Hockey Talent Hits Home

Brian Salcido got his love for hockey from his parents, who took him home four days after he was born to a young woman who couldn’t give him the life he deserved.

“It was kind of fate that he came to us,” Mary Ann Salcido said, “and that hockey was his path.”

Mary Ann and her husband, Frank, are among the passionate few Southern Californians who were hockey fans long before Wayne Gretzky glamorized the sport. Her brothers played youth hockey. When Frank began playing in 1965, his teams were lucky to find 10 kids, but he made it to a semi-pro league. He has been a police officer for 29 years, riding in a black and white and on a motorcycle before becoming a captain in Beverly Hills.

This week, when Brian signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Ducks, Frank and Mary Ann became part of an even smaller group: mother and father of a California-born and bred professional hockey player. “It’s every parent’s dream, but it’s one in a million,” Mary Ann Salcido said.


At 21, Brian is a 6-foot-2, 195-pound defenseman who can skate and score but needs muscle for the physical end of the game. He left home at 15 to play for Shattuck St. Mary’s prep school in Minnesota -- one of his teammates was Sidney Crosby -- and then went to Colorado College, where he made great strides in three seasons.

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.”

His story is similar to that of any Canadian or Swedish kid.

He was on skates when he was 2, wearing Kings sweatsuits “when they had the old purple and gold,” said Frank Salcido, who shared Kings season tickets with his wife. Mary Ann has pictures of her son “with his bottle in one hand and a hockey stick in another,” and said he’s not embarrassed by them -- he even displays them in his room.

The family lived in Westwood and Culver City and was in Newhall until the 1994 Northridge quake destroyed their home. They moved to Westchester before settling in Hermosa Beach.

Wherever they were, hockey was a constant. When Frank was in law school, Mary Ann strapped Brian into a car seat and took him to Kings games. Later, Frank coached him in the successful Junior Kings program. Next season, Frank’s team will include the sons of Kings Coach Marc Crawford and assistant coach Mike Johnston.

“We’ll remain King fans except when they play the Ducks,” Frank said, laughing.

Brian says he remembers his father tying his skates before leaving for work so Mary Ann could take him to games and practices.

“It was very hard. We didn’t always live close to the rink,” Brian said. “I remember a lot of early, early wakeup calls and long drives to the rink. My father was busy, but he always managed to go to work early so he could get off early and see me play. We were always scrambling, with the California traffic.”

They were chasing a dream. His dream, Brian said, not theirs.

“I played soccer and basketball and baseball, but when I was little I decided I wanted to go play college hockey,” he said. “My dad and mom were very open to it. They put a lot of time and money into it.

“Having my dad as my coach wasn’t always easy. He pushes so hard. But looking back, it was one of the best things that happened to me.”

It could not have happened without Gretzky’s influence.

“Prior to Gretzky coming to L.A., they were tearing down rinks in California. After he got here, they were not only building rinks but building two sheets at a time,” Frank said. “Now, California youth hockey is exploding. We’re consistently putting players into the national development program. As you look at NCAA Division I rosters, you’re seeing more and more California kids, and nothing makes me more proud than to see that, as someone who didn’t have those opportunities growing up here.”

Nor would Brian’s success have happened without Frank and Mary Ann, who told him about his adoption when he was young. When he was mature enough, they arranged a meeting with his birth mother. “Now, she’s a big part of our lives,” Mary Ann said. “We’ve been very fortunate.”