What is it about this time of year? It makes you feel either very happy or very sad. Sometimes, a little of both.
It's a time of year when many of us reflect on the days before, and those that will follow. We know how lucky we are, but we still need to be reminded of it. We look to be inspired.
For many of us, including myself, we not only use sports, but we also use music to do just that. If you're talking about music that makes you smile and cry, yet is still inspiring, then you're talking about the kind of music written and performed by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter John Ondrasik. You know him – he is Five for Fighting. And just like you and me, he has a passion for pucks. Did his band's name give it away?
It was a name that came quite easily to him after watching Marty McSorley duke it out with Bob Probert for his beloved Los Angeles Kings.
"I was lucky. My parents had purchased an elite ticket package where the family could attend just about everything that took place at the Forum," said Ondrasik, who grew up in Los Angeles.
That included Kings games, which he always looked forward to attending with his dad. Ondrasik was hooked.
Fast forward to 1993 …
"Fresh out of high school, me and my buddies pulled a cross-country road trip to Toronto: the red-eye to JFK, a hopper to Buffalo and then renting a wreck to Toronto," Ondrasik recalled. "We bought $300 tickets from scalpers and got beer drenched on us at Maple Leaf Gardens. We didn't want to be anywhere else but watching the Gretzky-Gilmour series. Playoff hockey, nothing better. Best experience of my life."
Now, this season, the experience for Kings fans hasn't been as pleasant. Los Angeles is continuing to fight to avoid the Pacific Division cellar. What's wrong with these Kings?
"The goaltending has been a nightmare, " he said. The Kings have the third-worst goals-against in the NHL, at 3.42. "The injuries haven't helped and the power play has been awful. We should have never gotten rid of Pavol Demitra and we got Rob Blake too late."
Anything you like?
Said Ondrasik: "I like the kids, [Anze] Kopitar, [Alexander] Frolov and Dustin Brown are coming along. It's going to take some time. But if they can win, the fans will come. Hey, you know how it is here. Look how many UCLA fans came out of the woodwork when they beat USC."
John should know – he's a UCLA alum.
How about the new NHL? "Overall, the rule changes are great, but I do wish the boys dropped their gloves a bit more," Ondrasik said.
Not a shocking statement considering the name of his band. What is shocking is that Ondrasik and Janet Jones Gretzky took voice lessons from the same teacher. "It's true! The best part was I bumped into Wayne now and then, and I'll always remember how nice he was, when I wasn't anybody."
Before I let John go home for the holidays, I thought it would be fun to play a game. He gives me hockey answers to questions that come from the titles of his hit songs.
"Superman (It's Not Easy)"
Q: Who is your Superman on skates?
A: My Superman on skates was not blessed with the talent of Gretzky or [Mark] Messier, but he did the most with what he had. He's Dave Taylor. He wasn't the biggest or the fastest, but he'd always be digging in the corners. He would fight if he had to, would throw a hit, go to the net or give up his body. He was a team guy who gave everything he got.
Q: OK, John, here's a riddle for you. What would be the first thing you would do if you were NHL commissioner?
A: I'd put the NHL back on ESPN. It used to be so easy to find a hockey game on TV. You always knew where to look. Just imagine if the NHL was still on ESPN. We'd be watching the games on HD on a regular basis. No one would complain that they couldn't see the puck!
Q: This song is from your new album "Two Lights." There's a line that says, "What kind of world do you want? Think anything."
A: What kind of world do I want? The kind where Patrick Roy isn't winking at Tomas Sandstrom after robbing him of a goal in overtime of Game 4 of the 1993 Stanley Cup finals.
A: That's easy. [Laughs.] Let's hope it doesn't take 100 years for the Los Angeles Kings to win the Stanley Cup.
Hooked on hockey, Linda Cohn is an anchor for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS. She has been with the network since 1992 and promises a gluttony of glove saves in her weekly column.