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Preview: Las Vegas Sun Blogs: 'Ice Ice Billy'

Las Vegas Sun Blogs: 'Ice Ice Billy'

Latest ten entries from 'Ice Ice Billy'


Seeking Fame in Barcelona

Mon, 20 May 2013 18:30:00 -0000

Paul Shortino is a rock star. He has rock star hair. He has rock star clothes. He has a rock star glasses. He has a rock star voice.

And for as recognizable as he is, and even though I have his rock star phone number, I can't seem to find him in Barcelona.

Paul, who played rock deity Duke Fame in the riotous cult classic "This is Spinal Tap," has taken a one-month break from his newest gig as one of the power vocalists in Las Vegas's super rock group at "Raiding the Rock Vault" at LVH.

His tour in Spain with Spanish blues guitar aficionado Javier Vargas was a prior commitment, and Paul — being a man of his word — wasn't about to let down the Vargas Blues Band or its followers.

And so here we are together. But apart.

It's a perfect Saturday afternoon in the coastal city of Barcelona. I now sit in a bar called "Dos Trece" in the adventurously hip — or delightfully seedy — El Raval neighborhood just south of La Rambla. It's a bar I know well. I have written things here before, things that I will never share. Some things, some day, I might.

The bar and El Raval are chameleons to one's mood. Today the mood is, well, terrific. I'm drinking a beer and the lovely Erica is drinking cava, Spain's sparkling wine.

As Erica reminds me that she likes robots and aliens, Paul texts me through a Wi-Fi-based app that he has just landed in Ibiza. Ibiza is beautiful, but it's an island that is a short flight from the chatty "Dos Trece" that features bed-headed hipsters behind the bar and a perfectly volumed sound track best described by Erica as "tasty-ambient-electro."

Paul's tour schedule — seemingly branching out from Barcelona — and our day-trips out of the city have caused as many near misses with Paul as there are occasions to give the "Rock Vault" boys a standing ovation. For those yet to see the mighty near-nightly concert, that's a lot.

A casual analysis of the multitude of text and voice messages that have been held hostage by cellular connections and Wi-Fi signals shows we have passed each other on the way to and from towns on the Costa Brava, on street corners and past music venues.

As Paul was heading from Lloret de Mar to Barcelona, we were heading toward it — where we would encounter Tossa de Mar's ever-present Pedro at Bar Don Juan (a character deserving of a blog its own). As we headed back south to Barcelona, Paul was traveling back north to charming Girona for his next tour stop.

Social media has kept us up on each other as well. Erica and I have posted pictures and updates on Twitter and Facebook. And so has Paul, including his thank you for birthday wishes, and his observance of the third anniversary of his pal Ronnie James Dio's passing.

And so, even separated by technology and schedules, Erica and I raise a glass to each of those posts. We've scoped out Barcelona's Enormo Dome. We scan the sky for a rock star soul, and we keep an eye low for Paul's rock star hair, rock star clothes, and rock star glasses.

There is about a week left of each of our trips here. Paul is scheduled to play in Barcelona on Sunday night. But, at about the same time, we have tickets to the FC Barcelona match.


There is always Monday and Tuesday. Failing that, there is the next night of rock and roll at "Raiding the Rock Vault" in Las Vegas — just a text message away from Barcelona.

Billy Johnson is the president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Wranglers.

It's a time for heroes in Spain

Wed, 15 May 2013 20:00:00 -0000

"Senna" is the remarkable documentary that chronicles the evocative crossroads of an incomparable athlete and man of faith, and his country, Brazil. It's a story of national pride, and a national tragedy. If automobile racing isn't your thing, you are in luck. The film tells a human tale on behalf of millions. So, if fly fishing is better suited for your tea kettle, just change the film's setting. It still works. Of course, I come at this from the standpoint of an avid Formula One fan. So it's not surprising that when given a chance to see the Spanish Grand Prix last Sunday, the biggest challenge was finding a position on the airplane that didn't put my knees in the armpits of the chap reclining into my lap. I was shrunken down and dropped between a series of apexes of the one of the world's greatest slot car tracks — the Circuit de Catalunya just a few kilometers outside Barcelona. If this track were under your little boy's Christmas tree, don't forget to pay the extra $1.99 for a miniature plastic, single-posed, 1:24 scale figure of me to place just outside turn two. And make sure he is wearing a Kimi Räikkönen cap. Catalunya is a region of Spain that boasts the dramatic Costa Brava (which is where I sit as I write this, beneath Tossa de Mar's seafront 14th century fortified medieval town of "Vila Vella enceinte" and its turrets and towers) and the remarkable city of Barcelona. Though not entirely native to this specific part of Spain, paella and Flamenco can be found here, too. As well as sangria (a pitcher of which also sits beneath all of those old towers and things). Catalunya has also produced Salvador Dali and Joan Miró, as well as Antoni Gaudí. But on this weekend, Formula One ace Fernando Alonso is the region's favorite son. Alonso is a two-time world champion and the No. 1 driver for Earth's most prestigious automobile racing team of all time, Scuderia Ferrari. Here at the circuit — and when here, be sure to pronounce it "SIR-kwee" — the field of scarlet that traditionally backs the Ferrari logo is often replaced with Cataluyan blue. It's a light blue, and when fronted by the stoic prancing Ferrari horse is a symbol of overwhelming national pride. It matters no more than who finishes behind Alonso in any Grand Prix that all of Spain may not share a sense of prideful nationalism when it comes to Ferrari's No. 1. For in the minds of Cataluyans, this region of Spain is its own nation, and efforts to make it so officially are always brewing. They have their own language, they have their own football team in FC Barcelona, and they have their own F1 champion. It's a part of the world that many identify with the economic catch phrase of the times: "austerity measures." Unemployment here has skyrocketed to 25 percent. And the tourism offseason does not move that number downward. So when Alonso comes home for the annual Spanish Grand Prix, shoulders that were often burdened by a state of the economy become saddled by the weight of excited children. There is joyful anticipation that the summer will bring tourists and jobs, and Alonso's only home game of the season will result in a connection to a passionate people, and a victory a reminder of what could be for any Cataluyan. My wife, Erica, and I take our seats that overlook Turns 1 and 2 to our right. The circuit then circles behind us, and then these screaming rockets will barrel towards us out of Turn 4, until they drive into Turn 5 and then away from us. In less than 1 minute, we will see them, through the trees, streaking down hill toward Turn 1 again. Räikkönen starts — from the customary standing launch — in fourth position this day, and Alonso in fifth. Ahead of Alonso sit two former world champions, Räikkönen and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton. The race nears, and from beyond a hillside of blue, perhaps a half mile as the crow flies, engines rev. The clouds are nudged away by the cheers of thousands. The race begins and cars sprint toward the funnel that is Turn 1. Flags wave in the crowd, and people shou[...]

A plea for Monday’s game three

Thu, 04 Apr 2013 21:44:00 -0000

Assuming the Louisville Cardinals move past the ninth-seeded Wichita State Shockers in Saturday's NCAA Final Four semi-final round, the sports world will hurl its attention Monday night towards one of the biggest events of the year; Louisville's Kevin Ware sitting on the sidelines. The biggest and perhaps only universally recognizable player of the NCAA tournament won't even be playing on Monday night, and people will tune in to see CBS cut to shots of Ware providing inspiration all night long. (Sources I don't really have tell me the over/under on Ware cameos on CBS is 14½, while the number of times commentators refer to him as "this brave young man" is 5½.) For those fans whose teams were eliminated from the NCAA tournament early and have moved onto baseball season, Ware was made an involuntary hero by suffering a freakishly nauseating injury that brought Louisville coach Rick Pitino to tears for the first time since Pitino realized he wasn't the highest paid guy on the Boston Celtics' bench. Hockey buckets off to Ware for — as he lay exposed on coast-to-coast television crushed with a slicing sword of pain and the deafening din of possible shock — coagulating his team by telling them to go out and win that thing. A selfless awareness and action, it was admirable beyond imagination. In contrast, I'm sure I would have screamed something rather nasty about somebody's mother, told Pitino that his wardrobe was excessive for the Derby City, and insisted that everyone in Las Vegas not forget the Wranglers play Game 3 of the first round of the ECHL Kelly Cup Championship Playoffs at the Orleans Arena on, of all nights, the night the NCAA hoops crown is awarded – and all while sounding exactly like Howard Dean on the campaign trail. But that just would have been me. Because back in Las Vegas, the Wranglers — plagued most days with their own number of inspirational and grotesque injuries — begin anew the trek to win 16 more games in a quest for the Kelly Cup. Step one is the best-of-seven opening round against the Stockton Thunder. Games 1 and 2 are in Stockton, this Friday and Saturday. Hosting an ECHL professional hockey first round, game 3 in a sports betting town on NCAA Monday is like your pregnant wife planning her husbands-must-attend baby shower for 5:30 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday. So, perhaps, here is a humble beginning to raising awareness for Monday night's contest against Stockton: "Psst... there is a Wranglers Round One playoff contest against Stockton on Monday." Wranglers fans have helped the organization mitigate to some extent such challenges before. Capping off a banner season in attendance, last Friday night's crowd of 6,769 braved the jam caused by a double booking of parking lots around the Orleans Arena. Las Vegas locals were rewarded with a dramatic Wranglers season finale shootout win. The charged, playoff-caliber crowd blew the roof off the place, landing it somewhere on a bunch of classic cars, tatted up hipsters and some BBQ tents. Fan emotion converts to electricity which transfers to those playing the game. Ask any player or coach. And it's in this where Las Vegas's inability to secure workable home playoff dates give the Stockton Thunder a distinct competitive advantage. Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 in Stockton all fall on two Fridays, a Saturday and a Sunday. Does Ware's injury amp up Louisville's already charged odds of winning it all? Magic 8-Ball says, "Outlook good." That's a lot of fan emotion, and a lot of electricity. Louisville fans have, with genuine hearts on sleeves, jumped on the feel-good theme. They have all but retired No. 5 on social media, placed their figurative Rudy high upon their shoulders, and encouraged all to Ware red all week. But for those who have grown Warey of a regional rallying cry gone quasi-national, the local professional hockey team is just beginning a championship quest, and it begins with a radar-eluding schedule. To get to a second round, a team has to navigate the first round. For the W[...]

It'll be just my luck to live longer

Wed, 06 Mar 2013 20:20:00 -0000

Nothing good ever happens to me. Nothing.

And now, recent word from the American Psychological Association indicates that pessimism may up my life expectancy.

Great. Here comes another let down.

The researchers who made this claim studied 10 years of data that folks over the age of 65 whose clouds had no linings cast in silver are more likely to have their expectations met.

"Our findings revealed that being overly optimistic in predicting a better future was associated with greater risk of disability and death within the following decade," said Mr. smarty-pants specialist Frieder R. Lang on EurekAlert!

Todd Snider is more laconic; "It ain't the despair that gets you, it's the hope."

Here is a case in point. I'm just now beginning to think I can squeak out 600 words for this very blog on this very topic, and my legs are already beginning to grow numb.


Before anyone jumps on this whole pessimism-adds-years-to-your-life bandwagon, they should be careful not to confuse a strategy of lowering one's expectations for their future with the famed Fountain of Youth. The Fountain is a very optimistic concept, with which according to this latest revelation, will take years off one's life.

One could assume, in the off chance that the crossing of strategies is possible, that if one was pessimistic about finding the Fountain of Youth, then they might just find the Fountain of Youth, which could lead to immortality.

But that could never happen. Not for me, anyway.

Famous pessimist Eeyore met his recurring misfortune by saying, "Thanks for noticin' me." Of course I learned of this from Wikipedia, which probably has it wrong.

Charlie Brown once said that a countless number of people worldwide never get love letters and he could be their leader. And as a result, he probably rues that he outlived Snoopy. Now, I'm not announcing that Snoopy or any of the remaining Peanuts gang is dead.

I'm only saying that they probably are.

While Chuck and Eeyore yarn woeful tales of the past and dread today's warmed over pea soup at the home, many of us look forward to not looking forward to what tomorrow will bring, and that's even if the world doesn't get smashed by an apocalyptic asteroid.

Any which way one views it, this is very good news for anyone who dreads living longer. Except for me, of course, because I'll be the one guy for whom this strategy doesn't work.

Because nothing good ever happens to me. Ever.

Billy Johnson is the president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Wranglers.

Todd Snider had me at 'hinges'

Wed, 30 Jan 2013 01:22:00 -0000

Todd Snider had me the first time I heard, "Say, girl, you're hotter than the hinges hangin' off the gates of hell." That's kind of how most things strike you, don't they? Someone paints a picture, you look a little harder, and the next thing you know you're reading all of Vincent van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo.

Musically, Bruce Springsteen had me when he commanded that we weren't going to that previously mentioned fiery damnation for just being glad to be here. And John Prine owned me when he sang of a new joke where one screamed to another, as he jumped off a bridge, "You lose."

There is a lot to be said about those who say a lot without saying much.

Snider continued, "Don't be afraid to turn to me, babe, if he don't treat you well."

Last march I busted down to the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach — down San Diego way — to catch Snider play live. I couldn't remember ever having a chance to see him here in Las Vegas. After a beer or three or more, I bought a Todd Snider toque and a "Play a Train Song" bumper sticker, and popped off to a part of the Snider crew that if they were up for it I'd bring him in to play after a Wranglers home hockey game.

"And by he, he meant me, so I laughed and I shook his hand."

Now, let those without sin cast the first stone. There are a number of tremendous artists that pass Las Vegas by on their tours. There are those in the valley who have not been served by a local Todd Snider show. So the Wranglers booked Snider to play after the game this Friday, Feb. 1. He and his band will hit the stage less than 30 minutes after the end of the game (around 10 p.m.), and Snider fans with wristbands will be able to stand right up to the stage.

If you're coming, get close. Snider's gift for rambling and hilarious setups to songs are built on the best comedians' timing and ability to surprise. He knows how to time a harmonica solo as a rim shot. And he'll turn phrases that you won't see coming and wonder why you didn't — or couldn't — think of that.

"He laughed a little bit louder as he'd yell up at the band."

There is an admitted slant to my take. I like funny. But to promote Snider as funny is the same as promoting hockey as fast, or a Red Ferrari as pretty. Snider is one of America's most highly regarded songwriters, which requires far many more qualifications than just being able to make words rhyme to form a joke.

Snider reminds you that comedy and tragedy carpool to work together each day, and both are out of sick days. And if you're in the back seat, you pay attention to the one you prefer, or at least the loudest. We'll laugh at the comedy because we want to, or perhaps, have to. But big ol' Mr. T is sitting there, silently, making it all possible.

"And though I tried with all of my sadness somehow I just could not weep, for a man who looked to me like he died laughing in his sleep."

He's been called folk-rock, alt-country, and grunge-folk. This has the side effect that Snider is difficult to categorize and to promote, and I'm guessing he wouldn't have it any other way.

He has written and sung about how 65% of all statistics are made up on the spot, Doc Ellis' perfect game while pitching on LSD, and how his baby-mamma's been incarcerated. This has the side effect that on Friday he will make you laugh.

And thank Todd for that.

Billy Johnson is the president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Wranglers.

Bed-ridden and bored is a time for learning

Wed, 23 Jan 2013 19:45:00 -0000

Don't let the diagnosis of "acute bronchitis" fool you. It's very a long way from utterly drop dead gorgeous. It's not cute at all. Nor is bronchitis monkey-shine cute, as in, "Oh, look who is being cute! It's bronchitis mocking pneumonia!" Nor, still, is bronchitis cute because it's a small version of something we are used to being bigger, like a car. Say, a Fiat 500. Perhaps if it were spelled, "aqute bronchitis" then one could at least describe the spelling as cute, because anything with a "q" in it is — in the least — more interesting than a word spelled with a "c". "Calculus" is not cute. "Cumquat" is not cute either, but it's funny. "Quarantine" is interesting as it implies a serious response to something-or-other that demands a reaction to prevent something worse from happening. But to one who is quarantined, it's not interesting at all. It's rather quite boring. More than 14-days — and counting — into a bout with the-opposite-of-cute bronchitis, I have found that being quarantined is only as interesting as any ability to really stick it to Netflix by using far more than my $8-monthly-subscription's worth, and what I could Google on my iPhone whenever any query (far more interesting than curiosity) crossed my mind. And so, here is some of what I have learned during bed rest for, well, most of this calendar year: NBC and "Saturday Night Live" have Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo to thank for saving it from its nearly fatal 1980 season, a season that had seen the departure of creator Lorne Michaels. Charlie Sheen, CNN's Piers Morgan and I are all 47 years old. In Internet parlance, typing "(y)" means "thumbs up." Almonds are known for their healing powers in respiratory illness. They are rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium. Almonds are delicious slivered, roasted and drizzled in honey. Natalie Portman is 31. Lorne Michaels' real last name is Lipowitz, making his real name Lorne Lipowitz. Bruce Springsteen and I are both 5 feet 10 inches in height. Robert Downey, Jr., a former SNL cast member, is only 5 feet 9 inches. One must be careful when asking Siri to look up Tim Kazurinsky. Rather than retrieving information on Kazurinsky's SNL character Dr. Jack Badofsky, I was misheard and rerouted to read up on an American-born terrorist who frequented post offices. Natalie Portman is 5 feet 3 inches. Thelma and Louise die in the end. Kids these days are typing "O.O" to convey "wide-eyed" online. After watching the first 10 episodes of Rod Serling's timeless "Twilight Zone," I have recognized and can name at least one actor in each episode thus far. Moisture from a vaporizer can help break down mucus. Standing in a steamy shower with the bathroom door closed can also help, particularly if you also suffer from a cute case of Hershlag. I had forgotten how funny Kazurinsky's "I Married a Monkey" sketches were on SNL, but also learned that Kazurinsky created the bit that cast him opposite real monkeys to remind viewers that SNL was, in fact, live. There were a total of six monkey sketches from 1981 to 1984, and the sketches ended when Kazurinsky accepted that agitated monkeys could cause problems. Downey is 47-years old, just like me, Morgan and Sheen. If ever diagnosed with aqute lorne-lipowitz, almonds are worth trying. Natalie Portman's real name is Natalie Hershlag. So, it's been done with my never having to leave the house. I've written a blog that contains bronchitis, Piscopo, marriage, Kazurinsky, hot showers, Hershlag, almonds, Lipowitz, monkeys, Badofsky, terrorist and Serling — which knocks my first New Year's resolution off the list. And that calls for a big (y). Billy Johnson is the president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Wranglers. [...]

Tony, bony, phony, stony: Who is Tony Clifton?

Fri, 28 Dec 2012 17:56:00 -0000

As a child, Saturdays often offered a greeting through the tiny speaker of a plastic, wood-pattern encased picture tube. The picture itself presented an image cast in green until, at least, my dad, brother or I slapped its right side with palm-stinging force about one-third of the way down from the top of the console. “Yyyello again everybody,” professional wrestling announcer Lance Russell would say in all his nasally theatrics. “And welcome to another” something-or-other about “CHAMP-yun-SHIP wrestling!” Because Louisville was within the region of the Memphis-based production, mid-south wrestlers Jerry “The King” Lawler and Jimmy Harts’ feud often vied for attention with that of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudds’. Which means, late performance artist, slash comedian, slash television star, slash provocateur Andy Kaufman appeared on our aging Zenith television set, or so I remember. Kaufman took a respite from playing Latka Gravas and Vic Ferrari on the hit television comedy Taxi to wrestle women, which led him to Louisville television via Memphis. Soon, Lawler famously pile drove Kaufman, and Kaufman’s limp body flopped to the mat in an alarming image of true bodily harm. Kaufman would live to make several national television appearances in a neck brace, until his inspired piece of awkward and toe-spreading television history occurred on NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman. In December, the Las Vegas Wranglers held its annual Midnight Game and the highly publicized intermission act for the night was Las Vegas-style lounge singer Tony Clifton. Clifton, as the story goes, was discovered here in Las Vegas by Kaufman around 1969. It was soon rumored that Clifton was, in fact, Kaufman. But this national whisper was flung into a tailspin when it became plausible that writing partner and comedian Bob Zmuda would perform as Clifton. Further Hollywood confusion and headaches ensued. With neck braces and other Kaufman/Zmuda stunts in mind, there was a good chance Clifton would be off color at the Midnight Game, despite our emphasis to him that there would be families in the audience. Eyes were also wide open that despite this being a paid gig for Clifton, the joke could be turned on the Wranglers for the benefit of any Clifton public reboot of sorts. And so as the Midnight Game approached, we were particularly aware that if we stated any restrictions too thoroughly, this would only be seen as a dare. That night I met Clifton as he arrived for a 10 p.m. sound check. He thanked me for the gig, and immediately told two off-color jokes. Oh, in the blessed name of Howdy Doody. I searched behind his oversized, prescription sun glasses to verify that it was actually Zmuda in there someplace. I studied his teeth. I listened carefully to his voice. If it was Zmuda, he wasn’t giving it up. Clifton did his sound check as many Wranglers players were loosening up in the hallway, mostly doing high-step sprints. The sounds of Clifton’s screeching singing voice bounced down the hallways, and a favorite memory was born. We all looked at each other laughing. This was awful and awesome all at the same time. In front of the crowd during the first intermission, the end of his of poorly lip-synched version of his poorly sung “Rhinestone Cowboy” cued fans to vigorously boo and shout, but only for him to walk halfway off the ice, run back to the center and restart the song’s chorus again. Then twice more, then again a fourth time. “I did that number for 48 minutes once,” Clifton later told me. “It killed.” After Clifton finished his second intermission set — a medley of standards that included his trademark version of “Volare” — he expressed regret that the foam rubber chuck a pucks had already been thrown by the fans and could not be used to hurl at him, a feeling I’m certain he shared with many in the crowd. Behind the sce[...]

As celebrities go, the Stanley Cup is perfect

Thu, 29 Nov 2012 06:28:00 -0000

Moons ago while visiting Paris' Musée d'Orsay, I was thunderstruck with a notion as I examined as closely as I was allowed the brush strokes used to build one of Vincent van Gogh's self-portraits. Never have I had so much access to something this famous. As epiphanies go, this was of the "The Starry Night" variety — epic, important and meaningful. The thought led to an appreciation of appreciation itself. I am a self-described woefully under-educated art nut. My visiting an art museum makes me as much of an art expert as buying a new putter makes another a scratch golfer. But, still, Griswoldesque out-of-the-way treks to revisit Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum are not uncommon for me. The same can be said about the Musée Picasso in Paris, which I learned was closed for renovation once I arrived in July, only after I had meticulously booked accommodations near the converted 17th-century hotel in the Marais that housed this great collection. So much for a heightened sense of appreciation. I had taken Pab's place for granted. The Stanley Cup will make an appearance Thursday night during the Las Vegas Wranglers game, where it will be displayed and accessible for all fans to see and touch and take photos. No one can understate the meaning it has for so many. In just one case, a loyal Wranglers fan reached out to me this week, disappointed that in his life this will be the second time he will miss a chance to see the Stanley Cup in person. I offered this good man a chance to send me a personal item of some kind, and I would do the next best thing by getting a picture of the item with the Cup on his behalf. The personal item arrived to the Wranglers offices on Monday. And because it's his personal item, it's not my place to share with anyone what it is. But I will suggest it has something to do with Monty Python. As a simple point of contrast, a sports career has presented to me a chance or ten to meet and know famous and esteemed athletes from many sports, hall of famers and legends of their fields. Other types of celebrities for other reasons have passed my way, including an idol or two. Amazing and sometimes inspirational stories have been told. I have asked questions, and sometimes gotten answers. And at times, I've allowed myself to be a fan. But while I would never claim the access has become old hat, the experience of the living celebrity has begun to fade when compared to that of the inanimate celebrity. Picasso's Guernica can communicate what he was feeling as it was painted, but only it knows more than it will reveal. As well, there is a story in every combed-through dab of paint in van Gogh's paintings from his stay at Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Rémy, but as some film noir private dick once said, "they ain't singin'." The art, the music, and most certainly the Stanley Cup have stories they won't tell. They have secrets they couldn't share. They are bigger than our living or dead heroes and villains, in that we have this object in common, but only they are the constant that binds. For van Gogh, his work holds the secrets of something tragically yet joyfully human, the manifestation from the chemistry of a brain and a soul that communicates still as it hangs on a wall. For the Stanley Cup, it's anyone's interpretation of what it means when one is near it. It will stand there, glorious and shiny, withholding judgment of its admirers while protecting the stories of those who won it, and teasing those who have not. It will remain as majestic as the excellence for what it stands. Thursday night, adults will hunt out their own childhood memories that are engraved upon the trophy, and pose their own baffled children next to it for pictures that will surely be appreciated when the time is right. And through it all, the Stanley Cup will value what it learns about Thursday's fans the same as it values what it knows abou[...]

Ice Ice revisits a year of blogs

Thu, 01 Nov 2012 23:46:00 -0000

It has been pointed out to me by a figment of imagination, a trick of the brain and a voice in the night that since Nov. 1, 2011, there are untied strings that, unless promptly knotted, may require a late adoption of Velcro technology. And so, here now is a bit of useless follow up, save an item or three. In the time it's taken the world population to grow by 75 million in just a year, to an estimated 7,075,525,765, I have failed to buy a bridge from Kentucky and place it in my neighborhood and a plan to turn my home into a tribute to the television classic Green Acres now sits on the honeydew list of throwing away unmatched socks. Las Vegas Wranglers players will again participate in Movember to aid in the awareness of cures for prostate cancer by sporting questionable mustaches and wearing special blue uniforms on Nov. 30 when they play the visiting Orlando Solar Bears. The asteroid roulette board, while certain to spin off tons of cash, never left the drawing board as it could not be determined as to where to place a stage for a lounge act. Dolly the Sheep has taken control of a life that mirrored a Greek tragedy by taking a cruise ship gig, and is now killing it on the Mediterranean. Plus, she is down to a pack a day. We can add another dumb sports quote from yours truly as I was corrected that the blue used in Alaska Aces uniforms is not, as I claimed, Carolina Blue. It is, in fact, a blue more associated and identified with the state of Alaska. Most of us south of Seward were not aware of the nuance, and so apologies are in order. Sorry, North Carolina. Across the pond at Manchester United, five-year-old recruit Charlie Jackson is now six-year-old recruit Charlie Jackson, and is currently on his second wife, having learned that replying "mahna mahna" to everything cannot, actually, solve every problem. No further information could be found — in the time I was willing to actually look — on the world's oldest divorcees, Antonio and Rosa C., ages 99 and 96, respectively. The Italian couple divorced after Antonio found love letters involving another man that Rosa had stashed away some 60 years before. It is assumed that Rosa chose to take her 50 percent settlement in one up-front payment. The World Meteorological Organization has placed Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop on next season's hurricane names list, not realizing a person of the same name had been arrested on drug and weapons charges. This is a nuance they reportedly caught just before releasing a list several years ago that included the name "O.J." In Williamsburg, N.Y., Sam no longer takes Sean to Knicks games, and back here at home, Formula 1 driver Kimi Räikkönen's scheduled appearance was never scheduled, nor was it an appearance. My dog, Kimi Räikkönen, however, is fed regularly. During the great Las Vegas Wranglers 2012 playoff run, I finally visited the Alaska Aces' Death Star in person, only to learn it is actually made of Lego blocks. The B key on my laptop is working again, but it has stopped working on my iPhone. And speaking of Bs, the bees that caused a delay in an Arizona Diamondbacks spring training game have retained Dolly the Sheep's agent, and are rebranding themselves as the Jabberwock-bees. No news can be found confirming authorities in Melbourne, Australia, have identified the four men who literally jumped out on a bar tab from 55 stories above street level. It is assumed, however, that investigators viewed with great interest Felix Baumgartner's jump from space looking for any sign of a swizzle stick and some Goldfish crumbs. Locally, Stratosphere headliner Frankie Moreno is blowing up as evidenced by his recent joyous appearance on "Dancing with the Stars," Paul Villaluz's national anthem is missed by Wranglers fans, and Brian and Lynn McMullan are again preparing for another heroic season of St. B[...]

Villaluz wore a tux every night, and sang the anthem right

Wed, 24 Oct 2012 21:38:00 -0000

I was summoned to hear Paul Villaluz's national anthem audition at the Orleans Arena sometime in 2003. Leaving behind frenzied activities held captive in the windowless Las Vegas Wranglers offices wedged beneath the arena's eastern concrete risers, I walked briskly to the top of section 101. I looked down at Villaluz, gave a thumbs up, and he performed "The Star Spangled Banner" to an empty 7,000 seat arena. With the first-ever Wranglers hockey game on a three-man rush to the goal, we were constructing a fabric of constant visible and invisible threads that would build a nightly fan experience. The performance of the national anthem is a first impression, and we wanted the song done as originally written, and if possible, by a performer that could become a tradition. Villaluz completed his hold of the word "free" and I applauded. I believe I shouted something over-the-top positive, though I can't recall what exactly. I went to meet him, and told him he had the non-paying job. Then I asked him if he had a tuxedo for every time he would sing. He did. Villaluz has kept count. He was the Wranglers' official anthem singer for 229 games and I'm certain if he said it, he's right. After all, he readily knows that the team's winning percentage for the nights he performed the anthem is .640. He tells me he has it broken down by seasons at home, if I'm interested. This is how much cares about it. It is said that the only constant is change, and so people have to go away. Villaluz moved, just weeks ago, to another time zone. Sadly, it's a distance that makes his commute to Wranglers games impossible. In most any pursuit, things rarely just fall into place and stick. Early decisions often are overturned with new adjustments. But this one, Villaluz, stuck because what fans saw in the public was what we saw behind the scenes. Personally, Villaluz became a welcomed sight for sore eyes. No matter the challenges of any day that led to a 7:05 p.m. puck drop, there was peace in our Groundhog Day when Villaluz walked down the player hallway with his tuxedo's garment bag flung over his shoulder before a game. Then there was the simple pick-me-up of a passing "hello" or a silly 30-word joke behind the curtain while he awaited his cue. Our paths would cross ever so often after he had changed into his Wranglers jersey to grab his seat and enjoy what had drawn him to the team in the first place: Professional hockey. "It always rankles me when I hear people say there's no pro hockey in town," Villaluz told me by phone this morning when I called to tell him thanks for all of those years. "Politicians always say there are no pro sports in town. Give me a break." He is one of us. He reminisced that just before his anthem cue players would let him know if his bow tie was a little crooked. Or that some of the guys would remind him of current winning streaks that mirrored his performing streaks. These are little moments that we don't see, because they are his moments, and they are all really kind of cool. And then, he went onto to tell me this: He always felt he represented the Wranglers because fans knew who he was and they treated him so well, and so, he was measured in his fandom. And though the organization never asked, he was careful to not be the fan that could impede the enjoyment of the game for others, though he assured me through wickedly funny anecdotes he was completely capable. Sometimes it takes just a little awareness and not a lot of work to be good. Villaluz is most certainly aware. As well as appreciative, appropriate, funny, friendly, modest, and perhaps the best representation for which any professional sports team could hope. In Villaluz fashion, he pivoted my thank you call into his thank you call, and provided a message of support and celebration for an achievement of a [...]