- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Joey and Linda have a house in Calgary with a basement in which their three boys play sock hockey when they can't get on the ice. They have another house on Cape Cod, where they spend the off-season. They are wealthy—and not just by Hell's Kitchen standards—but they are not flashy. "We have money," says Joey, "but I learned the value of a dollar."
Last season Joey felt that he wasn't getting enough ice time, though he still scored 40 goals. This season Crisp has given him more time, and at week's end Joey had a career high of 99 points, including 44 goals.
In one sense Brian had all the advantages. His brothers had built a ladder from Hell's Kitchen to the NHL. All he had to do was climb it. Brian never wore clip-on roller skates, and laughs at the thought. He remembers steel wheels, but only vaguely. He was seven when he first put on ice skates, in 1969. By age 13 he was on the neighborhood team's "taxi squad" and got to play in five or six games with Joey. Brian even scored one of his first Met League goals in the Garden, although he confesses that it was a weak shot that limped in from the blue line.
By then Skyrink, an almost-regulation-size sheet of ice 16 stories above Manhattan where celebrities like Michael J. Fox now play pickup hockey, had been built on 33rd Street, west of the Garden. Met League practices were still held at ungodly times, but at least the ice was local. Brian's high school, Power Memorial, had finally decided to have a hockey team. More important, Horvath got Brian the coveted job of visiting-team stick boy at Rangers games when he was in high school. On game days Brian would get to the Garden at 3:30 in the afternoon and have a couple of hours to skate alone.
While Brian's hockey skills were growing strong, the neighborhood was dying. Roller hockey in the school yard was already dead. Drugs had stoked the fires of Hell's Kitchen to inferno proportions. Brian's best friend from the neighborhood was Ryan Boyd, who lived on the first floor of their building. "Ryan had the most talent of any kid I've ever seen," says Brian. "He was a big, strong, mean kid. Any pro team would have loved to have had a shot at him."
As a schoolboy Brian was a solid scorer and superb penalty killer, and nobody was better at intercepting passes. Ryan was a great offensive playmaker. Together they led their team to five straight Met League championships. In 1978, when the team ran out of kids and rink money, the New Jersey Rockets were more than happy to take all five remaining players and provide them with a car to get to practices.
"Ryan was tougher than anybody," says Horvath. "He really knew how to fight on skates."
But no one had built a ladder for Ryan. His father died of liver failure when Ryan was in his early teens, and his mother worked in a bar to support Ryan and the family. Ryan came home from junior high school one day and tried to wake an older brother, only to discover that he was dead from a drug overdose. Another brother also came to an untimely end, shot to death for debts outstanding. Uncle Hoppy and Horvath worked hard to keep Ryan in high school, hoping that a diploma combined with his hockey talent would turn into a scholarship. It never happened.
In the spring of 1979, Wisconsin coach Bob Johnson came to New York to watch Brian play against a team from Minnesota in the finals of the junior national championships. "I went for a home visit," says Johnson. "I could hardly find the place, and when I did, the building had just collapsed. Unbelievable!" No one was hurt when the wall fell, but the Mullens lost most of their possessions to looters.
"The night of the final game, both Brian and Ryan were dead tired," recalls Met League commissioner Ken Gesner. "They had been up several nights, sifting through the bricks of their old home, trying to find their possessions. By the third period the Minnesota team led the Rockets 4-2. Then Brian and Ryan rallied, scoring five goals between them to give New Jersey a 7-4 win."