Special weekend fun! Our series "5 Reasons I Love Hockey" features puckheads from all walks of life revealing five things that either made them a fan or that keep them watching hockey. It will run every day through August. Enjoy.
When Sega was launching the Dreamcast (remember that?) in 1999, they needed someone to help test the new NHL 2K game for its system. Mike Rhinehart was a puckhead who played club hockey in college, and got the gig based on that experience.
Fast forward a decade and Rhinehart's still working in the same building near San Francisco, but as a senior product manager for 2K Sports, makers of the upcoming NHL 2K10. Talk about a charmed life: Along with helping to launch sports titles every year, he works with NHL stars who take part in the games -- including some time shooting hilarious commercials with Tracy Morgan and Jeremy Roenick(notes).
Rhinehart is an interesting addition to our "5 Reasons I Love Hockey" series not only for his vocation but his location: He grew up in Northern California during the 1980s. "Back in the stone ages, [it] wasn't the easiest thing given the technological challenges this younger generation may take for granted," he said.
Here are 5 Reasons Mike Rhinehart of 2K Sports Loves Hockey:
1. The San Jose Sharks.
NHL players I work with, please don't take this personally.
The San Jose Sharks were the answer to my dreams of having a local hockey franchise in Northern California (I missed the California/Oakland Seals by a few years due to my age). Adding to this, not having a local team or any sort of broadcast coverage of hockey during the 80s up here was brutal as a fan of the sport. My brother and I had to convince my parents to drive us an hour to buy hockey cards, I subscribed to Hockey Digest and relied on what was a very primitive internet at the time to get scores of games in dial-up real time if you will.
The day the NHL announced San Jose would be getting a team validated my lifelong passion for the sport.
2. The Players.
I have met, worked with and ultimately become friends many NHLers. There are countless gracious, humble, giving and hard working guys in the sport of hockey. You will never meet a group of guys that realizes how much of an impact they can have by each making an effort to promote and give time to the sport they love.
3. Snoopy's (Redwood Empire Ice Arena).
I play hockey twice a week at Charles Shultz Snoopy's Home Ice in Santa Rosa California (home of the biggest annual senior tournament in the world). These adult leagues I belong to are my time to enjoy the sport from a different perspective than I do at work. I get to play with many different people of many different backgrounds, each having a unique story to tell of how they have been bitten by the hockey bug.
One player in particular, we call him "Dan vs. Wild," grew up in Tomales California and Snoopy's is the only rink he has ever played hockey at. Dan is 56 and isn't rushing to play hockey anywhere else any time soon.
4. UC Davis Ice Hockey.
I can't say enough about my club hockey experience in college. Yeah, it's no D1, D2 or D3 college hockey, but it was my chance to play hockey against other schools in California (for the most part) and experience the sport on a totally new level.
Don't let the word "club" fool you. This was full contact hockey and let me tell you, I took my licks. On the flip side, I handed them out too. I am glad the internet wasn't quite what it is now these days because I think the amount of penalty minutes I piled on during one of my seasons with the team was pretty unimaginable. My game has changed quite a bit since then, but it was an experience I would never take back for the world.
5. The NHL 2K Franchise.
I am lucky enough to spend time doing what I love. I am a marketing manager on our MLB and NHL franchises here at 2K and it is very cool to be roll into the office only to talk about and work on hockey. I feel obligated to and also receive joy in sharing hockey with as many people as I possibly can. How can you not, when you feel this way about a sport?
We have an employee shinny session on Saturday nights from time to time and it is awesome to see how big the group has gotten over time. Regardless, I just want to share this amazing sport wherever and whenever I can.
Ironically, as a marketing guy on the NHL 2K series, that is what I am hopefully doing. Exposing as many people to the great sport of hockey I possibly can .