Condors

Friday, Dec 08 2006 01:29 AM

Rane's inspiration

By Mason Kelley , Californian staff writere-mail: masonkelley@bakersfield.com

Rane Carnegie only got to skate with his grandfather once.

When Rane was 5 years old, and Herb Carnegie's vision was succumbing to glaucoma, they went to the rink for one of the best days of Rane's life.

"One of my fondest memories is me and my grandfather on the ice for that 15, 20 minutes," said Rane, a forward with the Bakersfield Condors. "It's something that will live in my mind for the rest of my life."

While shuffling around the boards, Herb said Rane spent much of the afternoon, "cleaning the ice," which essentially means he spent much of the day sprawled out on the ice instead of upright on his skates.

Even though it only happened once, a bond formed. A torch passed from grandfather to grandson.

Rane's mother, Rochelle, used to tell anyone who would listen that she wouldn't allow her son to play hockey. However, once Herb showed up with a pair of skates, Rochelle had to acquiesce.

"I became a hockey mom," she joked. "It's the best thing I ever did for him actually. He's been a lot of places and it's kept him out of trouble."

When asked how long it took for his mother to come around to the idea of her son playing hockey, Rane said, "As soon as she saw how cute I looked in my uniform."

As an African-Canadian hockey pioneer, Herb spent much of his life fighting for a spot in the NHL, trying to make a living so he could support a family through the game he loved.

In the 1940s and '50s, Herb, born to Jamaican parents, made his way through Canada's minor-league hockey ranks.

Rochelle remembers stories of her father playing on an all-black line at one point in his career, a novelty that drew crowds from all over.

"People used to come from miles to watch these guys," Rochelle said, adding that Herb and his teammates earned nicknames like, "the Dark Destroyers" and "the Brown Bombers."

Herb received an NHL tryout with the New York Rangers in 1948 and was offered a minor-league deal. But, despite three different offers, Herb declined, choosing instead to make more money in Canada.

"I think playing hockey back in the early '40s and '50s was probably not the best time for a minority player to step on the ice," Rane said. "It's rumored to have been said that Conn Smythe, founder of the Toronto Maple Leafs, said they would give anybody $10,000 if they could turn my grandfather white. Back then, $10,000 was a lot of money, so if that's true, and from all accounts it is true, then that's an unfortunate thing. From what I've read and from what I've heard, he was definitely good enough to fulfill some sort of role in the NHL."

Members of the Carnegie family, including Herb, said they feel like he deserved a chance to play in the NHL.

But, the disappointment faded quickly. Herb turned his struggle into a penchant for philanthropy.

"While I put it behind me, I can't forget it, because I feel like I was cheated," said Herb, 87, who lives in Ontario.

Following his retirement, Herb developed what he titled the "Future Aces Creed," a series of simple principles designed to help youth grow through hockey.

The first line of the creed reads, "I will endeavor to develop a positive mental attitude toward all people and toward my work."

Herb said he smiled after he wrote that line back in 1956.

"If I can do that, I'm going to be OK in this life," Herb said. "I can't go around being angry at people who had no input into the shabby treatment that I received. I had to change my attitude. I had to look inward. I'm going to do the best that I can. Try to get on with my life."

He passed that attitude on to Rane.

"To me he's a pioneer," Rane said. "If it wasn't for his legacy, I wouldn't have played hockey. For me and the people who know who I am and know my family history, he's definitely a pioneer for them."

Early on during his indoctrination to hockey, Rane learned some simple words of advice from his grandfather: "You can't score goals from the penalty box."

Rane soaked up his grandfather's words of advice, taking the joy of scoring goals and fair play to heart.

When he was about 8, a coach approached Rochelle and said, "He's going to be one of the best players in Toronto."

When Rochelle asked the coach what caused his conclusion, he replied, "He's got a hockey sense. He can anticipate. He knows instinctively."

He got it from his grandfather.

Without a father growing up -- Rane said he hasn't seen his father since he was deported to Jamaica 17 years ago -- Herb filled in. While he couldn't watch his grandson play hockey, he certainly could tell stories.

Between Herb, Rochelle and two older sisters, Kalimah, 35, and Tamu, 34, Rane never lacked attention. He joked that his sisters were almost as hard on him as the rough-and-tumble streets of the Jane and Finch neighborhood in Toronto where he spent his childhood.

"My sisters cracked the whip on me quite a few times growing up to give me a little bit of an edge, so I was fortunate in that regard," Rane said. "I grew up in a rough part of Toronto, probably one of the roughest ... My sisters and my mom did a great job of raising me, making me the man that I am today."

One day Rochelle took Rane with her to a meeting. Each person in attendance said their name and job. When it came time for Rane to introduce himself he said, "My name is Rane Carnegie. I'm a hockey player and I'm going to play in the NHL."

Now as a 21-year-old forward, Rane still plans on playing in the NHL, getting there for himself, his grandfather and his family.

"As a kid growing up in Canada, whether you're black, white, Asian, whatever, it's always a goal to get to the NHL and raise the Stanley Cup one day," Rane said.

For Rane to play in the NHL, there is still a lot of work for him to do. The first thing is improving his skating, which he is quick to joke is his biggest weakness.

"I don't have the best set of wheels in the game, but I feel like I'm an intelligent player and I get to where I need to go when I need to get there," said Rane, who is in his first season with the Condors and has three goals and four assists in 13 games. "A lot of people criticize me on my skating, but a lot of people admire the way I skate as well.

"Give me time, and I'm sure I'll come out of my shell and, hopefully, help this team and contribute a little bit more."

As long as he's playing hockey, though, he's happy. Herb taught him well.

"Every negative has a positive," Rane said. "You just have to search hard for it."

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