The scene above is the Bacon Street Omni in Natick, Mass., otherwise known as the iced-over backyard of staff writer Jack Falla. The ice is where we expect to find Falla, whether skating past his 13-year-old son, Brian, here, or such eminent personalities as Wayne Gretzky. Not long ago Falla was looking for a new angle for his update on Gretzky's ever-phenomenal career (SI, Feb. 18). He found it at ice level, skating with the Oilers in game-day practice and again in an optional workout. As he described in his story, Falla was struck by Gretzky's aura of lightness, "not just his skating, but everything he does with the puck. Some guys are out there chewing up the ice, but Gretzky just flits on top of it, which may explain why he doesn't get hurt very much."
In this issue Falla has two stories—one on the fall of the Minnesota North Stars (page 28), the other on the rise of soccer star Ricky Davis (page 46). Falla had never even seen a soccer game until he became sports publicist for Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. some 16 years ago. But as Babson emerged as a Division III soccer power, Falla became an expert. He later handled some p.r. and TV production for the now-defunct Boston Minutemen of the NASL and, among other articles, wrote several NCAA soccer-guide previews in the late '70s. This is his sixth soccer story for us.
In researching his stories for this issue, Falla was all over the North American landscape. Tracking down North Stars past and present, he hit six cities in six days—in order, Springfield, Mass., Montreal, Quebec City, Bloomington, Minn., St. Louis and Calgary. For the Davis story, he followed the Steamers from St. Louis to Tacoma to Los Angeles. After finishing with Davis, he spent a morning on the beach at Santa Monica but in the afternoon was on a flight back home. He was out on his backyard rink by 8 a.m. the following day.
Now in its third season of operation, the Omni was improved this year with the installation of four 150-watt floodlights and official NHL ribbons for the goal lines, goal creases and red line. Falla describes Brian's play as practical: "As soon as you get half a step on him, you can count on getting tripped."
Daughter Tracey, 11, was an aspiring goalkeeper, patterning herself after Pete Peeters of the Bruins, but her season has been cut short. On a ski outing last week she crossed her tips and went over the top, breaking her left ankle and spraining her right ankle and knee. "The agony of de-feet," says Tracey. Well, the good news is that Mrs. Falla is an R.N.
FALLA AND HIS SON, BRIAN, ARE THE PRINCIPAL ATTRACTIONS AT THE BACON STREET OMNI