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For the Love of Hockey and Golf

This past summer I contacted a number of NHL players to talk about their love of golf for a an article that will appear in the Hockey Hall of fame annual magazine, Legends, which hits the streets in a few weeks. Here is a excerpt from For The Love of the Game:

Like nature itself, for hockey players there are four seasons “ pre-season, regular season, post-season and golf season. For some golf is a pastime to while away the days between off-season workouts but for many others, golf is a passion as deep seeded as the one that drives them towards the Stanley Cup.

Hockey`s all-time greatest player, Wayne Gretzky has a warehouse full of trophies but he`s still happy to tell anyone who`ll listen about winning the members championship at Sherwood Country Club. Å“I won the net division club championship, he told the Toronto Star`s Jim Byer in an interview last year. Å“I got my name on the wall on a plaque and it stays there. I remember after I won I kept going into the clubhouse and asking, ËœWhere`s the plaque, where`s the plaque?` They finally put it up and it was a huge thrill. One wonders how that club championship stacks up to Gretzky`s fourth Stanley Cup ring.

Golf Digest recently ran a chart of the best athlete-golfers and names like Mike Cammalleri of the LA Kings and Hall of Famers like Dan Quinn, Grant Fuhr and Brett Hull crowd the Top 20. Former Red Wings scoring machine Ray Sheppard is ranked #2 on the list sharing a plus 2.5 handicap with firmer major league pitcher Rick Rhoden.

During this past summer, we caught up with some of today`s hockey stars on and off the golf course and asked them to share their passion for the game. It didn`t matter if they were a low handicapper like Mike Modano or a novice like Ovechkin “ they all had a golf story they were itching to tell:

Alex Ovechkin

Can you tell us the story of how you were introduced to the game of golf?
Å“I played a golf machine [simulator] in my rookie year. I took a few swings but didn`t do too well. Last year, in training camp, was my first time on a course.

Can you tell us a first time story (eg. first hole in one, first time you broke 100, 90 or 80)?
Å“I hit a hole in one my first time on a golf course. I was playing one hole over and over in our golf tournament, taking pictures with everyone and signing autographs. When I hit it in the hole, I screamed “ my teammates couldn`t believe it. I couldn`t either, but I guess I`m a good golfer.

Where are your favourite courses to play during the season?
Å“That`s still the only time I`ve played, it was in Springfield [Springfield Golf & Country Club, Springfield, Va.]. I want to play the whole course this year.

Martin Brodeur

Can you tell us the story of how you were introduced to the game of golf?
I grew-up on the side of a golf course near my parent`s cottage. I spent allot of time, like most young kids, fishing for golf balls and started to watch the golfers on the course swing a club noticing who had a swing that made the ball go far and who didn’t.

Can you tell us a first time story (eg. first hole in one, first time you broke 100, 90 or 80)?
In the summer of 2000 I was playing with 3 club pros at the Essex Fells Golf Club in New Jersey. On the 3rd hole 150yrds I found the cup for “A hole in one”

Where are your favourite courses to play during the season?
Essex Fells(not sure if that’s fells or falls) In New Jersey.

What is your favourite golf course in the world?
Pine Valley – New Jersey

What would be your dream foursome?
Tiger, Acting President of the USA, Martin’s father Dennis

Jason Spezza

Can you tell us the story of how you were introduced to the game of golf?
The first time I can remember golfing was when I was about 14 my uncle George took me out because my father was not much of a golfer and he introduced me to the game.

Can you tell us a first time story (eg. first hole in one, first time you broke 100, 90 or 80)?
I got a hole-in-one 4 years ago it was the day before training camp and I was playing with Ray Emery, Ron Low, our goalie coach, and John Paddock, our coach in Bingo (Binghamton) … we could not believe it went in I hit first and could not tell if it was in so the other guys hit fast and we ran up and it was in I was pretty pumped.

Where are your favourite courses to play during the season?
I’m a Clublink member so Graystone is one of my favs but Magna and St. Georges are beauties too.

What is your favourite golf course in the world?
I love watching the Masters so I have never played it but I would say Augusta if my fav to watch.

What would be your dream foursome?
Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Mario Lemieux and myself

Danny Briere

Can you tell us the story of how you were introduced to the game of golf?
I was first introduced to golf by my Dad and one of his buddy at Edelweiss golf club.

Where are your favourite courses to play during the season?
I am planning on joining Club Link soon since my boys are 6, 7 and 8 years old. I can’t wait to leave with them to go golfing.

What is your favourite golf course in the world?
There are so many great golf courses that I’ve had the chance to play but the three that come to mind right away for me are Oak Hill in Rochester, Pelican Hill in California and the Phoenician in Arizona as my favorites.

What would be your dream foursome?
Like I said earlier, I can’t wait to leave for golf with my 3 boys, that will be my dream foursome

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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