In some suburban neighborhoods, the place to be is the house with
the backyard pool, but the minute the winter woolens are hauled
down from the attics of Glenmont, N.Y., this year, kids will home
in on the house with the hockey rink. Bordered by plywood and
illuminated by floodlights, the rink is the handiwork of Bobby
Carpenter, 36, a recently retired NHL forward turned defenseman
best known these days as Alexandra, Robert ("Bobo") and Brendan's
dad. "It's not much different from the one I grew up with," says
Carpenter, referring to the rink that his own dad built in the
back of Bobby's childhood home in Peabody, Mass. "I had a model
to work off."
Phil Housley, Mike Modano, Tony Amonte and other U.S.-born NHL
stars could say the same about Carpenter. Toddling into the pro
ranks straight out of St. John's Prep in Danvers, Mass.,
Carpenter at 18 became the first U.S.-born player to be picked in
the first round of the draft, going No. 3 to the Washington
Capitals in 1981. During an 18-year, 320-goal career in which he
would also skate for the New York Rangers, the Los Angeles Kings,
the Boston Bruins and the New Jersey Devils, Carpenter became the
first U.S.-born player to score 50 goals in an NHL season
(1984-85). Carpenter never made an All-Star team or won a major
trophy before he retired, in '99, but his early achievements
broke ground in the building of a less Canadian-centric NHL, in
which talent from the U.S. and numerous other countries has
become highly valued.
"Getting different nationalities involved has definitely gotten
more people excited about hockey," says Carpenter, who gets some
of his excitement from being the associate coach of the Devils'
minor league affiliate, the Albany (N.Y.) River Rats. The young
Rats are a little raw, which pleases Carpenter. "In NHL practices
coaches teach players about other teams," he says. "Here we're
still teaching them how to play hockey."
His favorite protege, however, can be found in his own backyard.
"With the younger ones, it's too early to tell," says Bobby of
his 4- and 2 1/2-year-old sons, "but [6-year-old daughter] Alex
has learned to skate and is very, very determined."
Bobby and wife Julie want to make sure, however, that their kids'
sports careers don't get in the way of other experiences--most
important, college, the one thing the Can't-Miss Kid feels he
missed out on. "At 17 all I wanted to do was play hockey," says
Carpenter. "I think I've learned some lessons to pass on to my
Not to mention young professionals.