Jeff Glover knows hockey is still hot in Atlanta
Jeff Glover and NHL Center Ice missed a potential collaboration at the turn of the decade.
The subscription service delivering regional telecasts to displaced diehards ran a montage of supposed customers. Pairs depicted included Flyers fans in New York, Penguins patrons in Los Angeles and Blackhawks buffs in Boston.
Their universal message: “We may live in (city name) now, but our seats are definitely center-ice.”
Meanwhile, the actor’s front-of-camera career was on an untimely hiatus. Glover, a real-life Chicago devotee, was absorbed in an Atlanta radio gig.
By 2010, the future supporting regular on The Walking Dead and MacGyver had one item on his Internet Movie Database profile. He had made six uncredited appearances on a short-lived soap, Savannah, shot on location in Georgia’s fifth-largest city.
But there has been a can’t-miss constant in Glover’s life. He may have settled in the Peach State, but his house is definitely of the Mad variety. Multiple walls are adorned with Blackhawks merchandise he has collected since his boyhood in the Windy City suburb of Schaumburg.
Born in 1971, one year before Bobby Hull bolted to the WHA, Glover flexed 39 years of emotional endurance. By his mid-20s, his native city was nursing the longest active Stanley Cup championship drought. Between the ages of two and 38, he only remembered seeing the Hawks appear in one Cup final.
“My friends and I would always drive to Blackhawks games on Thursdays and Sundays down at the Chicago Stadium,” Glover recalled in an e-mail to Pucks and Recreation. “I loved that place, and still can’t believe the Hawks lost to the Penguins (in 1992).
One year before he started amassing more IMDB entries, the hex ended after 49 seasons.
“Fast-forward to 2010, it was a long time coming,” Glover said. “The ups and downs with their goalie situation that season, incredible. When the Hawks actually won the Cup, I cried I little. Tears of joy, I guess.”
Let that be another example of emotional acceptability for the picturesque Hollywood hulk. Those are the words of a man whose persona could, in a pinch, qualify him for Dave Bautista’s body double.
While his beloved Blackhawks went on to drench their parched legacy with two more titles in 2013 and 2015, the late-blooming Glover has saturated his acting resume. So far, the majority of his roles have been in the realm of police officers, security guards and CIA agents. In his move recent movie, Game Night, he is simply listed as “Goon.”
When he is on top of his game on camera, his characters are nothing to mess with. The same goes for when he is at his best on the ice or roller rink.
Glover’s adopted state capital lost its last NHL team to Winnipeg, the same city that pilfered Hull three decades prior. But the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators have stayed in place and claimed the loose Atlanta dateline. Grassroots icers have sustained their enthusiasm as well.
“Atlanta hockey is doing really well,” Glover said. “The Thrashers had some incredible programs that helped kids learn to skate. Showcased the great sport to schools, rinks were built. The hockey talent in Atlanta continues to grow today, all because of the Thrashers.”
Meanwhile, long after its peak, roller hockey is a hit around Hotlanta. In recent summers, the metro area has hosted regional divisions of the North American Roller Hockey Championships (NARCh).
Glover missed last year’s regionals in Snellville due to MacGyver commitments. But this past month, he skated and spectated at the East Coast Finals. Age groups from six-and-under to pro competed at the converted Cooler ice rink in Alpharetta over a span of 11 days.
For the locals, the 12-and-under division generated the most pride. Six of the eight teams on that age group’s final day represented Georgia. Meanwhile, Glover got in on the men’s action with the Cobb County Chiefs. They would go 0-5-0, brooking four shutouts.
“We didn’t do so great,” he confessed. “But the hockey was competitive and the beer was cold afterwards.”
Cold has come mostly in methodical moderation for Glover in adulthood. He starred on the ice at Schaumburg High School in the late 1980s, and was sought by Bemidji State in Minnesota.
“I had a chance at a partial scholarship,” he said.
Bemidji played at the defunct Division II level in that era, and was competitive at that. But Glover sought something more relaxed, and enrolled at Arizona State.
Like BSU, ASU would one day join the Division I varsity ranks. In Glover’s college years, it had a club program he could not find the heart to commit to. After trying out, then making erratic appearances at the Sun Devils’ practices, he never cracked their game roster.
“I had so much going on back then, and wish now I put more effort into playing with ASU,” he said.
Of his choice to go south, he offered, “No-brainer. But then again, another blunder in my hockey career.”
The game may never have been his career, monetarily speaking. But between radio work and acting, parts of it have worked their way in.
Savannah closed down after one TV season in 1996-97. Concomitant with that setback, Atlanta gained a new all-sports station and was preparing to restore its status as a four-sport market.
Previously dedicated to music, AM 790 WQXI became The Zone in April 1997. Two months later, Atlanta was awarded one of four franchises in the NHL’s expansion class. Soon christened the moniker, the team began play in 1999, filling a void left by the Flames 19 years prior.
Hired as a producer for The Zone, Glover would arrange interviews with all of the local teams.
“It opened the door with the Thrashers,” he said. “But I pretty much already knew everyone from the season-ticket reps to the Zamboni drivers with my local hockey contacts.”
The connection even helped Glover sustain his acting mojo amidst his lengthy break from the business. His IMDB profile lists “Atlanta Thrashers Scoreboard Intro – actor, ice hockey player” under his “other works.”
As it happened, the Thrashers’ lifespan was shorter than Glover’s time away from TV and movies. They departed in 2011 after rocky ownership precipitated the team’s sale to Winnipeg’s True North.
“My daughter Madelyn grew up at Philips Arena,” said Glover. “I’m all Blackhawks hockey, but this was NHL hockey where I lived. I’ll always love the Thrashers. If it wasn’t for the terrible owners (Atlanta Spirit, LLC) the Thrashers would still be in Atlanta.”
Amidst the NHL’s absence from Georgia, the surviving brand in Glover’s heart keeps on giving. He makes annual northern pilgrimages to get in more ice action. Last year he was a guest coach, opposite ex-Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon, at the Chicago Hockey Classic.
The August charity contest was orchestrated by a former local USHL player to raise money for the city’s Special Olympics chapter. A host of high-profile personnel representing the area and each of its notable hockey programs formed the contesting teams.
Patrick Kane, whose overtime goal opened Glover’s cathartic ducts in 2010, captained Glover’s team against Vinnie Hinostroza’s. The funds chalked up to north of $140,000.
As his other major northern pilgrimage, Glover joins the Chicago Clowns every February at the Pond Hockey USA tournament in Wisconsin. Elsewhere, he has sported a Charlestown Chiefs jersey in other charity games.
His lifelong leisure of choice and vocation have yet merge in full, though.
“I have not auditioned for a hockey movie,” he said. “I wish there was more of them. My all-time favorite hockey movie is Slap Shot, which I hope they don’t make anymore goofy remakes (of). Love the Goon movies.
“A hockey player in a movie would be good enough for me, like Happy Gilmore.”
In 2013, the year the Blackhawks nabbed their second Cup of his lifetime and casting calls accelerated, Glover took one baby stride. He put in an uncredited cameo as an ice skater in Anchorman 2.
That, along with The Internship, put Glover on the same roster as fellow celebrity Chicago fan Vince Vaughn. The two have since met up in Nashville when Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Festival coincides with a Hawks-Predators card.
Yes, Hawks. Not to be confused with Philips Arena’s sole wintertime tenant. Georgians, beware when you overhear Glover and assume he is talking Atlanta hoops.
“There’s only one Hawks,” he said.