- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

Truth isn't just stranger than fiction, it's funnier, too. Witness the announcement that Don Rickles will serve as the honorary captain of the University of Arizona's club hockey team this season.

It's hard to decide which is the bigger hoot, "Mr. Warmth" being the honorary captain of a hockey team or the University of Arizona having a hockey team. Actually, Rickles owes a lot to the sport, so maybe it's time he gave something back. He's made a living, after all, of calling one unfortunate victim after another a "hockey puck." (And we all remember him, of course, as the voice of Mr. Potato Head in "Toy Story." The biggest laugh in the entire movie might be when his character grumps, "What are you lookin' at, ya hockey puck!" and then the camera switches to the object of his wrath a hockey puck.)

Rickles, it turns out, is performing at the Tropicana in Atlantic City this weekend. I tried to grab him in the lobby for an interview yesterday, but he brushed me off. "Haven't got time, kid," he told me. "Gotta catch an elevator."

OK, so maybe I didn't try to grab him in the lobby of the Tropicana yesterday. But if I had, this is how the conversation probably would have gone:

Me: Tell me, Don, why the University of Arizona club hockey team?

Rickles: Because the Siberian Bikini Team didn't ask, dummy!

Me: Where would you put hockey on your list of favorite sports?

Rickles: Way up there right behind the biathlon and just ahead of curling.

Me: Seriously, do you follow the game at all?

Rickles: Oh, sure. I'm a big fan of "NHL 2Night" on ESPN2. I use it as a night light when I want to make love to the wife.

Me: Did you ever play hockey when you were a kid?

Rickles: A Jewish boy growing up on Long Island in the '30s? Riiiiight. We'd freeze bagels and fire slap shots with 'em.

It's different today, though. In the NHL, you've got Jewish guys like Mathieu Schneider [in Los Angeles] and Jeff Halpern [in Washington]. They may not be superstars, but they're incredibly valuable on the road because they know where all the good delis are.

Me: If you were going to hook up with a hockey team, I would have thought it would be one of the L.A.-area clubs, the Kings or the Mighty Ducks.

Rickles: The Mighty Ducks are a Disney operation. I've had my fill of Disney. Instead of money, they give you an 8-by-10 of Mickey Mouse.

Me: What about the Kings?

Rickles: They haven't spoken to me since I made fun of Gretzky's wife [former actress Janet Jones] at a roast.

Me: What did you say about her?

Rickles: I said she had the most beautiful shins in Hollywood.

Me: That's all?

Rickles: No, I also said, "Everybody talks about what a knockout she is but, heck, I've been in more beach movies than she has [e.g. "Beach Blanket Bingo," "Bikini Beach," "Muscle Beach Party"]"

Me: Anything else?

Rickles: Well, the club wasn't too thrilled with the crack I made about Marty McSorley.

Me: Which was?

Rickles: It was a variation of my famous jab at Sinatra. I said, "Make yourself at home, Marty. Spear somebody."

Me: What's your connection with the University of Arizona?

Rickles: I almost went there, believe it or not. But then I got accepted by the Colorado School of Mines. I'm excited about being the honorary captain, though. I hear Arizona has the best college hockey team in the Sonora Desert.

Me: What if the coach asks you to give the pep talk before the first game? What would you tell the players?

Rickles: I'd just rag on 'em, like I do everybody else. I'd say, "I hear you won a big international tournament last year in Iceland [which Arizona did]. Who'd you beat, Antarctica?" Then I might single out the top goal-scorer and tell him, "I talked to the academic counselor. If this hockey thing doesn't work out, you might want to consider lawn work." And then I'd probably give some grief to the goalie, something along the lines of, "If I played like you, I'd wear a mask, too."

Me: Anything else?

Rickles: Yeah, I suppose I'd have to go off on the team's nickname. The Arizona Icecats? What's an Icecat? Sounds like roadkill in Duluth.

But I like hockey, I really do. Especially since they cleaned it up. Some of the players actually have teeth now.

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