Sunday, July 9, 2017

By Lee Samuels

Las Vegas – Early evening Sunday and there is a game going on with famous hockey coaches including Bliss Littler, Mike Hastings, Mark Carlson and yes Las Vegas coach Rob Pallin watching from the cold rinkboards at the SoBe Ice Arena on North Rancho Drive.

“Great turnout for the Great Western Futures Super Camp,” Pallin said while the other coaches stood by and wrote scouting notes about players on the ice. “There are a lot of good skilled Las Vegas players here as well. It’s all good here.”

Then coach Rob checked his watch and had to hurry off……

“Time to do a seminar with the players,” he said.

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In the SoBe Pro Shop one of the hardest checking players of our time – Kyle Curry when he played for UNLV – was sharpening skates on a big red machine. There were sparks flashing when Curry began talking about his “biggest check of all time right here in this very rink.”

That was years ago when Curry played in a UNLV scrimmage game against the AAA Nevada Storm tier team which included its hard-hitting Adam Zucker.

“We went one on one in an open area by the blue line on the north side of the ice,” Curry said. “I know the exact spot on the ice. We collided straight on – we both fell to the ice hard – I felt his power.”

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From there we stopped over at ‘The Little Home of Champions’ the Crystal Palace roller rink on North Rancho Drive.

There is no longer hockey being played there. There are Family Fun Skates and a lot of roller skating parties. Families were having a blast skating on the famous polished oak floor on Sunday evening.

But as we looked around the rink there was a mounted signed hockey stick and a framed signed jersey.

In small letters on each item it said “To Larry …..from #16 Jason Zucker.”

When Jason, now playing with the NHL Minnesota Wild, was 3 1/2 old he and his father Scott walked into Crystal Palace to “play some hockey.”

The legend Larry Sanford was Jason’s first coach as he was for many of the star hockey players here in town.

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Micah Sanford was the first star player in town and it started in roller when he skated with Freddy Young, Patrick Stevenson, Leroy Garcia and the very skilled Johnny Oakes. They played initially on a touring roller team called Las Vegas Rolling Thunder. What a team that was and Larry was head coach.

They were the start point for all of the great hockey – and players – you see in Las Vegas today.

But those great games are no more at Crystal Palace ‘The Little House of Champions.”

They took down the big electric scoreboard.