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The long road to the intersection of Hollywood & Hockey brought How I Met Your Mother writer and producer Chuck Tatham from the Toronto suburb of Guelph, Ontario, to Dodger Stadium on Wednesday evening, when he participated in a media pickup game on the very rink set up for Saturday’s historic NHL outdoor game between the L.A. Kings and Anaheim Ducks.
The three-time Emmy nominee (Full House, Living Single, Suddenly Susan, The Ellen Show, Arrested Development, etc.), who recently sold a pilot starring Brad Garrett to ABC, donned a throwback Kings sweater and took to the ice with actors David Boreanaz, Cuba Gooding Jr., Michael Vartan, Alan Thicke, Neal McDonough and some former NHL players. If the ice melted, well, better it’s with these people skating on it than with the Kings and Ducks.
An “extremely average player” as a teenager, Tatham stopped playing organized hockey when he headed off to Wilfrid Laurier University. He moved to L.A. in 1991 and joined a local team here, playing with Matthew Perry and other Hollywood folks. Now “over 40,” the husband of jazz singer Joanne Tatham and dad to hockey-playing sons Trevor, 16, and Nicholas, 14, still gets out there in a Monday night league.
On the morning after, Tatham — in between icing his hamstrings — tells The Hollywood Reporter in this exclusive account how he did at Dodger Stadium:
This Wednesday past, I enjoyed the single greatest night of my life — unless my wife is reading this, in which case nothing will ever top our wedding night, Sweetie.
Forgive me, I’m a hockey fanatic, and I participated in the NHL Media Game at Dodger Stadium, marking the first time hockey has ever been played in the legendary ballpark and the first time I’ve ever seen Cuba Gooding Jr. in a jockstrap. A once-in-a-lifetime chance to rub elbows (and heck, throw some elbows) with celebs like Mr. Gooding, Michael Vartan, David Boreanaz and Neal McDonough, it was paradise for this Canadian because it also meant I got to hit the ice with an impressive array of former NHLers.
But what was I doing, playing hockey with famous people?? And in Dodger Stadium of all places, where The Beatles performed, The Three Tenors sang and a few years back at a Dodgers game I helped a one-armed fellow dispense onion onto his Dodger Dog. (True story; I recall asking him whether I should “crank the onion” or “hold his weenie.”) I was shaking like a bunny, but then I ran into Daryl Evans, the affable former Kings winger and now their radio color commentator, and I calmed down as we chatted about all that we had in common: Daryl is from southern Ontario, I’m from southern Ontario; Daryl is in top physical condition, I need assistance putting on socks. All of a sudden, I wasn’t a TV writer who pulled a muscle last week reaching for an Oreo — I belonged.
The great Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille (now president of hockey operations for the Kings) split the group into two teams — Kings and Ducks — and I chose Kings jersey No. 4, oblivious to the fact that one of my teammates was Kings legend and seven-time All-Star Rob Blake … who wore No. 4 throughout his stellar career. What a bonehead move. As I stepped onto the ice, I knew that even the most casual hockey fan would observe: “Hey, there’s Rob Blake. And over there is a guy in his jersey who skates like he’s having a seizure.”
During the warm-up, I skated in lazy circles, marveling at the remarkable setting. Palm trees swayed in center field, a couple of dudes were playing beach volleyball, ex-MLBer Nomar Garciaparra and his soccer-star wife Mia Hamm watched the proceedings with their cute kids … it was a dream come true — until I almost slammed into my old pal and now-opponent Alan Thicke. (YouTube “Alan Thicke” and “How I Met Your Mother.” Enjoy, repeat.) We chatted briefly — Alan informed me that no, he doesn’t know CPR — and with that, the ref blew his whistle and it was game time.
Our squad was split into defensemen and forwards. Forwards skate like the wind, shoot the puck like a cannon and look good in skinny jeans; I’m a defenseman. My partner on defense was Nelson Emerson, a gifted former NHL forward with more than 200 goals who charitably volunteered to play “D” with me, and because of my limited skills, he proved to be as essential as a Kardashian prenup.
As the game progressed, I realized the ex-pros had an unspoken agreement: Never shoot the puck on net. Instead of blasting a shot past the poor goalies — or nonchalantly stick-handling around them while checking their iPhones — these gracious athletes consistently fed the puck to clumsy civilians like me — despite the fact that by doing so the odds of scoring plummeted exponentially. Honestly, Blake passing me the puck is like Dudamel flipping me the baton during Prokofiev‘s Concerto No. 2 in G minor and saying, “Go ahead, buddy — it’s all yours.”
This goodwill led to a situation where Robitaille eschewed scoring an easy goal and passed little old me the puck (“Luc Robitaille is passing me the puck!!”). Dusting off some motor skills last used effectively in 1996, I took the pass and unloaded with what I must describe as a pretty damn good shot that hit an opposing player in the middle of his face.
Oh, dear God. Down he went, clutching his nose/mouth/jaw (circle all three) and moaning like Chris Christie outside a closed Dairy Queen. I was aghast (“If this guy is an entertainment attorney, I might as well throw myself under the Zamboni …”). But then, just like that, he pulled away his hand to reveal a bloodless, perfectly unmarred face. The puck had hit him in the visor, he wasn’t maimed, I wasn’t rendered penniless, and the game charged on.
My Kings leaped out to an insurmountable 5-0 lead (had my devastating slap shot intimidated the Ducks??), but in no time at all, our foes did a good job surmounting and the game was tied 5-5 (so much for intimidation). We fought the good fight, but the Ducks’ roster included Sean O’Donnell and Stephane Quintal — two talented ex-NHLers who take one majestic stride for every four of mine — and every time I got the puck and skated toward one of them, I realized, “In what universe am I getting around this guy? I couldn’t get around him in my car, let alone on these pudgy legs.”
We played on, laughing and cheering and having the time of our lives, and the game ended without further scoring. For a hockey lover like me, it was an evening I’ll treasure forever, and as I happily changed out of my equipment in the locker room, I realized two things: 1) the NHL has done something very special in Southern California; and 2) this would be the last time I see Cuba Gooding Jr. in a jockstrap.
Follow Chuck on Twitter: @UncleChunkies
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