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Thursday, 15 May 2008

TBC: Beyond the Crease

Teebz's Book Club is proud to present another great book today, and one that is written directly from a player's point of view. Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Beyond the Crease, written by Martin Brodeur and Damian Cox, and published by Wiley. Written from a first-person point of view, Martin Brodeur takes us from his childhood right through to 2006. He speaks of all things connected to hockey and his life, and does it in a way that sounds very much like a conversation rather than a story or biography. While Mr. Cox put the book together, it is a very thorough look at the life of a future Hall-of-Fame goaltender and what he's been through.

Damian Cox works for the Toronto Star newspaper, and has won numerous awards throughout his journalism career. He's been on the hockey beat since 1989, as well as appearing on television and radio shows for some time. He contributes to ESPN.com, and writes a blog found on the Toronto Star's website, called Waymoresports.com, entitled The Spin. He appears on TSN's weekly show called The Reporters, as well as appearing on TSN's That's Hockey. He has been named by The Hockey News as one of the "100 People of Power and Influence in Hockey" three times, and has also co-authored '67: The Maple Leafs, Their Sensational Victory, and the Fall of an Empire. The Toronto native is married and has four children.

Martin Brodeur's career in the NHL and hockey is well-documented. He has played in two Winter Olympics, numerous all-star games, and has his name in the NHL record books a number of times. Drafted in the first round of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft at 20th overall by the New Jersey Devils, Brodeur has been a part of the New Jersey franchise for 18 years. In those 18 years, Brodeur has won three Stanley Cups, three Vezina Trophies, and an Olympic gold medal. Brodeur lives in New Jersey with his partner, Genviève, and his four children from his previous marriage.

Brodeur discusses his childhood as his father, Denis Brodeur, played hockey internationally and, later, in the NHL. He speaks of his brothers and the street hockey games they routinely had in the neighbourhood of St. Léonard. He talks of his dad's photography career, capturing famous photos of the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Expos, and Canadian hockey moments. You can tell from the writing that he holds his family in extremely high regard, and that's refreshing to see from a millionaire athlete. He even indicates that the old Brodeur home in Montreal is somewhat of a museum with all the Martin Brodeur paraphernalia in the house.

What I found to be most interesting in the book is his discussion of the business side of hockey. Brodeur fired his agent early on, and has been negotiating his own contracts with GM Lou Lamoriello for the better part of his career. He and his former agent, Gilles Lupien, parted ways early on in his career due to a disagreement over the contract Brodeur signed in 1995. Brodeur had negotiated his own terms due to the fact that he wanted to play in New Jersey, while Lupien felt he should hold out for money after winning the Calder Trophy as best rookie.

Brodeur says: "There was gossip within the players' association and among other agents that I had settled for too little, and in doing so had undermined the negotiating power of other goalies and other players. At that point, salary escalation was really getting revved up, and the players' association was working to push hard on every single contract negotiated. I heard the chatter, but no one in the union ever said a word to me. Really, I couldn't have cared less. It was my business, and I believed building my relationship with the organization was worth more than an extra $500,000, or whatever."

Brodeur's foresight into contracts allowed him to earn a great deal of money over the next few years while never having to worry about free agency. All of his new contracts were negotiated before the final year of the old one so that he had financial stability. This became extrememly important during the 2005 NHL lockout.

Perhaps one of the great highlights of this book is the stories of other players. You get to hear about his teammates and opponents, and how his interaction with them gave him a greater understanding about those people. Scott Stevens, John Vanbiesbrouck, Ken Daneyko, Dominik Hasek, Wayne Gretzky, and Mario Lemieux are talked about in the book, as well as a pile of other players. Before each chapter, there is a one-page write-up called The Toughest Shooters where Martin Brodeur talks about the guys who victimized him the most and how they did it. These are exceptionally good, and make starting a new chapter fun.

"A candid look at the life and career of one of the greatest goalies to ever slide between the pipes." - Daryl Slade, The Calgary Herald

Overall, this book was highly enjoyable, and it was interesting to hear about the NHL from the other side of the coin - from someone on the inside. Personally, Beyond the Crease comes highly recommended for anyone interested in hockey, especially the business side of the game as Brodeur talks extensively about the lockout, his family and personal life, and his own contract negotiations. This book certainly receives the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval as Brodeur is honest, passionate, and doesn't tip-toe around the major issues. A very enjoyable read from one of the greatest men to ever step on the ice!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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