Former NHLer Randy Velischek talks about which NHL arena had the biggest cockroaches.
Status: Former NHL defenseman from 1983-1992 for Minnesota, New Jersey, and Quebec. Currently serves as a high school hockey coach for Morristown Beard School in New Jersey. Also serves as the hockey director at Twin Oaks Ice Rink in Morristown, NJ.
Ht: 6-foot Wt: 200 pounds
DOB: February 10, 1962 In: Montreal
First Hockey Memory: “Skating on the lake before the snow. And be able to keep going without stopping, hours on end, chasing a puck around the ice. Up in northern Quebec.”
Hockey Inspirations: “I’d have to say Larry Robinson, Guy Lafleur, Bob Gainey. Three very classy players. I was a Montreal Canadiens fan. They were the best hockey team in the 1970s. When they lost I used to cry.”
Most Memorable Goal: “When you score as few as I did you remember most of them [smiles]. The most memorable one was… we (New Jersey) were looking to make the playoffs for the first time in ’87-88. We had to win nine out of ten games at the end of the season to qualify for the playoffs. We ended up winning nine and tying the other. In one of the games we played the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. I had a one-timer in the slot and it went top shelf, on a feed from the corner from Doug Brown. Against John Vanbeisbrouck. It was a game that we had to win. I remember it like it happened yesterday.”
Greatest Sports Moment: “The most emotional was making the playoffs in Chicago on the last night of the season in 1987-88. Just the fact that it was sort of surreal. I had been with the Devils for a couple of years. The organization had never made the playoffs. We lost so many games. Then everything came together in a short amount of time. The win in Chicago in overtime. The whole emotion of it. I didn’t even play in the overtime. It was the most emotional win. Cinderella story. Everything coalesced. I remember running with my skates still on after the game to a pay phone to call my dad call collect.”
Most Painful Moment: “When you know it’s going to end. I played my last NHL game in Buffalo at the Aud. I just had a feeling that it would be it (my last NHL game). Pierre Page was the GM. Savored the moment. I scored a goal that game. Tony Twist got an assist.”
Favorite Uniforms: “From my era? I’m a fan of the Montreal Canadiens uniform. There’s nothing like the ‘C’ and the ‘H’. I always liked Detroit too.”
Favorite Rinks to Play: “I’d probably say Chicago Stadium. I played my best there. The organ. Incredible atmosphere with so much history of so many great players playing there. I played my second NHL game there. Winnipeg had great ice. Edmonton had great ice and a great atmosphere. The Montreal Forum I didn’t like for some reason. The ice wasn’t great and the boards were hard.”
Strangest Game: “I’d say Boston, the one year there was fog and we couldn’t see anything. Every ten minutes we had to skate around the rink to lift the fog. Lou Lamoriello was our coach for that game after Jim Schoenfeld was suspended. Lou hadn’t coached behind a bench since college at Providence. It’s not easy to step behind an NHL bench for the first time or any time. The whole experience of that game (in the 1988 Conference Finals). Another one was the ‘Snowstorm Game’ against Calgary (with N.J.). I remember that because there were like 200 people in the stands and I was a +5. I was a -5 in Buffalo one night.”
Embarrassing Hockey Memory: “Yeah, being -5 [smiles]. Another was Wayne Gretzky hit me in L.A. when he was with the Kings. I was coming off the wall, left wing side. We had played earlier in Quebec and I popped off his helmet in a scrum. We didn’t like each other very much. In L.A. he hit me with his butt in the face and cut me for four or five stitches. He jumped like three feet in the air – he was airborne – and hit me with his butt when I was low.”
Funniest Players Encountered: “Craig Wolanin had a great sense of humor. Aaron Broten. And Gusarov of the Nordiques was funny.”
Least Favorite Rinks To Play: “Where did I hate to go? …Never really liked Detroit. Didn’t like playing there. Didn’t really like L.A. The ice was average and it just didn’t feel like hockey there. And the locker rooms there were okay. Madison Square Garden probably had the worst locker rooms. Boston had the biggest cockroaches. That’s no joke. Great rink to play in though.”
Funny Hockey Memory: “So many recollections… Ken Daneyko. His antics. Such an emotional, volatile guy, in a good way. So exuberant. I remember him standing there in the mirror admiring his pythons, his body. Innocent humor. He’s one of the most caring individuals. Just a guy who loves the game. He knew every stat of every player, where they came from. Would do anything for a teammate. That’s what you miss about the locker room – the love for the game that a guy like Ken Daneyko has.”
Last Book Read: “Was Einstein’s autobiography, which was kind of interesting.”
People Qualities Most Admired: “I like people that are generous. People that are forgiving. Not judgmental people that are inquisitive or curious. People that are determined. Stick-to-it-tiveness. And people that smile. That smile says a lot.”
Mark “Scoop” Malinowski is the author of “Facing Federer: Symposium of a Champion” and “Muhammad Ali: Portrait of a Champion.” His seventh book “Facing McEnroe” will be published this summer.