Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online


May 5, 2013

HOPKINS: A movie's debut stirs hockey memories

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Before I began my journalism career, I tried to make it in the ultra-competitive world of sports broadcasting. I have a lot of friends from that period of my life — people who were far more successful than I with a microphone in front of their faces.

But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have my moments. In fact, the subject of what was perhaps my greatest broadcasting coup was the topic of a made-for-TV movie that made its U.S. debut last night on the Hallmark Channel.

When I started out in radio — which I preferred over television — I had dreams of becoming a radio play-by-play broadcaster for hockey or perhaps baseball. I had fleeting glimpses of the big times. I called professional roller hockey and indoor soccer for Buffalo teams in the 1990s. Hey, it may have only been roller hockey, but I can honestly say that I broadcast a hockey game from the Montreal Forum.

As thrilling as that night was, it was during that same summer of 1995 that I had the honor of interviewing the man affectionally known as “Mister Hockey.”

It was a hot afternoon on a July day in 1995 and I was in Detroit’s Cobo Arena setting up the radio equipment to call a Roller Hockey International game between the defending champion Buffalo Stampede and the Detroit Motor City Mustangs. The team’s road manager and my color commentator strolled into the booth and casually asked a question that didn’t even need a response.

“John, do you want to interview Gordie Howe?”

I grabbed my tape recorder and flew out the door faster than the Road Runner kicks it into high gear when being chased by Wile E. Coyote.

I reached the locker room hallway and looked around. No Gordie. There was a youth roller hockey game — or maybe it was a tournament — taking place on the floor. So, I walked toward the Zamboni entrance. As I turned the corner there he stood, larger than life.

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