The Foundation bears Scotty’s name, but the story of the Foundation is really about Scotty’s dad and the Gomez family. It’s a story of the American Dream.
Carlos Gomez was born in Modesto, California to crop-picking Mexican parents. His entire family was deported, despite Carlos’ United States citizenship. The family lived two hours from Puerto Vallarta in the jungle, and Carlos’ mother was determined to escape poverty. The family scattered to Tijuana, where an aunt had a house, and to San Diego, and Modesto California. Carlos lived with relatives in San Diego through his school years.
Hard work and the value of family
Carlos worked full time from 10th grade through his senior year. He worked to support himself and his family. He worked through high school and received a scholarship at the University of California San Diego. He attended only one quarter of college, and quit because he wasn’t able to generate enough money to help his mother support the family.
He knows first-hand that economically disadvantaged kids don’t always get the chances they deserve. He knows the lives they live, the challenges they face.
He knows that disadvantages can be overcome. “I’ve lived it and survived it. That’s why I’m so determined to give the kids opportunities.”
Carlos moved to Alaska in 1972 to work in construction. Here, he met and married Dalia, who is from Colombia by way of New York. Carlos, an ironworker, has been instrumental in building all across Alaska. Dalia and Carlos raised their family in a modest home in the quiet neighborhood of Airport Heights in mid-town Anchorage. Airport Heights boasts two ice rinks, one at the elementary school and the other at a municipal park. It is at the Tikishla Park rink that Scotty learned to skate.
Scott and hockey
When Scott Gomez was four years old, his father Carlos took him to a hockey game at the University of Alaska. He liked what he saw so he wanted to give it a try. “It was fun and fast and I wanted to play after that.”
He family couldn’t afford hockey equipment, so when the local Boys and Girls Club loaned free equipment for their Club members, his father made sure he was one of the first in line.
While not poor, the family was not wealthy.
As a new hockey player, Scott was disadvantaged even at age four. He didn’t know how to skate; his family didn’t have the resources to support the costs of equipment, ice time, and associated costs. But Scott wanted to learn, and Carlos was determined. Scott learned to skate, and Carlos learned how to raise funds to support youth hockey.
Carlos tells stories about raising fundraisers relentlessly. He recalls working on a building in mid-town Anchorage, and a worker from another union yelled across the site: “Hey Gomez! When are you going to sell me another pizza?” He built relationships with individual and corporate donors that continue to support the Foundation’s work to this day.
Race and culture: the first Mexican-American to play in the NHL
First-generation Mexican-Americans rarely find themselves on ice. Scotty didn’t have role models to follow.
Scott was often the target of racial slurs because of the rarity of his culture in the sport. One of the most vivid events was when a player called Scott a “Spic” during a playoff game. At first, he didn’t know what it meant, so he asked his mother and she told him. At first, it hurt him but then he just laughed it off because he knew he was going somewhere in hockey and those racial comments were usually coming from the worst player on the ice.
The Devils brought Scott to their locker room as a 17-year-old after being noticed during a tour with Team USA and he impressed general manager, Lou Lamoriello. When 18-year-old Scotty Gomez was drafted by the Devils as their #1 choice in 1998, he was the first Latino ever to be drafted in the first round of the NHL Draft.
Scotty was an all-star, a member of a Stanley Cup championship team and was awarded the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year before he turned 21. More about Scotty