ANAHEIM, Calif. – On Tuesday, the University of Maine went Hollywood, arriving at Los Angeles International Airport for the NCAA hockey Frozen Four.
On Friday, Hollywood came to the Black Bears.
Movie star Kurt Russell accepted an invitation for his son, Wyatt and another boy, Gavin Scott, to practice with the Black Bears during an hour-long workout at Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.
For the afternoon Russell played the part of proud father, as he videotaped the entire practice with a camcorder.
Russell, who considers Rangeley, Maine, his hometown, said he attended Thursday’s semifinal win against Boston College and wound up in the UMaine section by coincidence.
“We met a lot of the people there, and after the game some of the boys came up and sat down,” Russell recounted. “Then coach [Shawn] Walsh came up afterwards.”
Walsh issued the invitation to Russell and 12-year-old Wyatt, but that didn’t mean the coach would let the honorary Black Bears off without some ribbing.
Walsh gave Wyatt some hands-on goaltending advice, and after the young Russell fended off several full-speed Black Bear offerings during practice, the Maine coach skated over to the team bench, where Kurt was filming.
“Hey Russell,” Walsh hollered. “It’s nice there’s a little talent in the family.”
Russell admitted that Wyatt has an intense interest in the game.
“My son fully intends to play hockey. That’s what he wants to do with his life,” Russell said. “He’ll probably go back East to play at the high school level, and then he wants to play D-I, and go on from there.”
Russell said he hasn’t forgotten his Maine roots.
“I lived there until I was about 4 years old, and then all the rest of my life I’ve gone back and forth,” Russell said. “I go back in the summertime. I go back for a couple weeks at a time. All my relatives are still around there.”
Russell, who played professional baseball, said pro sports is a family tradition.
When Maine captain Steve Kariya sidled up to ask “Mr. Russell” for a team photo with him after practice, the actor quickly agreed.
“The day before the biggest blowout in NCAA history,” Russell toasted after the Bears were assembled at center ice, inducing grins all around.
While players and coaches put in a regular day of meetings, practices, and media sessions on Friday, University of Maine fans took advantage of their “day off” from the Frozen Four to take in some local sights.
The Maine Pep Band was one of several groups that got an early start and headed from their hotel to Disneyland, a convenient 10-minute ride away.
Still others made the 45-minute drive north to Los Angeles to find some of other tourist attractions. Groups of Black Bear fans indicated Friday morning that Hollywood and Universal Studios were on their itineraries.
And for the true sports nuts – media members included – the opportunity to take in another game awaited. The Anaheim Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers faced off in a Major League Baseball exhibition contest at nearby Edison International Field of Anaheim.
The Boston-area media arrived in Southern California with the chance to cover two events: the appearance of Boston College in Thursday’s NCAA semifinal against Maine and the Anaheim debut of former Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn on Friday.
Mainers with relatives attending the Frozen Four probably have an image of loved ones frolicking in the Southern California sun.
That’s just not the case.
Reports from home indicate that many Mainers may have enjoyed a more balmy day on the East Coast Thursday than their jet-setting pals did 3,000 miles away.
Temperatures on Thursday peaked in the mid-50s, while Friday’s temps edged into the comfortable upper 60s. A steady breeze meant Thursday’s wind chill factor (meteorologists actually mention this on TV, believe it or not) made it feel like it was in the 40s.
Mainers in Southern California headed for various attractions on Friday to enjoy the Frozen Four’s off day.