CELEBRITY HOCKEY PLAYERS ENJOY THOSE ROLES
In his leading-man role on MacGyver, a cross between Indiana Jones and Mr. Wizard, Richard Dean Anderson faces enough television adventure and danger to fill a lifetime. But it's nothing like his role as a hockey player, where every moment on the ice is an adventure. Anderson is one of several regulars on the "Celebrity All-Stars," a team of Hollywood celebrities that has raised some $1.5 million in 19 games for a variety of charities around the country.
The team, now in its fifth year under NHL sanction, also includes such show business people as Alan Thicke of Growing Pains, Alex Trebek of Jeopardy, Dave Coulier of Full House, and Jason Priestley of Beverly Hills 90210. Michael J. Fox and Michael Keaton also have made occasional appearances.
The celebrities play around the country against NHL alumni teams and augment their squad with former pros such as Stan Mikita, Keith Magnuson, Brad Park and Darryl Sittler, as well as some ringers from the miracle-making U.S. Olympic team of 1980 - including Jim Craig, Mike Eruzione, Eric Strobel and Jack O' Callahan. "When we put our best five skaters out, we can skate with any of the alumni teams," says veteran actor John Bennett Perry, most recently in Falcon Crest, one of the team's founders when it was just a pick-up squad about 10 years ago. "It falls off drastically when you get into some of the actors who don't do quite as well. But, overall, it's a pretty good hockey team."
The team has played in such NHL cities as Chicago, Boston, Buffalo, Hartford, Detroit, Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Vancouver - competing against the likes of Gordy Howe, Bobby Hull and Bobby Orr. They usually set up about six games a year, and receive dozens of more requests.
And it's hard to tell who's having more fun - the fans watching their favorite TV stars playing hockey, or the celebrities themselves. While well-known in their own field, they are no more than groupies while facing off against their all-time hockey heroes. "Just being on the ice with Gordie Howe was a real fulfillment of a dream," says Coulier, one of the closest to a pro among the celebrities.
Anderson grew up in Minneapolis wanting to play in the NHL, "but had to put my hockey career on hold after breaking a couple of arms in high school." He got back into it when he found out about the celebrity hockey team in Los Angeles. Not only did he join that one, he found time to form his own team from the MacGyver set and skates with them whenever he can, too. By the early eighties, the once 'semi-celebrity' team had enough people, and enough well-known faces, on the team to start playing the odd exhibition game. It went on like that for several years - glorified pick-up games in places like Phoenix, Colorado Springs and Spokane to quench their for hockey. It would have gone on that way, except the group decided it wanted to play in NHL cities and reach for nobler goals. "Our goals became to raise money for charity and to promote the sport," Perry says. "Hopefully, we could bring people into the building who might not go to see a hockey game. They've never been to a hockey game, but they might want to see Richard Dean Anderson."
So, five years ago the celebrities went big-time, after Anderson went to the NHL to ask for sanctioning. "We needed that sanctioning if we were to play in NHL rinks, and we got it," said Perry, who acts as the team's celebrity manager.
The ball - or in this case the puck - got rolling as the team began picking up sponsors in each NHL city, and the team picked up more celebrities. There are currently about 40 people they can choose from, along with the legit hockey players that fill out the squad.
For many of them, the game is still only a sidelight to their real purpose. Says Coulier: "Not to make it sound corny or anything, but when you see these little kids that have leukemia and other different programs that we've helped raise money for, you see the real reason why we're doing this."