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A (Neil) Diamond on the Rink

11/07/2013, 5:45pm CST
By Matt Aug

He’s a Diamond on the rink, quite literally.

Not only is it amazing that Jay White, 58, is still a hockey goaltender, but he also happens to be a terrific Neil Diamond performer who enjoyed a 20-year run at the Las Vegas Riviera playing the legendary singer.

White, who still plays Diamond on a legends tour and in Sin City, truly has to pinch himself at his sweet (Caroline) fortune.

“I started out singing in a Top-40 band while selling insurance during the day,” White said. “I never thought it would be a career.”

White had to work hard though, making just $320 a week at his first gig at Mr. F’s Supper Club near Detroit in 1982. The genuine Diamond look-alike and sound-alike got noticed, however, and it was suggested he try out for a gig playing the classic singer in Las Vegas.

Things took off from there, as White has traveled around the world and made a comfortable living via corporate gigs.

“I feel very blessed and fortunate,” said White, who even had a bit part as the crooner in the Ron Howard movie “Frost/Nixon.” “I never thought all this would be possible.”

“All this” includes his ability to still play goalie occasionally in the Las Vegas area when he’s called upon. White, who is married and has three children, works to stay as sharp as possible on the ice, hitting the gym three times a week to remain limber.

Although he didn’t make it to the NHL, White was a solid goaltender in his hey-day, having played for Kalamazoo in the old International Hockey League in the mid-1970s. Now he competes in a Las Vegas adult league and tournaments on the side.

White has made friends with hockey stars such as Curtis Joseph and ex-Stars coach/current Canucks assistant Glen Gulutzan. White even got to meet legendary players in Maurice and Henri Richard and modern-day stars like Doug Gilmour.

Chris McSorley, brother of former NHL star Marty McSorley, even took White up on his offer to serve as an emergency backup goalie if the now defunct Las Vegas Thunder (1993-99) coach needed to press him into service.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and White remarkably donned netminder equipment not for the city’s latest incarnation of a hockey team, the ECHL’s Wranglers, but for their opponent, the Florida Everblades, in a late October contest.

The Everblades were in a pinch as goalie Kristers Gudlevskis got the call to play for the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League. White then served as backup to Jesse Deckert and, although he didn’t see action in a 5-3 Everblades win, many in attendance took notice of “Captain Sunshine.”

“Only in Vegas would the away team lose a goalie to an AHL call up, and replace him in net with... a Neil Diamond impersonator. #Everblades,” tweeted a fan.

White’s brother-in-law, Barry Crowe, who has known the crooner/keeper for 35 years, said White shines as Diamond but sparkles even more between the pipes when all things are considered.

“I’m more impressed by him as a goalie,” Crowe said. “He’s still quite the player, even at his age. I’m amazed by his speed and flexibility and the way he competes against much younger competitors.”

Crowe said hockey actually helps White when he’s “uncaged” and goes on stage.

“It relaxes Jay and helps him stay in shape,” Crowe said. “Because he really makes some moves as Neil Diamond too.”

White’s favorite hockey memory was stopping ex-Maple Leafs and Sabres star Rick Vaive on a penalty shot in a game in Hamilton, Ont. before friends and family who were in attendance from Kitchener.

White, who is also creating a theater show about some of the important people in American history, such as John D. Rockefeller and Ronald Reagan, also counts a big fan as a supporter in none other than Neil Diamond himself. Diamond, in fact, selected a photo of him and his entertainment “twin” to appear on the cover of a box-set of music he released.

“Jay … keep singing so I can stay home and relax,” wrote Diamond on an autograph he had taken with White.

Heck, if Jay White has his way he’ll be “Forever in Blue Jeans” … and goalie pads, for that matter.

“Hockey is Jay’s first love,” wrote Hector Toth, who runs the adult league and the Las Vegas Classic, in an email. “He makes his living as ‘Neil,’ but make no mistake he loves the game. If he could have made a full time job out of goaltending you can bet your bottom dollar he would have.

“There is no air of conceit about him. He is just one of the guys and wants to be treated that way. He is a professional on the stage and off. As a person I’m glad to call him my friend.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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