Cuba Gooding Jr. finds inspiration on hockey’s red carpet

Cuba Gooding Jr., a longtime hockey fan and recreational hockey player, is inspired by the game's great athletes. Here he talks to Hailey Rose Gattuso at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. (Photo by Michelle Ostrander)

Cuba Gooding Jr., a longtime hockey fan and recreational hockey player, is inspired by the game’s great athletes. Here he talks to Hailey Rose Gattuso at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. (Photo by Michelle Ostrander)

By Hailey Rose Gattuso   

An Academy Award winner would seem most at home on a Hollywood red carpet. And most inspired there, too.

But not Cuba Gooding Jr. The star of “Jerry Maguire,” “Men of Honor,” “The Butler,” and “As Good as it Gets” is at home on the red carpet, for sure. But he also finds his inspiration in another, more unexpected place:

On the ice, and around the people who excel on it.

That’s why Gooding attended the 2013 and 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame inductions in Toronto to support some of the great athletes who made an impact on him — legendary defenseman Chris Chelios, goaltender Dominik Hasek, and more.

Sure, they’re in completely different fields with completely different goals, but Gooding has found ways to apply the traits of these superstar athletes to his own career.

In 2013, he attended to support Chelios, whom Gooding believed thrived because of his “tenacity, will to succeed and competitiveness.”

When Gooding talked about Chelios’ workout regimen, he hesitated as he tried to find the right words to capture the awe he felt in respect of this man’s dedication to his sport.

Raising his eyebrows while slowly shaking his head, he stuttered a little as he said, “I found out that he rides the stationary bike in the dry sauna for an hour. I mean that will – kill a man. And yet, this is part of his training regime, and that’s how he played. He is one of the greatest defensemen there ever was and I think that is because of his tenacity and his skill.”

Gooding can relate to that intensity. He took on the athlete mindset while training for his role in Jerry Maguire. According to an article in Ebony magazine, he worked out three hours a day, five days a week, for three months. He also enjoys playing hockey.

Off the ice, he was also able to relate to Chelios — who played for Montreal, Chicago and Detroit — as a family man. Both of them have teen and college kids around the same age.

“The way he handles his children as a role model for them with such humility is admirable,” said Gooding, who freely interacted with people as he made his way down the red carpet (whether or not on camera). From his kind, friendly manner punctuated by his wide actor’s grin, it was clear he hoped to make an impact on people with the way he carried himself as well. He greeted everyone that approached him with welcoming eyes and that smile, taking the time to talk to people individually.

In 2014, his appearance was in support of everyone, but specifically the induction of goaltender Dominik Hasek, who played briefly for the Chicago Blackhawks before establishing himself as a superstar with the Buffalo Sabres, and later with the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators. Gooding was also there to honor the late coach Pat Burns (Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils).

Gooding referred to Hasek by the goaltender’s nickname: “The Dominator.”

“His goaltending skills are just brilliant,” Gooding said. “He’s dashed my hopes and dreams for the Kings and Avalanche many a game, many a playoff.”

And on Coach Burns: “Pat Burns. May his soul rest in peace. The way he held himself, and carried himself, and inspired other men to do their best for him.”

The legend of Burns lives on in the lives of those he inspired both on and off the ice. Not only did athletes learn from his actions, but many fans as well – Cuba Gooding Jr. being among them.

Hailey Rose Gattuso is a student at St. Bonaventure University and an editorial assistant and reporter for

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