Helene Elliott, the Times' new columnist, returned to a familiar subject for a Saturday column on the emergence of Southern California-bred hockey players with NHL teams. The Ducks' signing of Brian Salcido is the peg. Salcido grew up playing on the Junior Kings team (his father Frank, a Beverly Hills police captain, coached) before going off to play high school hockey at Shattuck St. Mary's in Minnesota then at Colorado College.
Salcido joins what was a trickle and is now a stream of local kids playing at elite levels.
The Kings last month signed Buena Park native Gabe Gauthier from Denver University. The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Los Angeles native Robbie Earl soon after he led Wisconsin to the NCAA title. Salcido's teammate, Brett Sterling of Pasadena, recently signed with Atlanta. Ray Macias of Long Beach, who played in the Western Hockey League last season, may sign with Colorado before next season. Rhett Rakhshani of Huntington Beach, a member of the U.S. under-18 team, was chosen by the New York Islanders in the fourth round of the June entry draft. Cameron Cepek of Huntington Beach was picked in the seventh round by Montreal after playing for Portland of the Western Hockey League.
They all hope to follow Los Angeles-raised Richard Park, who played for Vancouver last season, and Noah Clarke of La Verne, also a product of Shattuck and Colorado College and the first Southern California product to play for the Kings.
"Everybody thinks about hockey and think Minnesota and Michigan and Canada," Brian said. "California is known for basketball and football, and a lot of kids from California, when we'd go to tournaments, we'd get a lot of people asking about our tans.
"I think we're getting a little more respect and credit now."
Several National Hockey League veterans also live here, among them Chris Chelios of the Detroit Red Wings and Rob Blake, now back with the Kings after a few years in Colorado. Pickup games of local players are common at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, especially now as they are starting to get in shape for training camps that open next month. Hockey fans might want to put this on their calendars: from Sept. 8-12 at TSC the Kings will host a tournament for rookies on the three California NHL teams and the Phoenix Coyotes.