Step aside Scott Gomez. Another Alaskan who makes his living on frozen water has invaded the Big Apple.
But this Alaskan is famous for his success with sled dogs -- not the New York Rangers -- and he's only staying a short while.
Lance Mackey, a two-time defending Iditarod champion, four-time Yukon Quest winner and throat-cancer survivor, is visiting New York City for the first time this week -- and he's doing it East Coast style.
The 38-year-old Fairbanks musher will make his national television debut Thursday at midnight as a guest on the NBC show "Late Night with Conan O'Brien."
"I watch him on TV, but never thought in a million years I'd be part of it," Mackey said.
He's appearing on the show, which airs after "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," mainly to plug Discovery Channel's new TV series about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Mackey is one of seven Iditarod mushers that Discovery Channel picked as reality-show characters in "Toughest Race on Earth: Iditarod." The program will air on Discovery, cable channel 56 in Anchorage, beginning 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Mackey said he was selected to represent Iditarod for his straight-shooting humor. His life story also makes for good television. He has gone from rags -- living in a tarp tent with his family -- to riches in a matter of a few years thanks to a string of mushing successes.
Considering all that, Mackey would rather keep the conversation with O'Brien loose.
"He's kind of a goofy guy," Mackey said. "So we should have a good time."
He said he's ready to take a bombardment of Alaska jokes, especially with the state being in the spotlight lately with Gov. Sarah Palin running for vice president. But Mackey said he has ammo to fire back and defend his fellow Alaskans.
"People who don't know us seem to crack jokes that aren't necessary," he said. "I'm expecting those things, so I have some comments of my own."
Mackey will also have big news to share with America.
He became a grandpa when his daughter, Brittney, gave birth to a healthy seven-pound, seven-ounce baby boy Tuesday at Central Peninsula General Hospital, said Tim Osmar, a good friend of Mackey's.
Mackey wasn't able to witness the birth of James Thomas Hawkins III, born at 1 p.m. His flight for New York left Anchorage at 7 a.m. Tuesday, said Amy Hagovsky, a spokeswoman for the Discovery Channel.
"It was an all-nighter," Osmar said about the labor.
On Monday night, Mackey was at the West High auditorium for a special screening of the pilot episode of "Toughest Race on Earth: Iditarod."
Hours before the screening started, Mackey and his wife, Tonya, were shopping for wedding dresses in Anchorage for their other daughter, Amanda, when they got a phone call that Brittney was in labor.
"He's under an extreme amount of pressure," Tonya said about Mackey financing a wedding next summer, having a grandson and preparing for a four-day trip to New York.
Her husband couldn't have agreed more. Witness former Iditarod champion Martin Buser cracking a grandpa joke at Mackey while they posed for pictures with fans at West High.
Mackey chimed back, saying it all, "sounds expensive. The pressure is on do well (in the Iditarod)."
But first, he needs to survive the subway system, taxicab rides and massive New York City crowds.
"This is all a little intimidating," he admitted.
While he's there, Mackey's also booked for a live interview with Fox Business Network's "Happy Hour," plus radio interviews in New York and a field trip to Central Park to visit a statue of Balto, the famous sled dog that led his team into Nome in the 1925 diphtheria Serum Run.
Thankfully, Mackey said, Hagovsky is tagging along to keep his busy schedule straight.
"She's my seeing eye dog," he said. "I have to put my faith in her because I don't know what I'm getting myself into."
At least he's traveling light. Mackey's wife said he didn't check any bags. One thing he left behind that could come in handy was a street map of the city.
"I'm not sure I know how to read one," he laughed. "If there's a trail marker, I'll be all right."
Find Kevin Klott online at adn.com/contact/kklott or call 257-4335.
THURSDAY NIGHT: Lance Mackey will apear on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" at midnight on NBC (Channel 2) and again at 3 a.m.