By Brian Murphy
The Idaho Statesman
Photo Courtesy: Lori Burelle
BOISE, Idaho – Jim Brown finally made it to his first NHL playoff game. And he made sure his friends knew it.
As a result, the Idaho Steelheads found their way into Monday night’s Game 7 broadcast of the Stanley Cup finals on NBC.
Brown, a Boise resident and Steelheads’ season-ticket holder for four years, attended Carolina’s 3-1 victory over Edmonton in Raleigh, N.C., with his brother-in-law, Walter Spokowski.
But Brown’s impromptu cross-country trip drew skepticism among his buddies.
So Brown dug up an old “Go Steelheads” sign and brought it to the game at the RBC Center, hoping his seats in the second row near center ice might get him some television time. The sign was distributed by the Idaho Statesman during the Steelheads’ 2003 championship season.
“I had some friends that I don’t know whether they believed me or not,” said Brown, who flew into Raleigh on Monday and returned to Boise on Tuesday. “I’m here (in Boise), ‘Yeah, right, you’re going.’ I said, ‘I’ll show them.’
“But I really had to find a way to prove it. If somebody picks it up, that would be cool. I didn’t know that it would draw this attention.”
NBC cameras picked up the sign with 3:39 left in the second period. Brown said he forgot about the sign for the first part of the game and only held it up “a half-dozen” times.
That was enough for NBC cameras to see it.
His wife, Jo-Ann, got several calls from friends who saw the sign. And the Steelheads were flooded with calls Tuesday asking about the sign — and exactly who was holding it.
The television shot only showed the sign, not Brown’s face. So the Steelheads, with help from the ECHL office in New Jersey, started a search and quickly found Brown.
Brown’s brother-in-law provided the tickets and frequent-flyer miles for him to fly to the game.
“I had to buy the beer,” Brown said.
Not a bad trade, especially for a huge hockey fan like Brown. He grew up south of Boston, rooting for the Bruins. He retired from the Air Force in 1999, and today plays, coaches and officiates in hockey leagues at Idaho IceWorld and Qwest Arena.
His daughter, Jenna, plays hockey for Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, and his son, James Jr., is on the club team at the University of Massachusetts.
Despite his hockey background, Monday night’s game was the first NHL playoff game Brown had ever attended. “It was electric to be there, it really was,” he said.