents, fans and the press. During his time with the Bushwicks, he played with and against many baseball legends, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Buck was given another opportunity to play with a major league team when he was signed by the New York Giants during 1928. However, he never appeared in a game. Several years later, Buck returned to Hawaii to create his own traveling team. The All Hawaiian Nine, simply known as the Hawaiians, consisted of Hawaiian-American players of Japanese and Chinese ancestry.

Following his playing days, Buck became a scout and instructor for the Brooklyn Dodgers and then he was named athletic director at Long Island University in Brooklyn. He coached baseball and basketball at the college from 1949 until 1960. Buck also penned two books that have become popular with coaches: “Championship Baseball” provides the techniques about teaching the baseball skills developed at the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers’ College of Baseball and “Winning Basketball” features the basics about individual skill and team strategy.

William Tin “Buck” Lai is a treasure of the Hawaiian and New York sports scenes. Let us forever celebrate his special contributions to collegiate and professional baseball and basketball.

K’Andre Is Driven On, Off Ice
May 01, 2022Posted by james

There is so much to like about K’Andre Miller of the New York Rangers. Fans like his play in the defensive zone, especially that long reach, and he has displayed several unique moves on offense, too. K’Andre has matured at the pro level in just a few years and he has the potential to become an outstanding NHL player.

There also is so much more to K’Andre than what he shows us on the ice.

K’Andre is driven by playing at his peak. He has always tried to be the guy that teammates can count on in any situation. He takes pride in his reliability and he tries to use this to influence the play of teammates.

The Rangers blueliner is most proud of all the hard work, sometimes along a rocky road, that he needed to employ to get to the NHL. He uses the ups and downs as motivation. He calls himself a workhorse.

The pressure of the NHL, for K’Andre, is addressed through meditation that includes yoga and finding that peace of mind and calmness. This is getting him to his next on-ice achievement—consistency.

K’Andre gets it! He realizes that he has one of the best jobs in the world and loves it. He understands the Rangers history and that wearing the team sweater is both a blessing and a dream come true.

Then, there is K’Andre’s biggest booster. His mother sacrificed a lot for her son during his formative years. He recalled that he broke a stick when he was about 12 years old prior to a tournament. His mom put in a little extra time at work for the money so he would have a new stick for the games. According to K’Andre, she always tried her best to provide him with the best possible life. He connects with her every day through texting, calling, Facetime, or any other available technology. According to K’Andre, mom is his best friend.

The Ranger defenseman is from Minnesota, so New York City has been a big change from Hopkins (population 18,000). He enjoys the social life of the big city, seeing so many different faces every day and experiencing the culture and the style. He also has many more restaurants to sample his favorite meal of pasta.

Even though K’Andre is only 22 years old, he already knows that he has attained a prominent platform where he can serve as a positive role model and influence the next generation of players or just hockey fans.

Football Teammates Became Wild West Buds
Apr 18, 2022Posted by james

The University of Southern California won its first college football national championship during 1928. The Trojan’s success during previous seasons, partly attributed to the big uglies in the gridiron trenches, helped prep USC for that championship season. ”Uglies” had become a term used with affection. By chance, a couple of those trench teammates, following their college football careers, became Hollywood stars.

When John Ford was seeking talent for his 1929 football film “Salute” that centered around the Army-Navy rivalry, the director decided to cast some of the “uglies” as Midshipmen. “Get me that one with the ugly face,” Ford reportedly said as he gestured toward one player who was given the role of Midshipman Harold. A teammate and close friend of the handpicked player worked as a prop boy and uncredited extra for the film. The two players remained close friends for life and together they became huge talents on the big and small screens.

Midshipman Harold’s actual name was Ward Bond. His friend the prop guy was Marion Morrison, better known as John Wayne. They worked together with John Ford again on the film “Stagecoach” and often teamed on other western films.

While John would become an icon on the screen, Ward settled into a prosperous career as a stuntman, toughie, baddie, or ugly. He estimated that he played these roles in about 150 films. During the late 1950s, after two decades of sensational supporting work, Ward finally received a leading role in television’s “Wagon Train.”

Ward died suddenly after only a few years starring in the role as the wagon master on that show. His loss impacted everyone in the business, including his former USC teammate. Their friendship was deep. In his will, as a way to tweak John for his masterful handling of guns in all those westerns, Ward left “The Duke” the shotgun that the star had accidently fired during a hunting trip. With that shotgun, John had injured his friend, one of USC’s top Uglies.

Seeing Baseball With Ed Lucas
Apr 01, 2022Posted by james

This is the first baseball season in 82 years without Ed Lucas. The name might, as with a 100 mph fastball, whiz by you. But, if you have followed the New York teams the last handful of decades, you’ve heard about him, watched interviews with him, or read his articles. A close friend was Phil Rizzuto, who frequently mentioned Ed on Yankee broadcasts.

The New York Giants had just won the 1951 pennant when 12-year-old Ed ran from his Jersey City apartment to play baseball with his friends. He didn’t pitch often due to poor vision (he was legally blind), but he took the ball that day when several other boys had left the field. Without his thick glasses, Ed threw and the batter swung at the pitch. The ball struck Ed between the eyes.

The accident detached Ed’s retinas. His vision continued to deteriorate and he became fully blind on December 11, a day he always associated with the retirement of Joe DiMaggio. Surgery was unsuccessful to reattach Ed’s retinas, which had been weakened at birth due to insufficient oxygen. Mom Rosanna tried to raise her son’s spirits by writing letters to the Giants, Yankees and Dodgers with the hope that players, coaches and broadcasters from the game Ed loved would offer encouragement.

Giants’ manager Leo Durocher invited Ed to the Polo Grounds. When Rosanna learned that the Yankees shortstop worked during the off-season at a men’s clothing store in Newark, she and her husband took Ed to see him and to buy a suit. This started a five decades friendship.

To continue his education, Ed attended St. Joseph’s School for the Blind in Jersey City and then the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind in the Bronx. His love for the game remained strong though he no longer could see the field or the players. At the Bronx school, he formed a group of baseball fans who invited players to speak to the class. Jackie Robinson and Mickey Mantle were among several who visited the students.

Ed then attended Seton Hall University, earning a bachelor’s degree in communications and hosting a show on the school’s radio station that featured interviews with baseball personalities. He also wrote part-time about the game for several newspapers, including The Hudson Dispatch and The Journal. Unfortunately, a full-time professional job in the sports business following graduation did not develop for Ed. It’s not an easy profession to crack even for a cub reporter who could see the game.

To earn a living, Ed became an insurance salesman. He later became a public relations director at Meadowview Psychiatric Hospital in Secaucus and served as an ambassador, fund-raiser and board member of the St. Joseph’s School.

Then, during the 1980s, Ed decided to pursue baseball full-time. Assignments included a weekly radio show on WMCA-AM during the baseball seasons. His contributions to the Yankees’ YES Network website earned him a 2009 New York Emmy Award. The majority of his work was conducted at Yankee Stadium, surrounded by many players, coaches, managers and executives. One of them was Joe DiMaggio, who sat next to him in the press box on opening day of the 1976 season. Joe told Ed to turn off his transistor radio and remove the headset that he always used to follow the games. The Yankee Clipper delivered a personal play-by-play.

From Basketball To The Hollywood Spotlight
Mar 15, 2022Posted by james

Krekor Ohanian, Jr., was from California. His parents were Armenian, with his father an attorney who represented many from the home country who had little money and barely spoke English.

Krekor became an avid basketball fan. He was a good player in high school. Teammates called him “Touch,” because he always liked to touch the ball. Upon graduation, Krekor enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. Following the war, he attended the University of California at Los Angeles on the G.I. Bill and a basketball scholarship. He played for legendary coach John Wooden.

Though he had decided to attend law school and follow his farther into the profession, a basketball game caused him to change direction. Eventually, he landed in the Hollywood spotlight. Following one of UCLA’s games, Krekor was introduced to William A. Wellman. The film director liked the young man’s voice and his expressive face as he played the game. He encouraged Krekor to consider an acting career.

Placing law school on the bench for at least a while, Krekor explored the suggestion and found himself taking various roles in films and television programs. Eventually, he would star in a television series of his own, relying on his athletic ability to perform his own stunts despite breaking a wrist and dislocating a shoulder in the pilot episode. His character, “Joe,” was depicted as an Armenian-American. Krekor occasionally spoke Armenian in several episodes and sometimes he quoted Armenian proverbs.

By this time, he wasn’t Krekor Ohanian, Jr., the basketball player or future lawyer. Hollywood fans now knew him as Mike Connors, the star of the television program “Mannix.”