Hockeywood

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:53 PM ET

The NHL has gone Hollywood.

Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. attended the final last spring. Actress Goldie Hawn and actor-husband Kurt Russell don't check out as many games as they did during Wayne Gretzky's reign with the Los Angeles Kings, but they do have a son playing hockey in Vancouver.

"There are so many winners in the Los Angeles marketplace," says actor and Kirkland Lake native Alan Thicke. "This isn't like Canada where you have hockey in your DNA and people will come whether you win or lose.

"Down here, people will say, 'Nah, I don't want to see a team lose every night.' It's not entertaining when you know the team is going to lose. Unfortunately, that's been the Kings' lot in life the last couple of years."

CSI: HOCKEY

Hockey has nevertheless exploded in California, thanks to the Bruce McNall era, which featured the blockbuster trade to obtain Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers.

Mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI, Black Hawk Down, Pirates of the Caribbean) organized a Monday night hockey league. Among the participants are former NHLer Marty McSorley, Gooding Jr. and Jason Priestley, a Vancouver native best known as Brandon on Beverly Hills 90210.

"My blood is all over Southern California thanks to this sport," says Thicke. "I had oral surgery recently. They're still implanting my teeth from an accident three years ago when I got hit in the face with a puck.

"They can't replace them all (five teeth) at once. I'm just hoping I get all my teeth back before I die because I'd like to have one good chew before I go. I usually play Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m. with a bunch of firefighters and cops who are in a bad mood."

Actress Elisha Cuthbert is such a huge fan of the game she penned a blog for NHL.com. Cuthbert was born in Calgary, raised in Montreal and had a fling with NHL tough guy Sean Avery when he played for the Kings.

Actor William Fichtner (Prison Break) is a former goalie. He returned to his hometown of Buffalo for the New Year's Outdoor Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"I used to go to hockey school in St. Catharines and I loved watching the Sabres," says Fichtner, who grew up in suburban Cheektowaga. "One of the greatest things for us as kids was a buddy of mine's grandfather was the chief legal adviser for the City of Buffalo.

"So, once a year for four or five years, we used to get The Aud for one Sunday afternoon during the holidays and it was just a great experience. We'd put our skates on where the Zamboni came out, we'd play for an hour."

Heroes hottie Hayden Panettiere and her heartthrob co-star Milo Ventimiglia are also fans. They've done promo work for the NHL, and sparked rumours of a fling when they were spotted together at a Kings game in October.

Taylor Kitsch is best known as football player Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights, but the native of Kelowna, B.C., is a hockey man at heart. He played for the Langley Hornets of the British Columbia Hockey League before a knee injury ended his career.

Director Jason Reitman (Juno), a Montreal native who grew up in L.A., attends up to 10 games a year. He has shot a couple of movies in Vancouver and his wife Michelle is a huge Canucks fan.

"It's an exciting game. It's similar to storytelling. It's not like baseball where the score changes every two seconds," says Reitman. "It's almost like it has a three-act structure like a film. You can almost watch a hockey game like you watch a movie."

For Thicke, hockey's a way to stay connected to his homeland.

"When I first moved here in 1970, I was staying at a motel across from the Great Western Forum. I saw the Kings were playing the old Oakland Seals that night," he recalls. "So, I call up the Forum and see if there's any possibility of getting tickets. It was like the old joke: 'What time does the game start? Well, what time can you be here?'

"Nobody gave a damn about hockey here. I would go down to the Forum and buy the cheap seats for $8. I was thrilled because I was used to Toronto and Montreal where you would leave tickets in your will and you couldn't go unless you knew somebody."

Reitman would love to shoot a hockey flick, but it would be hard to beat Slap Shot, which "is not only the best hockey movie ever made, but certainly one of the top three sports movies ever made," he says, along with Bull Durham and Hoosiers.


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