Sunday, 28 July 2013

TBC: Crossing The Line

The life story of many athletes takes turns that are unexpected and unforeseen. There really isn't any way to predict that a player may derail his career through his own vices when it appears he's sitting on top of the world, but Derek Sanderson managed to find a way to not only go from being a beloved hockey player to being the world's highest-paid athlete, but he also found a way to lose millions and find himself sleeping under bridges and raiding dumpsters for food. The story of Derek Sanderson's life is chronicled in his excellent book, and Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Crossing The Line, written by Derek Sanderson and Kevin Shea, and published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. I have read books written by athletes that have been brutally honest in their examining of their own lives, but Derek Sanderson's book shows how far down the rabbit hole he went in terms of the darkness he was in before finally coming up for air.

From the book's dust jacket, "Derek Sanderson grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and over a colourful 12-season pro career, he played for the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL, as well as the Philadelphia Blazers of the WHA. A former commentator on Boston Bruins broadcasts, Sanderson is currently an investment professional in Boston, where he serves as a financial advisor for athletes." Affectionately known as "Turk", Sanderson was a Memorial Cup champion with the Niagara Falls Flyers in 1965, and was the primary assist on the famous Bobby Orr goal against St. Louis in the Stanley Cup Final.

Also from the dust jacket, "Kevin Shea is the editor of publications for the Hockey Hall of Fame and the author of 12 hockey books, including Barilko: Without a Trace and Lord Stanley: The Man Behind the Cup. A native of Windsor, Ontario, Shea is the recipient of the 2012 Brian McFarlane Award for excellence in research and writing, awarded by the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR). Follow him on Twitter @barilko." Among the various hats that Kevin wears, he is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame, he teaches hockey history courses at a Toronto college, he is a freelance writer and he is a frequent contributor to radio and television shows surrounding hockey. If nothing else, Kevin Shea is a human encyclopedia of hockey knowledge!

Crossing The Line highlights all of the highs and lows that Derek Sanderson went through in his life up to moment of publishing. Needless to say, there are many good times that Mr. Sanderson brings forth into the light, but they are contrasted by the darkest hours of his life. He pulls no punches in describing the personal hell he found himself in after succumbing to the pitfalls of substance abuse, and he makes it very clear that his career was destroyed because of his dependence on drugs and alcohol. And the only person responsible for his downfall? Ultimately, he comes to the conclusion that he is the only person responsible.

For all that Derek Sanderson accomplished - two Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins, becoming the world's highest-paid athlete, and being viewed as one of hockey's greatest defensive centermen - Mr. Sanderson always brings the reality of his situation back to the story in describing his alcohol-fueled off-ice activities. He opened nightclubs which gave him a direct path to fuel his alcoholism. His monster contract with the WHA's Philadelphia Blazers allowed him to fund all sorts of crazy off-ice activities. His loneliness and inability to remain sober only gave him more reason to drink and do drugs. In short, Derek Sanderson was caught in the cycle and couldn't break out of it.

What impressed me the most about Crossing The Line was that Derek Sanderson never once blamed anyone but himself for his fall from grace. He accepted all of the responsibility, and rebuilt his life after he hit the bottom because he was responsible. Mr. Sanderson went on to speak in front of thousands of school children about the perils of substance abuse, and the experience of helping children see the pitfalls of making poor choices is the one experience that has stood out in his life above all else.
"I took every bit as much from the schools that the students, hopefully, took away from my visits. It was the greatest experience of my life - not hockey. The seven years I spent in Boston with the Bruins was the greatest fun I had in my life. I won two Stanley Cups with the greatest guys in the world. But the most rewarding experience of my life was talking to kids at the schools.
I have to say that Derek Sanderson's life is one of pain and pleasure, both in healthy quantities. Mr. Sanderson's story of his life spans 375 pages, but he probably could have filled several books with some of the experiences he has had. Throughout the entire book, though, Derek Sanderson shows true courage in discussing his life, especially the parts when he was at his lowest, and Crossing The Line gives full insight into why Derek Sanderson, once hockey's playboy, went from penthouse to outhouse in a matter of a few years. He does rebound from the darkness that he finds himself in, but the life that Derek Sanderson has lived is unique to him. Because of the stories he told and the lessons he provides, Crossing The Line absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

If you're a fan of the "Big Bad Bruins", a Bruins fan in general, or a Derek Sanderson fan, this book is the perfect read for you. If you like hockey history, you'll enjoy Derek Sanderson's view of hockey history with his great stories about his time under the bright lights. Either way, though, Crossing The Line is an excellent read that is recommended for any adult!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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