Scott Gomez ambles into camera view, a stump perched on his left shoulder, an ax grasped in his right hand. He lodges the ax upright in the snow, props the stump on the ground and takes a seat. He removes his gloves, takes off his fedora, runs his forearm across his presumably sweaty brow, returns the hat to his head and looks to the camera.
“Oh, hi," Gomez says with a smile, as if taken by surprise.
His tongue is planted so firmly in cheek it is in danger of piercing skin.
Welcome to Episode 1 of “Scotty’s House," the video the former NHL center and two-time Stanley Cup-winner from Anchorage says is the first in a series on his Instagram feed (@scottycgomez) and intended to make for some laughs and kill some isolation time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The idea came to Gomez shortly after he returned home from a visit to New York in March and began isolating at his house in Airport Heights. Late last year, Gomez said he was casting about for something to occupy his ample free time — after some broadcasting and an NHL assistant coaching job, he was without a gig — when he hit upon the idea of creating videos about noteworthy Alaska athletes.
Gomez mentioned his idea to his father, Carlos. Carlos had just received an email from an Anchorage-raised filmmaker, T.J. Webb, so he connected his son and Webb. Gomez and Webb developed the idea for Alaska Icons, profiles of Alaska athletes. They traveled to Anchorage in March, set up base at Gomez’s house, and began work on the project.
Then came the pandemic. And so much free time in isolation. Too much time, too much boredom.
“I thought, ‘Why don’t we just start making some funny videos?’ " Gomez recalled. “ ‘We’re all losing our mind, so me might as well have some laughs.’ "
Thus came Episode 1 of “Scotty’s House” — “Survival." Namely, how to make a fire.
“Living off the grid as I do, it’s one of the key elements I need," Gomez says in the video. (For the record, “off the grid" in this case is his backyard, just north of 20th Avenue and east of Lake Otis Parkway, not far from the harsh, forbidding and unforgiving wilderness of the Chester Creek Trail.)
To get into character, Gomez dressed the part — red-and-black checked lumberjack shirt, suspenders, sheathed knife on belt, fedora, work gloves — and found his motivation to inhabit the role.
“I have to get a couple cocktails to get into character," he said.
In the video, Gomez professes his love of pine as the best wood for a fire. “This is pine, right?" he asks after sniffing a piece of wood.
He champions the “tee-pee" setup for building a fire and favors birch bark as kindling. After rubbing pieces of wood together fails to generate a spark, Gomez reverts to the “The Old Alaska Fire Starter, something that’s been passed down for generations and generations" — a generous dousing of gas from a can, followed by matches for ignition.
Gomez advises starting by tossing the matches at the wood from eight steps away.
“In case the ambulance or someone’s gotta get you," he says, deadpan.
Eight steps turns out to be a no-go for starting the fire. Gomez reduces the distance to five steps and throws matches toward the wood. Nope. “Depending on what kind of shoes you have, you can go to four or three (steps)," Gomez says.
“A man without a fire is like a man without his will," Gomez announces.
It’s all very Jack London’s “To Build A Fire." Well, without the minus-75 temperatures, the grueling trek along a wilderness trail, the dog, the death. In all, the video is seven-plus minutes of winking fun.
“We made the best of a (bad) situation," Webb said.
Gomez said he plans to post a “Scotty’s House" video every Thursday, alternating between Alaska-themed tongue-in-cheek videos and cooking videos.
Episode 2 is on cooking salmon.
Episode 1 wraps with Gomez enjoying the warmth of his fire.
“The most important thing is you learned something today," he says. “You will survive. Fire."
Still, as much as he would like to admire his creation, Gomez says, he has other survival chores to complete, like hunting food.
Then he notices something off-screen to his right and throws his knife at it.
Next comes the wounded sound of a bear.
“Just caught dinner," he says with a grin.