Jimmy (left) was skating for the Las Vegas Ice Cats mites team years ago when he began getting words of hockey wisdom from his uncle Eddie Samuels, captain, Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Eddie, who grew up in Las Vegas and played hockey at all levels, passed unexpectedly on August 6. Jimmy, 18, is now a freshman in college skating for ACHA Kansas University.
By Jimmy Samuels
In the wonderful city of Las Vegas, Nevada, sports occupy the lives of families all across the valley. One family in particular, the Samuels family, loved a sport that wasn’t too popular across the town. Yet. Some kids preferred swinging a bat for a home run, or sprinting their heart out for a touchdown, or kicking a ball swiftly into a net.
The Samuels family, however, much preferred the sport that required the players to lace up some skates, throw on heavy, sweaty gear, tape up their preferred sticks, and hop on the ice. The Samuels family was a hockey family.
Two Samuels boys loved the sport more than life itself. The first was James “Jimbo” Samuels, the calm yet passionate player. He had just turned ten, and was playing hockey since he was three, knowing how to shoot a slap shot before knowing how to write his own name. The inspiration behind his passion, came from his Uncle Edward, the other hockey crazy Samuels. Edward, known across the town as the one who helped to introduce hockey to the city, who had played in Canadian junior leagues, had made sure Jimbo was dangling tenders before he said his first word.
For the past two years, starting shortly before Jimbo’s 8th birthday, Edward would take him to the SoBe Ice Arena every Friday afternoon at 4 pm for a casual stick and puck, where any player could shoot the puck around, and do whatever they pleased.
Not Edward and Jimbo. The second the pair took the ice, Edward had Jimbo sprinting laps, with no time for resting.
“You know what to do,” Edward would say immediately after getting on the ice. To warm up, Jimbo had a routine set out for him created by Edward that consisted of a few laps, followed by some warm up shots on whatever goalie was in the net, or if there was none, the crossbar.
The rest of the stick and puck was spent on stick handling, feet movement, and everything in between. Jimbo admired his uncle, the way he was so passionate about the smallest things he was teaching.
“Remember,” he’d say, “When a guy is coming down on you for a one on one, you better be sure to be looking at his chest, and nothing else. I’d bet everything I know that you can see that puck wherever it is without looking away from their chest.”
When Jimbo thought Edward had told him every trick of the trade, there was always plenty more that improved him as a player. Edward was the perfect teacher.
One day, as the two had packed away the skates, Jimbo was walking past the public skating benches, past the bathrooms, and along the wall he noticed a jumble of pictures. He had always noticed them in the corner of his eye, but had never looked too closely. As he gazed at all of the team pictures, newspaper articles, and individual shots, he came upon a picture of a player that looked awfully familiar. As he leaned in closer, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Hung up for every passerby to see, was a newspaper article, framed on the wall, with a picture of his uncle Edward, taking a faceoff!
“Uncle Eddie!” Jimbo exclaimed. “Look at this! You made the wall!”
“Oh I know,” he replied. “Pretty cool isn’t it?”
Jimbo was still in shock, as he looked at the wall with such admiration, seeing his very own uncle on display for everyone to see.
“You know Jimbo, maybe one day you’ll be on that wall.” Jimbo looked at Eddie, and had a smile from ear to ear. It wasn’t often that Eddie had assured Jimbo of success to make sure he was always motivated, so when Eddie gave him the idea that one day, he could too be on that wall, and it motivated him to become the same type of player as his uncle.
That same year, Jimbo tried out for the Las Vegas Ice Cats, the team that played out of the SoBe Ice Arena. With the previous dedication of consistent Friday afternoon stick and pucks, Jimbo made the team with ease. In fact, he turned out to be one of the star players on the team, putting in multiple points a game with his Squirt A division squad of ten and eleven year olds.
Edward never hesitated to remind Jimbo of how proud he was of him. And every Friday, they would continue to work on skills at those stick and pucks. About three weeks into the Squirt season in mid-December, Ed and Jimbo walked into the rink as normal, and Jimbo habitually gazed at the wall. And this time, there was a new picture up. It was a team photo of the Squirt A team that he was playing with. Jimbo dropped his gear and stick, and ran up to the wall. “Uncle Eddie! Look at this! It’s me and my team! I’m up there, right next to you!”
“I told you,” Eddie replied, “You’ve got the Samuels blood in you. We always achieve what we want to achieve.”
Jimbo’s heart lit up, as he felt accomplished to share the wall with his uncle that he admired so much.
Jimbo ran up to his best friend that was on the team with him, Vito Carlo, and showed him their newly acquired spot on the wall with all of the pictures. Vito shared the same excitement, as he also made it known that he very much admired Eddie’s picture, as Eddie had taught Vito a few of his on-ice secrets that all of the players always wanted to learn.
After the stick and puck, the three of them left the rink, and closing in on the Holiday season, it would seem a Christmas miracle was waiting for them outside the double glass doors exiting the ice arena. In the desert of Las Vegas, it was snowing. Jimbo, Vito, and Eddie, all together went out into the snowing parking lot, put their bags down, and laughed together as this only happened once in a million years. It was the end of a perfect day.
NEXT – EDDIE SHARES HIS HOCKEY WISDOM WITH JIMMY AT STICK AND PUCK PRACTICES THE NEXT THREE SEASONS