Hockey fans who tuned into the Tampa Bay Lightning game against Vancouver on Thursday may have spotted Bernardston’s Doug Weiss at Amalie Arena. Weiss is an orthopedic surgeon in the U.S. Navy and a team physician for USA Hockey. He has treated wounds that were suffered on the ice and in the battlefield.
Two years ago in Afghanistan, he was stationed at Camp Shorab — Camp Leatherneck to some — a forward operating base in a remote desert area of Helmand Province. One day between surgeries, he met General Austin “Scott” Miller, the last commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
“General Miller was in charge of all of Afghanistan and every few weeks he’d arrive for inspection,” said Weiss. “I happened to meet him one-on-one and we talked about USA Hockey. It was a surreal moment, talking hockey in the middle of Afghanistan.”
It gave him an idea of how USA Hockey could honor servicemen like Miller who’d risen through the ranks and devoted their careers to protecting America. The U.S. Central Command Center is in Tampa and USA Hockey’s annual winter meetings are in Orlando, so why not unite the two at a Tampa Bay hockey game?
“Everyone was on board with it,” said Weiss.
The inaugural ceremony honored U.S. Navy Rear Admiral James Hancock, and U.S. Marine Corps Lt. General Robert Hedelund, both recently retired.
Hancock was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries received when the Taliban attacked his forward operating base. He was in the operating tent but was able to return fire. Hedelund, who commanded the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune, was awarded the Bronze Star and twice received the Legion of Merit.
On Thursday, they received USA Hockey jerseys with numbers and nameplates on the back and a warm ovation from over 19,000 in Amalie Arena. Two others made the trip to watch the event, Weiss’s father Bob Weiss of Greenfield, and his Dartmouth Medical School classmate and Navy veteran Dr. Steve Cobery.
“I’ve got some names on the back burner for next year,” said Weiss. They include retired Navy Seal Mark Donald and GHS grad Andrew “Andy” Mason who enlisted shortly after 9/11 and did six tours of duty overseas in special forces.
Rummaging through a box of old correspondence I found a letter dated May 19, 1989, from Dan Okrent. Author, publisher, editor and ombudsman, Okrent founded rotisserie league baseball which became the genesis of all fantasy sports. He’s not proud of it; he’s compared himself to Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atom bomb.
After pitching a story to him for New England Monthly, I asked Okrent if he thought Red Sox outfielder Dwight Evans was a potential Hall of Famer. “Dewey in Cooperstown? Well, I’m softening some. But why him and not Gil Hodges?”
Okrent got his wish last summer when the eight-time Dodger all-star and the manager of the ’69 Miracle Mets was inducted with David Ortiz, Jim Kaat and four others. Hodges was selected by the Golden Days Era Committee, which got me to wondering if Okrent had finagled a seat at the table.
He was not, said Hall of Fame communications director Craig Muder.
Dewey, meanwhile, still doesn’t have his number 24 atop the right field roof with the 11 numbers that have been retired. He’s worthy if only for his catch of Joe Morgan’s blast in the ’75 World Series that was the precursor to Pudge Fisk’s home run.
When Marti (Martha) Barrett was the principal at the Frontier Regional School, she spoke the language of everyday teachers and students. She considered athletics to be the second arm of education. She went to the games. She was part of the town. Condolences to her husband Steve, their daughter Mary and their three boys Adam, Sam and Steve for their loss, and for the community’s loss.
Mike Cadran emailed the MIAA’s enrollment stats for grades nine through 12 in Franklin County and Athol. Tech leads with 507 students, followed by Mahar (413), Frontier (409), GHS (367), Athol (322), TFHS (193), Mohawk (189) and Pioneer (107).
Despite Pioneer’s low numbers, coach Scott Thayer’s boys basketball team started 6-0 before falling at Hopkins on Tuesday.
Cadran reported there will be 11 co-op football teams in Western Mass. next fall, and that the MIAA is looking into eight-man football teams and girls flag football.
The UMass basketball team was favored by 8½ points to beat La Salle on Wednesday. The Minutemen led by nine points, trailed by 10 and lost by one. If coach Frank Martin can tap Tafara Gapare’s talent and put some synergy into the Matt Cross-Noah Fernandes-RJ Luis troika then UMass will go on a roll.
For now, though, all that means is Bob asking Ray, “Why is their butter on my pants?”
While hoops was losing at an empty Mullins Center, the hockey team was outplayed at BU, 6-2. The Minutemen (9-9-3) should beat UNH (6-16-1) on Sunday at 3 p.m. and avoid falling below .500 for the first time this season. One silver lining on their 2-4-2 skid is Henry Graham, the one-time third stringer has quietly put together a 1.18 goals against average and dazzling .970 save percentage.
Sixty-nine years ago today at San Francisco City Hall, Joe DiMaggio wed Marilyn Monroe. During their honeymoon in Japan, she left to entertain troops in Korea. According to Gay Talese in Esquire, when she returned she told her husband, “Joe you’ve never heard such cheering.”
Unmoved, DiMaggio replied, “Yes I have.”
The marriage lasted 274 days. He asked her to re-marry him after she divorced playwright Arthur Miller, but a year later she was dead. DiMaggio arranged to have roses left on her grave three times a week for 20 years.
The sports business website Boardroom profiled football player Jack Betts on account of his 37 name-image-likeness deals. The real surprise was that Betts played for Division III Amherst College. It wasn’t soft hands or fast feet that got him noticed, it was the “entrepreneurial spirit that inhabited my body… I looked around my dorm room and made note of the brands and products I use and targeted those companies.”
As a result of his “small market” success, Betts founded the Make Your Own Legacy Academy, and his inaugural class included UMass running back Ellis Merriweather.
SQUIBBERS: Red Sox spring training tickets went on sale this week. Two seats down the right field line cost $102, including a $7 processing fee, $7 per ticket fee and $12 to park (and there’s no other place but inside their dust bowl). … Holy Cross, the school that produced basketball stars Bob Cousy, Tommy Heinsohn and Ron Perry, is 4-11 and 328th of 364 teams in the Sagarin Ratings. …. The Browns were 3-3 after Deshaun Watson returned. He threw seven touchdown passes and had five interceptions. … Tom Echeverria says former NMH hoops coach Bill Batty was 43-0 against Choate. … Tennessee handed South Carolina its worst SEC loss in program history last Saturday, whipping the Gamecocks in their own backyard, 85-42. … The Saint Louis Billikens hosted a baby race at halftime of last Saturday’s game against St. Bonaventure. Tots had to crawl across the court on all fours to be eligible. … UMass will have its hands full on Tuesday at VCU trying to contain guard Adrian “Ace” Baldwin who leads the Rams in points per game, three point percentage and assists, and is second in steals. … Brewers manager Craig Counsell told Chris Russo the pitch clock’s going to bother hitters more than pitchers. “Hitters don’t want to get sped up — they don’t like it when they have 8 to 11 seconds between pitches.” … On his Patriot podcast with Nick Cattles, Greg Bedard said Mac Jones was 9-for-9 on the play action pass. “That’s how the Patriots need to play,” said Bedard. “That’s how they should’ve run their offense the whole year.” … Reader Tom Murphy provides the quote of the day, uttered by Babe Ruth: “You can’t just beat the person who never gives up.”
Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at email@example.com