ORONO – His golf game wasn’t up to par in the cool, blustery conditions at the Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono Monday.
But actor Kurt Russell said his first University of Maine men’s hockey alumni weekend has been memorable.
“We’ve had a blast,” said Russell, whose team in the alumni golf tournament included his father – veteran actor and Rangeley native Neil “Bing” Russell – and former Black Bear winger Kent Salfi.
Russell’s relationship with the University of Maine began 27 months ago when he attended the Frozen Four at The Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.
He sat in the Maine section for the Bears’ 2-1 overtime semifinal win over Boston College, and Maine coach Shawn Walsh came up into the stands after the victory. The two met and Walsh invited Russell’s 12-year-old son Wyatt, a goalie, to practice with the team the next day along with a friend of Wyatt’s, Gavin Scott. Walsh, a former goalie, gave Wyatt some pointers.
The Bears went on to win the national championship with a 3-2 overtime triumph over New Hampshire and Walsh and Russell kept in touch.
Last summer, when Walsh was diagnosed with kidney cancer and wound up undergoing a pair of 20-day immunotherapy treatments at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCLA, Russell and longtime girlfriend and actress Goldie Hawn offered to house Walsh and wife Lynne.
“We really like him. He and I got to spend some time together. We played some golf. UCLA is only 15 minutes from our house,” said Russell.
Walsh has often mentioned that Russell and Hawn have been tremendous to him throughout his battle with the disease.
Walsh was released from the hospital at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., on Sunday after a 15-day stay caused by side effects resulting from his stem cell transplantation in May. He also needed his medications and fluid levels monitored.
He hopes to return home in a couple of weeks.
“He’s doing good. That sounds like the best [medical] outfit for that type of cancer. That’s important,” said Russell, who lived in Rangeley until his family moved to California when he was 5.
Russell said he just finished a project last week, “so now it’s vacation time. I’ve got to get my golf game in shape.”
His son Wyatt, now 14, continues to progress in his hockey career. He is also in Maine with his father and grandfather where he is volunteering at the University of Maine hockey clinic.
“Wyatt’s pee wee team won the world championship in Quebec. He will stay in high school in Loyola [Calif.] this coming year and, after that, he’ll be coming east,” said Russell, who vacations in Maine every summer.
Russell said he and Hawn want their son to go to college, so if he plays junior hockey, it won’t be major junior. Major junior players receive financial stipends which cost them their college eligibility.
“We’re looking now. We may send him to play junior hockey in Canada or the USHL [United States Hockey League],” said Russell.
Wyatt would attend a high school in that particular area and retain his college eligibility. Both avenues have been top suppliers of players to American colleges.