Sunday, 18 November 2012

TBC: Dropping The Gloves

As stated yesterday, I was doing some serious reading on the roadtrip that I was just on, so we'll look at a book that I simply couldn't put down. I seem to gravitate towards books that are written like I'm listening to a guy talking to me at a sports bar or something, and today's entry gave me that feeling as I absorbed the words on the pages. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Dropping the Gloves: Inside the Fiercely Combative World of Professional Hockey, written by Barry Melrose and Roger Vaughan, and published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd. Barry Melrose is probably best known for leading the 1993 Gretzky-captained Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup Final, but this book offer so much more about Barry Melrose that I didn't know.

From the cover's dust jacket, "Barry Melrose is one of the few athletes who has played and coached in all three major organizations within the sport of hockey: Junior Hockey, the American Hockey League, and the National Hockey League. As an NHL coach, he took the Los Angeles Kings - and Wayne Gretzky - to the Stanley Cup finals in 1993. For the past fifteen years, Melrose has been a commentator and hockey analyst for ESPN TV."

The other man behind the book is just as fascinating. Roger Vaughan was born in Massachusetts, and graduated with a BA in English from Brown University. Vaughan worked for both the Saturday Evening Post and LIFE magazine during his career. He wrote his first book, The Grand Gesture, about a struggling America's Cup syndicate. Since then, he's written fourteen books including biographies on Ted Turner, former Berlin Philharmonic Music Director Herbert von Karajan, and Roy Disney. Vaughan met Melrose while working as a writer at ESPN where he co-authored the film Wind. Roger Vaughan lives with his wife, Kip Requardt, and their many dogs and cats on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Dropping the Gloves is more about Barry Melrose's life in terms of how he got to the NHL as a player, a coach, and an analyst with ESPN. He explains his ideas and philosophies on coaching and playing in the NHL and provides some very good insight as to why he believes he's been successful. I truly found a new light to view Barry Melrose in after reading this book, and I hold him in much higher respect now.

Barry Melrose grew up in Kelvington, Saskatchewan, a small farming community about 400 miles northwest of Winnipeg. From the surrounding communities, Melrose grew up with Wendel Clark, Joey Kocur, Lyle Odelein, Dennis Polonich, and Bernie Federko! Trent Yawney and Kelly Chase grew up within a hundred miles of these guys as well! It seems that northern Saskatchewan is a hotbed for hockey players!

While Melrose advanced through the ranks of Saskatchewan minor hockey by working hard instead of relying on talent, he was noticed by the New Westminster Bruins while playing with the Weyburn Red Wings. His rights, though, were traded to the Kamloops Chiefs, an expansion team in the WHL. He played well enough to be noticed by the Montreal Canadiens who drafted him in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft! But rather than signing with the extremely deep Canadiens, Melrose went in a different directon.

His professional game would be played in Cincinnati with the WHA's Stingers. There's a great chapter on how the WHA basically drove the NHL mad with their tactics, and Melrose was in the middle of it. He also married a hockey cheerleader - Cindy Melrose was a Honeybee for the Stingers! There's some great info about he wooed her, although I'm sure there are far more stories that should be told about Melrose wooing his future wife than the couple of paragraphs he fills.

Melrose talks about his various NHL stops, AHL stops, and his eventual start in coaching with the Medicine Hat Tigers in the WHL. His coaching philosophy in terms of how Melrose likes the game played really starts to show in the later chapters as he talks about rising through the ranks to coaching the AHL's Adirondack Red Wings to the NHL's Los Angeles Kings. It's a very interesting read, and I found his thoughts on the game very interesting.

Dropping the Gloves doesn't miss out on the humour, though. Melrose tells some pretty funny stories about players and situations that only he and those involved would know. One particular passage that had me laughing was the following. Melrose writes,
"We have a hockey tradition in Canada. When your kids are toddlers, you give them an IQ test. If your kid is really smart, you make him a defenceman; if the kid is average, you make him a forward; and if the kid flunks the test, you put him in net."
I found myself chuckling to that paragraph for a few pages as I was thinking about former teammates in this regard. I can't say that all goalies are missing a few bricks, but there were some that fit the mold perfectly.

Overall, Dropping the Gloves is an excellent read throughout its 240 pages. There are a few instances of some PG-rated language, so the book is probably better for hockey fans who are teenagers or older, but that should come as no surprise since the majority of topics that Barry Melrose covers may not resonate with younger readers.

Dropping the Gloves is funny, insightful, honest, and a very good read. Because of all these reasons, Dropping the Gloves absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

MO' BRO: The Mo' Bro All-Star roster includes Mike Gartner, Wendel Clark, Dirk Graham, Grant Fuhr, Dennis Maruk, Larry Robinson, Mike Ramsey, Derek Sanderson, Lanny McDonald, Bryan Trottier, Dave Babych, Dave Schultz, Rod Langway, Jamie Macoun, Harold Snepsts, Dave Tippett, and Michel Goulet, so what NHL player is being added today?

He could have been added as a coach with his current soup strainer on his face, but Paul MacLean always had a fabulous 'stache on his mug when he played. MacLean was born in Grostenquin, France, but grew up in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. MacLean played ten NHL seasons with the Winnipeg Jets, the Detroit Red Wings, and the St. Louis Blues. He racked up three 30-goal seasons and tree 40-goal seasons as Dale Hawerchuk's winger in Winnipeg, and is the highest-scoring French player to ever lace up the skates in the NHL. A rib injury cut his career short, but MacLean still racked up 673 points in 719 NHL games. MacLean was an NHL All-Star in 1984-85, and also represented Canada at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Games.

MacLean was nearly a point-per-game player in the NHL, and his strong work ethic helped the former NHL All-Star be one of the greatest wingers to ever wear the Jets jersey. His moustache, though, is certainly one of the best, and he's the next Mo' Bro All-Star! If you want to get in on the action, head over to the Movember page and get registered so your 'stache can stand amongst these great 'staches!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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