Don't let the goalie mask on Senior Editor Bob Brown's desk mislead you. He has never worn one in his life. But as the man responsible for putting together SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S annual special report on hockey that begins on page 30, he can tell you a lot about the Stanley Cup, icing the puck and Derek Sanderson's mustache. He can even reel off the divisional alignments in the NHL, and league President Clarence Campbell probably can't do that yet. Still, Brown is modest about his hockey prowess, and properly so. He describes his skating style as "weak-ankled."
It is the other piece of headgear on his desk, a racing helmet, in which Brown feels most at home. He was one of those kids who spent all his after-school hours with his head tucked under a chassis.
"My first car?" says 34-year-old Brown, who is finishing his first year as an SI editor. "It was a '49 Mercury, one of those James Dean memorial Rebel Without a Cause models." A few years later, while he was an English and journalism major at Syracuse, Brown would slip off and drive his Porsche 1600 in semilegal amateur races. "Naw, I never won anything," he says. "I wasn't much good."
In 1966 Brown was hired by Car & Driver magazine in a manner that would have brought tears to Horatio Alger's eyes. He walked into the office and requested a job. The publisher looked over the applicant. "Can you write?" "Yes," came the reply. "Can you write fast?" Two weeks and 144 pages of the magazine's annual buyer's guide later, Brown had proved that he indeed could write—and fast. He stayed at Car & Driver for eight years, the last four as editor-in-chief. During his tenure, the magazine's circulation jumped by 50%.
So what is auto enthusiast Brown doing editing stories about such disparate sports as hockey, hunting, fishing and swimming? "I was tired of cars," he says. "And even while I was spending most of my time racing and reporting on autos, I kept up to date in all sports."
Brown has always been a hockey fan; now he is an avid one. "I can get from my house to the Nassau Coliseum in 15 minutes. You might say I'm an Islanders' fan by convenience. And if you hang a quick right coming out of the game, you can catch the last two races at Roosevelt Raceway."
When not at hockey games, Brown swims, fishes and practices midwifery. Last summer he cajoled and assisted his 2-year-old Airedale, Tuppence, while she gave birth to seven pups.
Last month, Brown took a brief turn as motor sports editor, and it prompted reminiscences of a cross-country car trip he once made that ended in Long Beach. He claims to be part owner of the third-fastest time ever recorded in the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Race: 37 hours, 26 minutes. That comes out to a rather illegal average of 82.7 mph.
These days Brown tamely motors around in an Opel Manta or Volvo wagon. His racing days are over. But there may be someone to carry on the family tradition. His 3-year-old son Nathaniel says he wants to be a racing driver. Yet there's always the chance that Nathaniel will change his mind. After all, he has yet to make one of those leisurely drives to Nassau Coliseum to watch hockey.