By Glae Thien
Special To The Union-Tribune
SAN DIEGO – In previous visits to San Diego, Scott Gomez attended family reunions and even Padres games. In town Wednesday, though, the NHL All-Star is on a business trip, playing for the Alaska Aces against the Gulls during the NHL lockout.
Gomez made his debut with the Aces, in his hometown of Anchorage, last weekend in a three-game ECHL series against the Gulls after he missed training camp while exploring his options to return to the ice during the labor dispute. Despite any rustiness, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound center recorded three assists and scored a key shootout goal.
“It’s good to get the first weekend over,” said Gomez, 24, who shared the NHL lead with 56 assists last season for the New Jersey Devils. “What I want to do is get more into game shape and just get more accustomed to playing again.”
Gomez helped the Aces go 2-1 against the Gulls over the weekend. The teams meet Wednesday at 7:05 at the Sports Arena.
When he played at Los Angeles or Anaheim with the Devils, Gomez typically welcomed 50 family members and friends to his own cheering section. Likewise, he’s expecting to see some of the same people in the stands tonight.
His father, Carlos, grew up in Pacific Beach and attended Mission Bay High. From his father’s family with 10 brothers and two sisters, Gomez says he has six uncles still in the San Diego area.
Such family roots help explain how Gomez became a Padres fan.
“They are my favorite team,” Gomez said. “We don’t have any (major league) team in Alaska. So, yeah, I’m a huge Padres fan.”
Gomez began watching the Aces as a teenager with the advent of the old West Coast Hockey League in 1995-96. The Gulls were led then by forward Martin St. Amour, now in his first year as their coach.
Last weekend’s games were Gomez’s first appearances against the Gulls, because he previously went straight from the juniors to New Jersey.
“I was definitely impressed that they came back to get the last game,” Gomez said. “That takes character, and it comes from the coach. I remember when I was a kid I would watch him play. He was a big power forward, and I enjoyed watching him.”
Gomez draws $500 in weekly pay from the Aces, about the ECHL average. He already has earned $4.5 million in five NHL seasons.