It was not until days (and home games) later that we learned that Jon had blacked out while walking home from the local grocery store, causing him to fall flat on his face. He was treated for facial injuries by paramedics at the scene before being transported to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, where they discovered that blood clots from his legs had traveled through his blood stream and wound up in his lungs.
He spent a little over a week there, and doctors were able to get rid of the blood clots, using blood thinners.
Jon rested at home for about ten days before swinging back into action, making his triumphant return to the Staples Center press box on April 2, when the Kings hosted the Dallas Stars.
Jon’s colleagues—Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period, Jimmy Bramlett of LAIst.com, Dave Joseph of ESPN Radio Los Angeles, Kat Kealy of pressboxperspective.com, Brian Kennedy of Inside Hockey, Andrew Knoll of Hockeysfuture.com, Charles E. Smith, Jr. of Inside Sports, and yours truly—welcomed him back in grand style.
Jon was all smiles and laughs upon his return, as we greeted him with gifts that included an old school goalie mask and an “air bag” shirt, both to provide “protection” in case he blacked out again.
Although Jon would return to Henry Mayo Memorial Hospital for several days due to complications related to the facial injuries he suffered, he was right back at it for Game 6 of the Kings’ first round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks.
Jon was his usual loud, boisterous self, joking around with his colleagues while hogging all the Coke Classic in the press box refrigerator.
Little did we know that would be the last hockey game Jon would ever see in person, as he passed away during the wee hours of the morning on May 19.
According to Smith, Jon’s mother, Bethann Moncrief, said that he had experienced trouble breathing around 11:00 PM on May 18. By the time 3:00 AM came around, he was in a great deal of discomfort. Paramedics were called, and they treated him for approximately 45 minutes, but were unable to resuscitate him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Although the cause of death was originally believed to be a pulmonary embolism, there was a bit more to it.
“I called the coroner who explained the cause of Jon’s death was ‘pulmonary thrombosis,’ a blockage of the main artery of the lung, or one of its branches, by an embolism (clot),” said Jack Moncrief, Jon’s father. “Severe cases can result in collapse and/or ‘sudden death.’”
The 43-year-old native of Illinois was raised in Montvale, New Jersey, and had been involved in the sports and entertainment industries for over ten years. He was the lead writer and associate producer for the North Jersey Sports Showcase, which aired on Regional News Network in the New York metropolitan area.
Jon was also the associate producer on the film, 4CHOSEN The Documentary, which won the Best Documentary Award at the 2008 Garden State Film Festival, and was a contributing screen writer and staff writer on several other films.
More recently, Jon hosted several Internet sports radio shows, including Moncrief in the Morning, SoCal Sports Weekly, SportsRock, Hockey Night in Florida, and Sunday Tailgate. He also wrote for numerous web sites covering a variety of sports and teams including web sites 90Ways, AllSports.com, Sports Central, and Sports Buzz, and he was Senior Editor and feature writer for That’s Life! entertainment magazine in New York.
Jon moved to the Southern California region a few years ago, working for Mahalo.com, and most recently, he covered the Kings, the National Hockey League, and the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com, and college football for BowlGamer.com. He also umpired baseball games and often served as the public address announcer for the Santa Monica Little League, and was the Creative Director and co-host of Inside Sports, a weekly web television series, along with Smith.
Smith, who met Jon during the 2008-09 NHL season while covering the Kings, sat next to him in the press box.
“Our bond and rapport was forged through watching and analyzing LA Kings games together at Staples Center night after night,” said Smith. “I started Inside Sports as a cable TV show in 1994, but was in transition in April 2010, when Jon and I mutually decided that he should join me on air.”
“Jon served as Creative Director for Inside Sports,” added Smith. “He not only co-hosted the show, but did a lot of work in lining up potential guests, and coming up with fresh ideas for content. He could break down and analyze sports as well as anyone out there. The show must go on, but Jon is truly irreplaceable and will be missed by all.”
Like Smith, I too met Jon during the 2008-09 season, when he joined the Kings’ press corps in December 2008. Being the new “kid,” he was rather reserved, and largely kept to himself. But all that changed on December 15, 2008, when the Kings hosted the Sharks.
On that night, backup goaltender Erik Ersberg got the start in goal for the Kings. But he suffered a groin injury, and was replaced by Jason LaBarbera. At this point, Kennedy, who sits next to me in the press box, wondered what would happen if LaBarbera (or whomever the backup goalie might be on a given night) was also injured.
After the game, Kennedy, as he recalled in his book, Living The Hockey Dream, asked Kings head coach Terry Murray about that potential scenario. Murray responded by saying that one of the other players would have to play the position for the rest of the game.
But then, in his inimitable, deadpanned style, Murray added, “Well, there’s no guarantee that any of the guys on the bench would want to do it, in which case, we’d probably look to one of you in the press box.”
That was my opportunity.
“He’s played in goal,” I said, with a huge grin on my face while pointing at Kennedy, who spent some time in the nets during his youth hockey days in Montreal.
“Well, then I guess it would be up to you,” said Murray, as laughter ensued.
The next game, there was a visible change in Jon, as he no longer kept to himself. Indeed, he started talking to all the regular denizens of the west wing of the press box covering the Kings, and was soon sharing stories and joking around with us. He quickly, and, I should add, willingly, became the most frequent target of our jokes.
Jon said it was that exchange with Murray that made him feel comfortable with those of us who had been covering the Kings for some time.
“That was when I knew that this was going to be fun,” he said.
That night, a new chapter in his career and life began. Already a solid writer who knew his hockey, having covered his hometown New Jersey Devils prior to coming to the Los Angeles area, he opened the door for himself, found a niche in the Kings press corps and earned our respect and friendship as we were able to get to know the real Jonathan David Moncrief.
I will always remember Jon, not just for being a professional and a good writer who was dedicated to his craft, but for always being willing to help. For example, he knew that due to the requirements of my day job, I could not usually attend Kings practices, and he always offered to interview players and coaches for me if I needed a comment or two for a story I was working on, and although I always gave him a “stick tap” in my stories whenever he contributed to them, he never once requested credit nor did he expect it.
But even more, I will remember Jon for his warmth, kind heart, sense of humor, and the friendship he extended to those of us who were closest to him among the Kings press corps. I am certain that I can speak for all of us in expressing our deepest condolences to his father, Jack, of The Villages, Florida, his mother, Bethann, of Burbank, California, and his younger brother, Zac, also of Burbank.
To say that Jon will be sorely missed is a bit of an understatement. Indeed, when the 2011-12 NHL season begins, the west wing of the Staples Center press box simply will not be the same without his larger than life persona.
Perhaps the Kings will dedicate his seat in the press box to him during the upcoming regular season…they certainly should.
Arrangements for a memorial service are pending.
• A Stunned Goodbye To Jon Moncrief – Inside Hockey
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