Kings prove sports are awesome

Sports

I remember when the LA Kings were down 3-0 to the San Jose Sharks. At the time I was interning for NBCLA Sports, and I befriended a security guard who was a huge hockey fan from Michigan. I’m new to the world of hockey, so I would talk to him a lot and pick his brain. He told me that out of all the teams in the NHL, he would never want to face the Sharks in the first round. He said they’re the type of team to put up a hell of a fight.

Little did we know at the time, this Kings team is incredibly special. They rallied back, beat the Sharks and advanced to the next round to face crosstown rivals, the Anaheim Ducks. That round rocked Los Angeles, pushing to the brink of seven games — the Kings prevailed again. Then, off to Chicago they went to face the Chicago Blackhawks where — surprise, surprise — they hit yet another Game 7 and yet another clutch win.

Finally, against the New York Rangers — West Coast vs. East Coast — the Kings took control, jumping up 3-0. Tonight, following Game 5, they hoisted the Stanley Cup trophy after a grueling, nail-biting double overtime.

Defensive veteran Willie Mitchell told NBCLA’s Mario Solis postgame: “We scratched and clawed. It’s pretty damn cool.”

Cut to Puig:

 

Sippin’ on Summer: White Hot Slush

Sports

LeBron has two NBA championships, four MVP awards, his own phone app and — most recently — has created his own limited-edition Sprite flavor dubbed the Sprite 6 Mix. It’s Sprite mixed with flavors of cherry and orange, according to the press release.

This week 7-Eleven released the special flavor in Slurpee form. Today, I had the chance to try out the drink, and it’s a solid selection. It reminded me of the traditional white cherry flavor, but with a twang of Sprite mixed in.

LeBron Slurpees

As I was sipping on the slush, my NBA playoffs-obsessed mind wandered to compare the Slurpee flavor to the journey of the current Miami Heat squad. The drink is cold and refreshing — perfect for a hot summer day. Similarly, the Heat are talented and they go hard — a prime team to watch for any fan of the pure game of basketball.

At the same time, the Slurpee faintly reminded me of something I’d tasted before, just as watching the Heat succeed has, in my mind, loosely resembled the 2000-02 Lakers. For those three seasons, my eyes were glued to the purple and gold in NBA playoff games. I believed that Lakers team could’ve won eight straight. Now, the Heat are in the same position: They are on the brink of a three peat with endless possibilities ahead.

According to the Sprite press release, LeBron’s Sprite 6 Mix is only around for a limited time. Likewise, will the Heat fade away in the next couple years, or will they muster enough strength to fulfill the (now overused) prophecy of “not five, not six, not seven …”

I’ll let tonight’s dominant performance in Game 6 versus the Pacers speak for itself.

#KamanLikeAWreckingBall

Sports

Stuntin’ the Sunday whites, 10-year veteran Chris Kaman carried the Lakers to a 115-99 win over the Phoenix Suns. Get this stat line: season-high 28 points, 17 rebounds and six assists.

He hammered down a dunk, sunk a step-back jumper, swept the boards and hit guards on the run. All of which warranted him the hashtag #KamanLikeAWreckingBall — I know, brilliant, right?

That’s the same guy who played six minutes, notching dos points and a single rebound in LA’s embarrassing 143-107 collapse against the Minnesota Timberwolves two days ago.

That’s also the same guy who blew me off when I asked for his autograph as a middle schooler. The basketball league that I played in did a shooting tournament once a year at Staples Center before Clipper games. Each team could send two shooters.

kamaaaannnnnnn

It was around 2005 or 2006 when I was chosen to go. And it was awesome! Having the opportunity to actually be on an NBA court was incredible. We ended up taking third place (hence the medals). They told us that we’d get to meet a Clipper player.

As I hoped and wished Elton Brand would step out, we got Kaman instead. Cool, I guess. He was their center. I knew who he was at the time, so when my teammate and I went to take a photo with him, we naturally asked for an autograph.

“No,” he said. “Because then everyone else will want one and it won’t be fair.”

He crushed my dreams. Wow, dude. You can’t spare a couple signatures? You’re not Elton Brand. You’re no superstar. (Those were my thoughts in that moment.)

Ever since then, I’ve labeled him as the “mean guy who wouldn’t give me an autograph.” But now here we are. Caveman Kaman, 31 years old, in purple and gold. I honestly thought he was long gone, and that he’d wither away on a bench somewhere random. Instead, he decides to put a smile on everyones’ faces (including mine) and have an All-Star performance.

What I’m trying to say here is, “I see you, Chris. Keep doing you.” But please, if a little kid asks you for an autograph, just do it.

LA resident Farar-Griefer to run 135 miles for Multiple Sclerosis

Life, Sports

Ultramarathon runner Shannon Farar-Griefer has logged hundreds and thousands of miles in races across the country. In 2001, Farar-Griefer became the first woman in the world to double the Badwater Death Valley race (292 miles on foot).

Ultramarathons are, by definition according to Runner’s World, “anything beyond the classic 26.2-mile distance — races from increasingly popular 50Ks to 100-milers to solo crossings of continents.”

By comparison, the LA Marathon on Sunday, March 9, should be a cakewalk. But 52-year-old Farar-Griefer is nervous. In 2005, doctors diagnosed her with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), “a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system: the brain, the spinal cord and nerve fibers to the eyes,” according to the National MS Society website. MS treatments can slow the symptom progression, but there is no cure.

Shannon Farar-Griefer's brain scan from Feb. 19 showing the 60 new lesions.

Shannon Farar-Griefer’s brain scan from Feb. 19 showing the 60 new lesions.

Post-diagnosis, Farar-Griefer’s doctors encouraged her to stay active, and she had no problems following those orders. Between the time of her diagnosis and now, she says she has already gone on to run two more Death Valley races, as well as “a few more” 100-mile races, and more ultramarathons and marathons.

With three kids aged 23, 20 and 6 years old, she maintains an upbeat attitude.

“For as long as I can get up and walk and run and be healthy and have a good attitude, I want to feel like I’m in charge,” Farar-Griefer said. MS is “like when you run a race: either the race beats you or you beat it. I’m looking at it like running is a metaphor for my life.”

Even with her superhuman abilities, in the past year, she has started to feel effects of the disease and its treatments. On Feb. 19, an MRI revealed she has 60 new lesions in her brain.

She said there are days her “arms aren’t working” or she can’t get out of bed or walk or has trouble swallowing.

“It has taught me to appreciate every day. I live for every day and those days that I feel good, I’m grateful,” Farar-Griefer said. “The days that I don’t feel good, I just ride the storm out because there’s nothing you can do.”

Shannon Farar-Griefer (third from left) after running the Badwater Death Valley race in 2010.

Shannon Farar-Griefer (third from right) after running the Badwater Death Valley race in 2010.

Running for a cure

After the LA Marathon, Farar-Griefer has a more personal event marked on her calendar. She has been chosen as the runner for the 135-mile California stretch of the second annual MS Run the US Relay.

“I feel honored to be part of it. It’s such a great cause,” Farar-Griefer said. “It benefits the MS society. We’re hoping to find a cure one day. I’m looking forward to it.”

On average, runners take six days to plow through the 135 miles. However, Farar-Griefer is not your average runner.

“I want to run it straight because I have kids. I think I can do it in forty-something hours. I did it in Death Valley so I think I could run it in about the same time,” Farar-Griefer said.

In addition to the relay, MS Run the US is also holding 5K run/walk events in California, Colorado and New Jersey. On April 13, when Farar-Griefer begins her route in Los Angeles, participants have the opportunity to run alongside her for 3.1 miles.

Registration for the 5K is open on the MS Run the US website with an early bird fee of $30 available until March 9. Further details can be found on the website: http://MSRuntheUS.com.

“People that see the runners are inspired to take action for this cause or in their life and really do something right now,” MS Run the US founder Ashley Kumlien said.

Kumlien’s mother was diagnosed with MS in 1980 before Kumlien was born. From the muscle imbalance to spasticity to memory loss, Kumlien said she saw her mom “go through a lot but she [her mom] was always positive and looked on the bright side. She needed to have a strong faith.”

Kumlien founded MS Run the US in 2009, inspired by her mom’s attitude and fight.

“It has changed my perspective on life,” Kumlien said. “How we really need to live right now because there’s no guaranteed tomorrow. We need to do the things we love right now and help as many people as we can.”

Mile 80

Farar-Griefer stands at a point of uncertainty. She has no idea when her MS will flare up or what days she’ll be physically fit to run long distances.

“I’ll see how I feel, how the disease progresses and what my body’s going to give me,” Farar-Griefer said. “The unknown is where I’m at right now.”

Shannon Farar-Griefer's three sons.

Shannon Farar-Griefer’s three sons. Left to Right: Jet, Moe and Ben Griefer.

Regardless of how many more ultramarathons she has left in her, Farar-Griefer has already proven herself. Her oldest son, 23-year-old Moe Griefer, said he does worry about his mom, but he’s also proud of her.

“My mom is the toughest person I know and she loves running too much to stop it altogether so as long as the doctors say it’s OK to keep running, then I’m all for it,” Moe wrote in an email.

He mentioned that during his childhood, Farar-Griefer was always “laid back and the fun mom,” as she led by example rather than pressuring him.

“I would look up to her for motivation and inspiration,” Moe wrote. “If she can run 100-plus miles, then I really never had an excuse when it came to training or pushing myself to the next level like she does.”

Farar-Griefer revealed that her motivation to keep pumping her arms with all odds against her comes from within.

“It’s your mind that keeps you going even when you’re at your lowest point,” Farar-Griefer said. “Even with the marathons, people hit that wall. I call this disease mile 80 because that’s what I would always make fun of in the 100-mile race — you’re down for the count, it’s 2 o’clock in the morning, everything hurts, you want to give up, but you don’t.”

Farar-Griefer will never stop swinging: “I want to keep living my life. I don’t know what this disease is going to do with me. I’ll just take every day like a champ and fight.”

All photos courtesy of Shannon Farar-Griefer.

Tri-Valley Roller Hockey League fuses skate and sun

Sports

NedCollins

For 17 years, Ned Collins (above) has organized the Tri-Valley Roller Hockey League at Juan Bautista de Anza Park in Calabasas. Currently, he single handedly runs nine divisions with practices and games on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

“The problem about the sport sometimes is getting people out here to actually play it,” Collins said. “But once you play, it’s addictive. Because there’s always something you can do better. There’s a lot of action. You sweat, it’s good cardio — you need good hand-eye coordination and good teamwork.”

At the moment, the league holds about 350 total participants with 120 of those being a part of the youth program, according to Collins. They play year-round with a special summer evening game schedule since it’s too hot to skate in pads in July and August. Collins typically refs 21 games per week, and enjoys every second of it.

“It’s a great sport and I love it,” Collins said. “I love my job.”

Game day

As the sun rose to the middle of the sky on Jan. 18, the coed Mite Division (10-and-under) playoff games were well underway. The Yahoos and the Penguins faced off for a chance to compete for the “Encore Cup.”

In the 80-degree heat, 10 children skated around on a blue rink with parents and spectators cheering them on. Collins served as the referee, encouraging and directing the players. The Yahoos ended up winning, 4-2.

First-time spectator, Harvey Rosekrantz commented on the match: “The skill level is amazing.”

Rosekrantz also emphasized how the teams played clean hockey. This isn’t the National Hockey League where skaters drop their gloves to throw punches; this league focuses on the pure joy of the sport.

“My favorite part is having fun,” Yahoos team member Sean Jarecky said.

Jarecky’s coach, Mike Leighton, explained why he enjoys volunteering his time to teach roller hockey: “I like watching them get better, and living the experience through them. It’s fun; it’s a community of people. Everyone’s in this together. We are ensuring the kids love the game.”

Shortly after the Yahoos and Penguins game, two more teams took to the rink to finish out the day: the Capitals and the Maple Leafs. This one went into overtime and then sudden death (or “sudden life,” as Collins called it). The Leafs edged out a 7-6 win over the Captials.

Capitals team member, Owen Buckholtz, mustered up a smile following the tough loss, and shared what he enjoys about playing: “My favorite part is scoring goals. I like to meet friends, and I work my hardest. I love hockey. My dad taught me how to play when I was just a small baby.” His mom, Danielle Marin, chimed in about how she’s “super proud” of her boy in his athletic and academic achievements.

Penguins’ Harry Martin (left) and Capitals’ Owen Buckholtz (right) after the games concluded.

Goofballs

In addition to providing the youth with a means to have fun and be active, the roller hockey league gives participants the opportunity to build camaraderie and make new friends.

For Ethan Karpel, the 2013-14-winter season was his first experience with the sport. The first thing he mentioned was how he met his best friend on the team. “This goofball,” Karpel said pointing at teammate, Andrew Edelstein.

Another player, Harry Martin, said his family moved to Simi Valley from New York last year and that this league has helped him make a lot of friends.

“I’ve been playing ice hockey my entire life,” Martin said. “I just started with roller hockey.”

Martin still skates on ice at the Iceoplex near his house in Simi Valley. His stepfather, who also coaches the Capitals, drove him to Calabasas for his game on Jan. 18.

The family and friends values that the league encourages are especially appropriate considering how it was initially founded back in 1985.

The rink at Juan Bautista de Anza Park in Calabasas.
The rink at Juan Bautista de Anza Park in Calabasas.

Grassroots

Back in 1985, Walt Collins established a roller hockey league at Agoura High School alongside his sporting goods store, Encore Sports. According to brother, Ned Collins, the league stood as the first of its kind — “Walt is the founder of roller hockey.”

Then, the other Collins brother, Ric, who owned an Encore Sports in Thousand Oaks, built up a league in West Valley. Both leagues grew rapidly successful, especially with Wayne Gretzky arriving in Los Angeles in 1988.

In 1993, Ned got a call from his brothers: “They said, ‘Hey, it’s blowing up. We want to call it the Tri-Valley Roller Hockey League, and we need a third brother.’”

Despite not having any substantial skating experience, Ned agreed to join them.

“When Gretzky moved into town, it just shot up. It was the fastest growing sport in the country,” Ned said. “It’s not as much as it is now, but it was in the day. That’s how I got into it.”

Ned learned how to skate and ran his league branch in Simi Valley for three years, which he described as “real grassroots.”

“We would go out and set up at 4 a.m., and play from sunrise to sunset,” Ned said.

He left Simi Valley for Calabasas after he received another phone call — this time from Calabasas facilities director, Greg Johnson. Johnson offered Ned a rink to rent — and this one had lights.

Today, Ned stands as the only Collins brother involved in the roller hockey league. Three years ago, Walt left Encore Sports and now owns Consignment Sports in Thousand Oaks, and Ric is running a paddle boarding business in Malibu called Hana Paddle Boards, according to Ned.

Ned organizes and directs the entire Tri-Valley Roller Hockey League operation in Calabasas — from holding free skating classes to refereeing games.

His current goal is to even out his age brackets. “I’m trying to build the kids program up right now, as best I can, to get it back up to where it used to be … my adult divisions are on fire.”

Roller Hockey

For the Tri-Valley League’s contact information, go to tvrhl.com.

 

All photos and video by Alysha Tsuji.

First published on Jan. 22 on the Graphic Online Daily website.