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Monday, 28 March 2011

TBC: The Lone Star Skate

It's been a long while since we've seen Teebz's Book Club in these parts, but we're back with a new book that I've managed to read through between having my nose stuck in many textbooks. As you may recall, I spent some time in Texas in this September past, and I profiled a number of cities as I passed through them as my travels took me through them. While it was very interesting to read the hockey stories from Houston (Part One and Part Two) and San Antonio as well as a story about two elite defencemen from Texas, I really didn't profile a lot of the people who have made hockey a popular sport in Texas. Thankfully, this has now been remedied through my reading of Lone Star Skate, written by Glenn Hart and Rusty Burson, and published by Bridgeway Books. In this excellent book, some of the most influential men in Texas hockey history have had their stories told, and there are some amazing details that hockey fans may not know about these men and their experiences!

From the authors' biographies on the website,

"Glenn Hart owns the CHL's Laredo Bucks and was the 2006 recipient of the league's Rick Kozuback Award. In 1995, Hart purchased an IHL franchise for Houston, winning the championship in the franchise's fourth season. In 1999, Hart's hockey passion took him to Laredo, where he worked with city leaders to develop the Laredo Entertainment Center, home of the Bucks. Hart is the president and cofounder of Laredo Engery, and is a graduate of Texas A&M University."

"Rusty Burson, a graduate of Sam Houston State, began his career as a newspaper reporter in Galveston. He later became and editor for numerous publications in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Burson is currently the associate editor of 12th Man Magazine and vice president of the 12th Man Foundation. Burson has written and published seven books."
After a fabulous forewrod written by former NHL player and general manager Bob Gainey, the book breaks into examining the men who put hockey on the map in Texas. There are ten people and/or families that are examined between the covers of this book, and Lone Star Skate does an excellent job of highlighting how each of these stories have become synonymous with hockey in Texas.

The first story to be told should be one that is fairly well-known by most hockey fans. The WHA's Houston Aeros were the first big professional hockey team to move into Texas, and they became larger than life when they signed the Howes: Gordie, Mark, and Marty. There are some excellent stories of the three men's hockey endeavours as they each grew up, and the authors include some information on Colleen Howe, the architect behind getting the three Howes on the same sheet of ice. There is a lot of information on the Howe family in these pages, but it sounds like Houston will always have a special place in their hearts as much as the Howes had a special place in Texas' heart.

While the next man's name will probably get you punched out in a sports bar in Minneapolis-St. Paul, there is a great story about how the Minnesota North Stars almost became the Anaheim Stars in the section that features Norm Green. Again, Norm Green is a hated man in Minnesota for his decision to move the North Stars south, but he had a lasting legacy on the game that included ownership of the Calgary Flames and the growth of youth hockey in Dallas. You have to read the story of how the Minnesota North Stars almost became the Anaheim Stars, though. That's a story that probably hasn't been told many times.

More great players are featured as the authors profile Terry Ruskowski, and Mike Modano, Brett Hull in three separate sections. There are sections on executives like Jim Lites, Rick Kozuback, John Torchetti, and Glenn Hart. And there is a second Texas-based family that is profiled as the Dineens make an appearance. The fact that both Gord and Kevin Dineen made the NHL as players and father Bill Dineen coached in the NHL says a lot about this family, but their impact - along with the other men listed above - is unparalleled when it comes to hockey in Texas.

What makes this book so great is that there are a ton of anecdotes from each of the men profiled that you may not have heard or know about without reading this book. For example, we all know that Rangers fans chant "Potvin sucks" whenever the Rangers and Islanders play, but does anyone know why this happens? Or how it got started? If you're interested, the answer is further down.

What Mr. Hart and Mr. Burson do so well in this book is give the full story on each man in regards to how they made their respective impacts in the Lone Star State. Each individual has had a significant impact on the sport of hockey in Texas, and the authors have focused on how hockey in Texas has been shaped by each individual. The Howes made hockey popular in Houston; Norm Green and Jim Lites brought the NHL to Dallas and a Stanley Cup parade to Texas; Hart has made the IHL's Houston Aeros and CHL's Laredo Bucks major successes on the ice. Each man's story is different from every other man's story, but they all have contributed to the success of ice hockey in Texas.

Lone Star Skate is a phenomenal look at the most important men in Texas' hockey history. Through the 180 pages, Mr. Hart and Mr. Benson have outlined why each of the men and families were vital to the success of hockey in Dallas yesterday, and what that success has turned into today. In updating each of the subject's stories to current times, it's very interesting to see where people like Terry Ruskowski have landed after a storied hockey career. It is clear that Lone Star Skate is a fantastic book in its writing and research, and it clearly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

If you're interested in picking up a copy of Lone Star Skate, the book can be purchased through the website for $10 cheaper than the posted price! What a great deal for a book that should be on every hockey lover's bookshelf!

As for the "Potvin sucks" chant, it was started in 1979 when the Rangers' Ulf Nilsson broke his ankle while being checked by Islanders' legend Denis Potvin. With the Islanders just beginning their dynasty, there was some serious animosity between fans of the Rangers and the upstart New York Islanders. After Nilsson broke his ankle, Rangers fans would rain the "Potvin sucks" chant down on the Islanders' captain in order to try to get the blueliner off his game. And that's how that tradition came to be!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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