As a much younger kid, I always had the desire to read books.It could be on anything; politics, business, and yes, sports.That passion has faded with the creation of this wonderful thing called the Internet and access to on-demand TV.
When I was notified that Harper Collins was interested in us at Leafs Hub reviewing Bob McKenzie’s Hockey Confidential, Inside Stories from People Inside the Game, my desire for the written word was re-ignited. One cool morning, a few days ago the Princess informed me that the Postal Worker looked to be forcing an oversized envelope into our mailbox. I ran outside in my jammies to see if it was my book. I honestly felt like a kid in a candy store.
The book was indeed in the mailbox and I rushed back into the house, grabbed a coffee and sat down in the basement to start reading. I was unsure on how or if (with my Internet-created ADD) I could focus long enough on reading, or even if it would capture my interest.
Early in his book, Bob recognizes that the majority of people are now faced with a similar problem as myself. Attention span is tough to capture and keep, so he broke his book down into 11 chapters of short stories on a number of different topic areas from the NHL.
The stories all have ties to the NHL but the depth of the back story is what interested me the most. There are stories on advanced stats and how they caught on in the mainstream, stories on the Subban Family, and on hockey legend Don Cherry and his relationship with his son. Bob talks about how a NHL executive almost lost his life doing a routine farm chore one winter morning, and how life can change in the blink of an eye. Also of note the author himself had a brief health scare while writing this particular book, which he is glad to report was a one time situation, but scary nonetheless.
I am not a huge fan of advanced stats, I prefer to watch and enjoy the game. This has been documented over and over again with my rants, but to hear the stories BEHIND the stats did make that chapter much more palatable. One of the more solid layout decisions on the book was to follow that chapter with one about Mr. Cherry and how much hockey means to he and and his family. Solid balance.
There are mentions of the Tavares family, and how Uncle John and young John share a common desire to excel, one of them in lacrosse (best ever?) and one of them in hockey.
Connor McDavid and John Tavares are noted in different chapters but the level of borderline compulsive desires to succeed are a common thread that a reader will notice. Both of these kids at a young age would sit in the stands and do nothing but focus on the ice while other kids would run around playing. Studying, learning and digesting the game. It is that attention to detail that allows them both to play the game at a higher level that most of us can even dream about. After the recent McDavid injury from fighting, it is interesting looking back on how the family talks about injury risk and how it is part of the game.
While many of us in the Leafs Nation haven’t completely warmed up to Pernell Karl Subban, the chapter on his family (mostly his father Karl) should thaw out even the coldest of hearts. When you listen to the time, effort and money that Subban Sr. put into raising his kids, and not just the boys but his two daughters as well, it should leave you in awe. In a time of people focusing mostly on themselves to hear of his dedication when it came to helping inner city kids is impressive to say the least.
Stories on a guy like Brandon Prust, how he has had to battle since his junior days, and how many fights he has actually been in, never taking his role for granted was one of my favourite chapters in the book, detailing the dark corners of hockey in relation to David Frost and Sheldon Keefe.
I don’t want to ramble on incessantly with all of the details in the book and spoil it, I would like you to take a chance and read it yourself. This isn’t a behind the scenes book regarding trades, or rumours about off the ice behaviour of NHL stars. This is a book that tells many stories on why exactly we are drawn to this wonderful game. Stories that could be any one of us who love the game so much but have a different path in life.
Since the arrival of my book, I rarely put it down when I have had free time. With that in mind I can say, Well done, Mr. McKenzie, this was a fun read with an attention to detail that you should be very proud of. Hopefully there is more to come in the future.