the great wheaton hockey scandal of 1991

My friends at CliqueClack did an interview with Dean Devlin, creator of the sensational new series Leverage. Dean and I played hockey on the same team (with, I’ve just now remembered, Adam Baldwin, also) from around 1989-1991. He was a forward and I was a goalie. One night in Burbank, our team gave up a breakaway near the redline. I saw it happening when the puck was still in the offensive zone, so I was ready.

When the other guy crossed our blue line, I was already way out of the net, near the bottom of the faceoff circle on my left side. I skated backward with him to force him to shoot on my terms. I guess I was near the crease when I saw him pull his stick back way over his head. “Oh good,” I thought, “he’s just going to try to blast it past me. Those shots almost always go wide, or right into my glove.”

The next thing I knew, there was an explosion in the rink, and a bright flash of light before everything went dark. When the lights came back on, I was on my knees, surrounded by a semicircle of skates. I pulled my helmet off, and watched a whole bunch of blood pour down onto the ice.

“Oh, the way it beads up is really neat,” I thought. Then, “Wait. That’s my blood.”

I’d done my job and forced him to take a low-percentage shot that went wide, just like I was supposed to. Unfortunately, it went right over the net and into my skull. My helmet was crushed, and I got to take a trip to the emergency room for something like 36 stitches in my head. I also got whiplash, which was not awesome.

Anyway, in Dean’s interview with CC, this game came up. He said:

“Wil was a dynamite goalie. When he was still shooting Star Trek, we were playing in a game and a puck actually cracked his helmet open and he needed stitches and the producers of Star Trek basically wanted to murder me. ‘You’re letting Wil stand there in front of a net while we’re shooting the series?’” Oh, the scandal.

I miss playing hockey so much. If I could justify the expense, I’d totally buy some new gear (I’ve outgrown my skates and pants, and I’d need a new helmet for obvious reasons) and find one of those leagues for guys who are in their thirties.

It may seem silly, but seventeen years after we played together, hearing that Dean thought I was a dynamite goalie means the world to me. I worked really hard to be a good keeper back in those days, and I was really proud of our team. I had a lot of free time, so I worked out at the rink almost every day, and played pick up games a couple of times a week. That season, I had a great record and a great save percentage. I even got to travel and play in an exhibition game against some members of the 1980 gold medal team in front of a sold out Boston Garden – where I was scored-on and pulled after one shot, which still makes me sad to this day. In my defense, it was Mike Eruzione who made the shot, and it was a two-on-none break. But still, I wish I’d stayed in the game.

Until I read this today, I had no idea the producers bitched Dean out, and it’s amusing to me that they did because I wasn’t even a regular on the series when this happened. In fact, shortly after the injury, I got a call from the Star Trek production office. I was surprised to hear from them, and assumed someone had heard about the accident and wanted to bitch me out about it.

They were actually calling me to tell me that Gene Roddenberry had died.

It’s weird how memories are all woven together, isn’t it?

54 thoughts on “the great wheaton hockey scandal of 1991”

  1. I’m thinking that you should take a second look at the 200+ demands for your presence in Toronto Wil. That’s one hell of a pick up team! (You’re guaranteed that at least 98% of us know how to play!)
    Hooray for the girl players. I played with boys on my own dime late evenings in high school. My Mom refused to allow me to play in a girls league. At 34 I dust off the skates once a year to play in my staff-student hockey game at school. Love it!

  2. I’ve always enjoyed watching hockey and have always wanted to play, but I never had the…for lack of a better term, ambition. Recently, though, I decided that part of getting back into shape meant maybe fulfilling that dream, but it’s rather difficult when you now live in Texas.
    But I’m a diehard Flyers fan, so I couldn’t give up on that dream. And I’m now in a Learn to Skate/Play Hockey program with plans to join an adult league in March. Not bad for a 32-year old. :)

  3. I went to college at FSU and during those years Tallahassee had a minor league hockey team – the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks. I graduated a semester before my sister, so she went to a few games without me. One day while I was back home in Tampa, the phone rings and my dad answers it. He listens for a while, then starts laughing so hard he has to hand me the phone. My sister is on the phone, very angry, explaining that she is at the hospital because she got hit in the head with a puck that flew into the stands and that the situation is SO NOT FUNNY! She had a minor concussion and needed a few staples, so luckily she was okay. My father felt bad for laughing, but it is kind of funny to get a phone call saying, “I got hit in the head with a hockey puck.”
    Your story reminded me of that incident ;)

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