Since it's August and there's not much going on I thought it would be cool to document the history of what once was a hell of a website community. I recently visited Rangerland.net and I'm catching up with many of the old writers and readers who didn't go over to the Hockeyrodent's living room. It's true, Hockeybird did spawn the two best non official NY Ranger websites seen anywhere on this here intarweb thingee. Both sites originated in one way or another at Hockeybird and I hope to tell that story and more. Besides, just how much of the Olympics can one watch?
Keep in mind, I'm old now and I may forget some of the details, names, dates and specific events but have no fear, I'm totally capable of inventing what I can't remember. So, it all started back before the 1994 season................I was having a hard time adjusting to no longer being part of the radio station, WLIR The Station That Dared To Be Different. Found at 92.7 on your FM dial in New York, WLIR was THE place to hear "the best new music, first". We broke bands like U2, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Cult, The Smiths and so on. Leaving that scene was tough as I had been an incredibly blessed kid who somehow found himself with way too much success, way too fast and I was not mature enough to understand how to handle it. It's fair to say I could be a real cocky SOB at times and I do apologize to any and all that I may have done wrong. I was just a dumb kid from Levittown, NY who got real lucky. So, when it was over I did try and hang on in the clubs a bit. I wasn't ready for it to end. Of course, all good things must come to an end (dammit) and I am no exception. It was with a heavy heart and a lost feeling inside that I looked to the future. I was way too young to be finished, right? One day I sat on the curb, looked up at the sky and asked God two questions.
|My two girls love Justin Bieber|
I said, "God" (he likes when I call him that) "I have accomplished all I set out to do. What the heck should I do now? I'm not yet 30yrs old. I can't be done, can I?" I believe I was told to think on my question. He was suggesting that I had more things I had asked for as a kid. "OK, lemme think on that", I said. I was scratching my head wondering what the hell he was talking about but decided he must be right, he's God. So I put that on the back burner and moved on. Now it was time to ask God a favor. I asked that one day I would very much like to live with three beautiful women. Oh, like you've never asked for that or something similar. Now be careful when asking favors of God as he has a tremendous sense of humor. I now live with three beautiful girls, my wife and two beautiful daughters, all thanks to God. He delivered exactly what I had asked for only I hadn't really been very specific. I had more of a Charlie's Angels thing in mind. Thoughts of all night parties with all three girls fighting over my wants and needs filled my head. I guess I forgot to mention that to God. I'm sure he is still laughing about my stupid request and the way that he fulfilled it....he did so in his way and I'm quite sure it's brought him lots of entertainment at my expense.
So anyhow, after many days of contemplation (OK a few minutes) I looked inside myself and knew I had not achieved a championship in Ice Hockey, something I dreamed about as a child. So, I had a new goal, I wanted to play hockey again and perhaps even win a championship. Hey, a kid can dream can't he? I also needed work and to pay the bills so I got a job selling mattresses at a local ripoff joint, Hillside bedding. I had been watching kids play roller hockey in the parking lot of the little club I worked at spinning records as a second job and decided to buy some skates and try it out. At the same time, my girlfriend (now my wife) had landed a gig with a software company on Long Island called Pacific Gold Coast, a name that immediately brings to mind a long Island software firm. She brought home a 486 laptop with a 14.4k baud modem from work to show me what she was doing and we decided one night to go online and look at pron (you know what I mean......C'mon, what else did one do on the Internets in those days?)
I offered up my Amex card to open an AOL account and had to select a screen name. I had been called Bird since I was four but someone had taken that, much to my surprise. My passion for the game was there and after a few failed attempts at creating a user name (DJ Bird was taken as well), the name Hockeybird was accepted. We then spent hours downloading one image that was not worth it at all. I suspected that the rumors I had heard about all the "stuff" you could get on the web were untrue. Turns out, it's all true. I have had stuff emailed to me without asking, but that's a different story. I next began searching for NYR stuff and ran into a message board of some type and that's where I met the Rodent, Pete Rocha, Antiparos, Stellavito and other very passionate and knowledgeable Ranger fans. There was even a Devils fan named Kydaxx I think.
The guys ripped me a new one when I asked for Neil Smith's phone number. They laughed at the idea that Smith, the Rangers GM would care about my desire NOT to trade Sergei Zubov who was one of my faves at the time. "Yeah, like Neil Smith is gonna take your call....shut up and go crap in a hat" was the first response to my request. I wasn't sure how to react. I couldn't back down, it's just not my nature so I attacked with venom. I don't even remember what the hell I came up with but the minute I spit blood and piss, I was in. I may have attacked the Rodent for his "consolidation theory" which by the way has yet to happen after all these years.....but the ducks are all lined up. So, Hockeybird was now online and in a Rangers discussion group.
Who knew then what would happen over the next 15 years. Well, God knew and he's still laughing at me. Ask the Rodent. His last trip here gave him direct access to my world and he can tell you, I have my hands full.
Now before I go any further, I wish to back track a bit. It'll help me in recalling stories for the upcoming move about WLIR; Dare To be different, the movie. Hey, it's my site and my story so you can bare with me, or skip ahead....your choice.
I was hatched in 1962 as Arthur Scott Peacock and by the age of four had acquired the nick name Bird. So when Puck daddy gave me a hard time for "hiding" behind the Hockeybird moniker he was incorrect. I was always known as Bird and just added the Hockey to replace the DJ once I no longer worked in the music biz. As a kid, we played a ton of street hockey (the Bent Lane team was undefeated in like 4 yrs) and as a pre-teen and teen moved up to roller hockey. The coach of the high school team, Mr. Miller had me penciled in for the hockey team as a freshman.
I was pumped to play for my school and couldn't wait until training camp. Unfortunately, the local school board budget was voted down all four years of my high school career and Ice Hockey was the first program to go. I had to sell cookies and bumper stickers just to play Lacrosse, Football and to join the wrestling team. So while I was already a hard core Rangers fan, my playing days ended. I just walked away and I was really disappointed. It's too bad as I was born to play net. I had played net in Lacrosse (I beat the worlds greatest Lacrosse goalie, Larry Quinn 5-2 in the best game I ever played. It was 0-0 at the half, man what a game that was) and even played a season as an indoor soccer keeper at Shep Messings' Indoor Soccer World.
|That's me at the grave site of Ronnie Van Zant a day after the anniversary of his passing|
Until then, Bands played at these events but not only did we start to replace them, we kicked their asses while taking their money!. I took it seriously and began to befriend and learn from some of the best "disco" DJs in the NY area. Hip-hop had just started with the release of the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rappers Delight". I learned my craft and thanks to Sam, developed my skills. I even rapped live on WKTU during a promotional event where Sounds by Sam was hired to provide the tunes on site. (it's possible that I was the very first white rapper though that can't really be true, it's too hard to fathom) However, I soon became bored with private parties. They sucked for someone like me who wanted to create. If I had to play the Chicken Dance at Abe Silverstein's bar mitzvah or announce the entrance of one more wedded couple or entertain a bunch of giggling sweet 16 year olds I was going to go nuts. I hated the restrictions and needed to get a gig where I could really shine and do my thing, whatever the heck that was.
My first "club gig" was a little tiny place attached to a diner in Levittown called the "Side Affair", aptly named as it seemed that the customers were there to drink away their problems and cheat on their spouses. As I began to gravitate to a more Rock & Roll format using the disco skills I had been learning, I realized I was on to something. Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders ate at the diner one night and while she scared the daylights out of me, I knew I had to go with my heart and play the cool stuff, not the commercial crap. I then found a real gig and worked 7 nights a week (two shifts on Fridays, one for the happy hour crowd)and they had live bands. Face to Face was the best of 'em and we became quick friends. The four piece band had a knack for fun and enjoyed the edgy stuff like the B52s and Talking Heads. One day they approached me with an idea. They were going to open a club, call it Monkey's and wanted me to spin. I had a condition. I wanted full control of what I played and wanted to play mostly punk/new wave. At the time only the Bondage Babies at Legz, a few NYC spots and perhaps a night at the Malibu Nightclub were doing this. They reluctantly agreed and while I took a huge pay cut, I knew it was the right thing to do.
Well, I was right and we kicked ass. Many a night we had a packed house and I began to "break" bands. It was here that I first encountered Neil Hooper who was then the lead singer for the Statix.(He went on to front Aku Aku who got airplay on LIR) They were awesome. I began to scourer all the record stores for imports and cool stuff and listened to a ton of crap to find the gems. The New Music scene had started to take off and at this point, WLIR switched formats and was now the "New Music Station". They had always been better than the other rock stations as they played XTC, the Ramones and Joan Jett well before anyone else. They also would go deep into an album rather than play the same old crap over and over.
Once they switched it was pure magic. They played here in America for the first time bands like U2, Adam and the Ants, Depeche Mode as well as many, many more. It was then that MTV was born and following the WLIR format gave national attention to the scene. I interacted with some of those VJs (I hung out with some of the Original MTV VJs) and they did admit to me that WLIR was how they scouted for talent. For the record, Seymour Stein, president of Sire Records did the same thing and signed The Cult on my recommendation! WLIR and the entire scene was now poised to explode!. Clubs popped up and I knew I had to be part of it and needed a bigger audience. I found out about a new place opening in Huntington on Long Island and auditioned. It was owned by four guys from Paris, France. I got the gig partly because I spoke a little French and I was using the "disco" style of mixing this new music, something few others had dared to do. It didn't take long for Paris New York to become a top destination for club goers from all over the tri-state area. We drew huge crowds and I was able to attract a lot of industry attention.
|DJ Bird in the Birdcage at Paris NY|
Paris NY was where I did some of my best work and three events would forever change my life. I was already a huge U2 supporter and had been since I first heard "I Will Follow". I pounded their records on a nightly basis with 4 and 5 song sets. But when WAR was released I was prov-en right, they were indeed a major worldwide act. I was now a legitimate force in the industry. I now realized I could help start the careers of some bands whose names are now famous. My association with U2 would pay benefits for years to come. The next event was just bizarre. Keep in mind, I had a fantastic audience. When I wasn't turning them on to new stuff, they would turn me on to stuff. It became a partnership if you will. Guys like Rudeboy and the now famous DJ Slave got their start chatting music in the Paris DJ booth.
The DJ Bird character I was creating was getting big (and so was my head) and then, it happened. We were visited with a routine liquor license check by law enforcement. I decided to go on mic and quote the constitution or bill of rights or something. I really pissed 'em off. So, they ran a check and sure enough, I had failed to appear in court on a traffic ticket. So, in front of what seemed like 500 people outside, waiting to get in Paris NY.....they did me a big favor, they arrested me. I was bailed out at like 1:30am and returned to a packed house. I got on the mic, announced my return, ripped off my shirt and played Elvis' Jail House Rock covered by a punk band called Agnostic Front from England. The place went freaking nuts. We were packed for the next six months as people wanted to see this nut job of a DJ and hear what I'd play and see what I'd do next.
Denis asked how I went about selecting my music and I told him how I visited all the local and import stores and listened to tons of stuff to pick the gems. Denis seemed puzzled by this and repeated his request for me to call. The next day when I called I was invited down to the station in down town beautiful Hempstead, NY at 175 Fulton Ave. I'm pretty sure I was hired on the spot. You see, Denis was tapping into the scene for his music selection process, I believe it was part of what made him the great programmer he became. He listened to his audience and sought out people like myself who were already making noise in the clubs. I wasn't the only one recruited like this. People like Willoughby, Maxx and Delphine Blue brought their own unique taste to the station and Denis had found them out in the clubs.
At first I had this wonderful opportunity to spend some time working with Jeff Beck whose on air nick was Jeff Carlson, a hold over from the Rock days at LIR. They didn't want to have confusion with the brilliant guitarist of the same name I guess. Silly when you think about it as Jeff did not have an English accent.
Jeff was the production manager at LIR and I was taught how commercials and comedy bits were produced. We began to develop the Bob and Doug McKenzie characters (you know, the hosers from SCTV) for a Paris NY commercial and it kinda took off. We did bits in those voices and got a good response. My first ever appearance on the station live was during the Donna Donna show. Jeff and I had been downstairs pounding a few beers after work in what we called café fa-tale, bad food, good beer. Donna was doing the "Screamer of the Week" show. She asked that Jeff and I do a Screamer update in the Bob and Doug voices. The screamer of the week was where the WLIR listeners could call in and vote for the best new song of the week. I wasn't nervous, I was kinda drunk. But I had about as much fun as a dumb kid could have.
|Bob & Doug|
So, my first ever words on WLIR were something like, "OK, I'm Bob McKenzie and this is my hose-head brother, Doug.....beauty eh? OK, like explain to the listeners what a screamer is you knob! Take off EH!".
It wasn't long before Denis had me working with music director Larry The Duck as his assistant and I was now a full blown part of the selection process at the station. What a trip I was on. I had been a listener since '75 and now I was working there. Denis and the station owner then asked that I become available as a DJ and MC for clubs and concert halls that they were co-promoting and I had to leave Paris. It was time any way. The French guys had been so wonderful that it made departing very hard but DJ Slave was about to become the next big thing. I don't think they ever missed a beat as he quickly became a top notch DJ and Paris continued strong under his musical guidance.
I was now on what I called the DJ Bird World Tour with stops in places like the Ritz in NYC, The Mailbu Night Club in Lido Beach, Spit in Levittown and many others. I loved playing the Ritz most of all. We promoted many events there including "Radiovision with Rock America. It was one of those nights I met Dominique of Dominatrix fame. I fell in love with her and was lucky enough to date her for a bit. My best show ever was the "Non-conformal Ball" in 1985 at the Ritz, hands down. I worked on that set for six months at a place called Heartbeat (it was the original Rum runners of Oyster Bay)and La Cache (formally Reds in Levittown). That night at the Ritz had so many highlights I couldn't list them all but my fave is that Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin complimented me on my show.
|The world famous Ramones|
I was in heaven. I worked in so many clubs DJing and hosting bands like APB, Joan Jett, The World Famous Ramones, The Replacements, Ministry, Modern English, UB40 ....the list goes on and on. Then, Denis had me do my first radio show live on the air and my world was changed once again. How does a dumb kid from Levittown have all these great things happen? I was so nervous that I actually said the word "Shit" on the air just before a "Crazy Eddie" commercial. That's a story for another day. While things got better for me professionally I was having some personal issues. Then, WLIR bought a station in Pittsburgh, 100.7 WXXP and I was offered the Music Director position. I was now just 24 yrs old and essentially running a major station in a wonderful market. I still have friends there and still love the city. I returned to NY in '87 and just before getting married my days in radio came to an end. The personal stuff was getting in the way and I had no business getting married to anyone let alone HER. I've often thought that a married DJ Bird was just not as valuable to WLIR and Denis as was the single Bird. So it ended and the next version of the Bird was to involve computers, mattresses, Intel and of course, hockey.
|DJ Bird Sings "I Will Follow" at the WXXP reunion in 2005 at the REX Theatre in Pittsburgh|
Thanks for indulging me on this trip down memory lane. I could explain a lot more but we need to get back to the Hockeybird thing. When my days at WLIR and WXXP came to an end, I was devastated. I had become such a huge pain in the ass and I really had no idea where to go or what to do. And that brings us back to that curbside chat with God. If I get to shoot my scenes for the upcoming documentary on WLIR, I'll expand on those stories and more. Trust me, there is a lot more to tell.
So, where were we? Oh yeah......Hockeybird. I now had this AOL account but no computer. I never really had much interest. As I was climbing the corporate ladder at Sleepy's I finally did get a computer of my own and while still celebrating the 1994 Stanley Cup win two years later, I had the chance to build the Sleepy's website. I had to learn HTML and decided that I liked software and hardware. learning to build this Sleepy's website I somehow got connected with some "underground" users and away I went. Once done with the Sleepy's site, the project was handed over to professionals to make it look nice. I knew just enough HTML to make a page but had very little skill. I decided to jump in and create a page dedicated to my two passions, Music and the New York Rangers. I was surprised when the first emails came in about my Ranger comments. I usually received email regarding how to lengthen my....oh, never mind that. It never occurred to me that anyone was actually reading my page. Right about this time I was being recruited to work in Intel.
I did learn a little from the "underground dudes" and I guess showed some potential. I refused the offer many times as I was making decent money and was kinda happy with my rapid accent in the Sleepy's main office. To tempt me to accept, I was offered the domain Hockeybird.com and some server space to make whatever I wanted. I quickly left the AOL page and was now posting to the Hockeybird page on a daily basis. We may have had about a hundred readers at this point which shocked the hell out of me. I was also active in the now legendary "Section 407" an email group that was started by some fans on the old AOL boards.
By now I had also ditched the roller hockey world for ice. I had bought some equipment and joined an adult clinic so I could re-learn how to skate. I suited up with the hope of playing defense and maybe even join a team. Now I know I'm about to go off on another tangent here, but hey, at least it's about hockey. After buying equipment and signing up for the adult clinic, i had a two week wait. I had heard about what's called "Open Hockey". You go to a rink at the designated time, pay your small fee and suit up, light jerseys vs. dark. So I went to one in Carle Place. In the locker room I was watching other so as to not look foolish by putting on my equipment wrong. Once dressed, I went out to the ice surface.
I was home. I adjusted my cup and promptly spit on the ice. I hadn't skated in nearly 15 years yet I wasn't the least bit nervous. After some lazy warm up laps around the rink (I didn't wish to fall in front of the guys) I sat on the bench and awaited the opening face off. I was starting at right wing. At the drop of the puck, I made a bee line for the cage and sure enough, I received a pass right on the tape which deflected into the net, past the keeper. I had just scored on my first shift in 15 years. The guys got all excited as they thought I was a player. I spent the rest of the day getting up from the ice. One guy early on asked if I was breaking in new skates.....laughing I reveled that I was breaking in everything.
|Me at the Nassau Coliseum|
It didn't take long before I got my legs back and was scoring at will from the point in the adult clinic. My skating improved and I was blocking so many shots, the goaltenders were complaining. Jamie McClennon was a kid keeper with the Isles and had been waived. He and I made friends after he explained that he wanted me to allow him to see more shots while he waited for his next spot. At the conclusion of that convo, I decided it was time to buy and put on the pads. The look on the guys faces at the clinic was priceless. To make a long story short, I quickly regained my chops and started filling in for beer league teams. I won my very first game in a shootout putting the "Stars" into their playoffs. Now I wanted a team. Six months later I won my first championship with the Falcons and never looked back. I went on to go to the finals 4 consecutive times, winning three times with the Falcons and won a fourth with a team called Capital Punishment. I retired as a FOUR TIME CHAMPION!
Meanwhile back at the house, Hockeybird, still in it's infancy began to take on a life of it's own. I still recall emails from Germany and the Czech Republic. Both Lord Perth and Coat were there back in the beginning. Slowly but surely the readership grew. A new outlet for my thoughts was starting to attract attention and like my music days, it had to become a collaborative effort. It was then that Hockeybird took on it's very first guest writer. He's now known as the Hockey Rodent. Back in those days, he went by the Hockey Doctor.
The Rodent was kind enough to 'fill in" as I took my family for our annual trek to Florida during the Christmas break. He was witty, humorous and knew his stuff. His insights were well beyond what I had been posting. It was a very different style but a great read every time. I had yet to polish the format but it was coming along. I had been an avid reader of a computer website called Hard OCP. They covered overclocking, gaming and hardware like nobody else. Humor combined with comments and links to the latest news of the day made it a must visit every day. It then hit me. Hockeybird was going to become the Hard OCP of the hockey world. I emailed Kyle, the owner of Hard OCP and asked permission to hork his format and he gave me his blessings and some advice. "Respect your readers", he said. Combined with the aesthetic changes done by the Rodent (he's fond of reminding me that the original Hockeybird "looked like ass" and it was true), the new format was accepted by the expanding readership and Hockeybird was on it's way.
Man, I'm exhausted spitting all this out. but I think I have set the stage for the real reason for this series of articles. While this concludes Part One, I can already begin to see where Part Two will be going.
So, there you have part one. We'll pick up in part two as the Rodent complains about control and Chris (now known as "sed" on Rangerland) joins the front page love on Hockeybird. Rocha, Rightbug and HDH will all get their due. And I promise not to forget Gabe or Heather. And who could forget the articles penned by Leedsy? Stay tuned for the real story, some behind the scenes stuff and the birth of the infamous Hockeybird message boards.