minor league hockey team at the dingy, empty Baltimore Arena. It was me, Jimmy Jackson and George Taylor. And sometimes Chris Thomas would come down and liven things up a bit.
But, it was the greatest beat in the world for me. I loved hockey and the people inside the game wanted to talk to you to get publicity for the sport. They had tickets to sell and a game they loved and wanted the people of Baltimore to love!
The first coach I ever covered was Gene Ubriaco, who miraculously wound up at a booth with me at Michael’s Café in Timonium between Games 2 and 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals two weeks ago. At 80, he is still young and vibrant and upbeat about life and hockey. I an indebted to him for his kindness, friendship and wisdom. He was also the first color commentator of the games that Barry Trotz coached with the Skipjacks when Kenny Albert was doing play by play in 1992.
By 1986, I was working in hockey and covering the league and the game because I could. Most of my life has been about passion and hustle and learning. And the hockey people were the perfect people for me to be around because there was so many of those same qualities in these driven, incredibly motivated people.
I met Barry Trotz sometime around 1988 or 1989. I was introduced to him by Jack Button, who was the godfather of his professional career and the guy running the Caps farm system and quality control. Trotz was a Western scout for the Caps, a guy who was always attached to the burly former public relations man of the Rochester Americans. Jack Button always liked me and always looked out for me because he knew I cared about hockey and reporting facts. And other than Jeff Rimer, who was a Canadian exiled to WBAL to do baseball, I was the ONLY guy around both the Capitals and the Skipjacks who covered hockey for real in the Baltimore media scene.
I learned how to be a professional from these men of honor, integrity and energy. I always say that coaches are my favorite people in the world – the people on my journey that I enjoy spending my time with when I’m not doing sports radio. The first coaches I ever covered and got to know were people like Ubriaco, who would literally get a blackboard out and teach me hockey and why plays worked and didn’t work after the game. Marvin Lewis, Jim Schwartz, Mike Pettine and Rex Ryan would later do that for me when the Baltimore Ravens came to town. I sometimes asked some really stupid questions and they always straightened me out and taught me about the game they loved and taught. They’re teachers as much as motivators and leaders.
But my foundation in sports journalism came from covering the American Hockey League beat and shadowing my puck mentor Phil Jackman at The Evening Sun from 1986-1992 and those miserably failed Capitals’ Stanley Cup runs and being in every locker room with Rod Langway and Mike Gartner and Bryan Murray. I was in Nassau County Coliseum when the Caps finally beat the Islanders in