Friday 15 November 2013

TBC: Don't Call Me Goon

I have been working through a number of books lately as I try to get as many reviewed before Christmas as humanly possible. I actually had this book finished yesterday, but The Hockey Show's preview pushed it back to today. No worries, though, as we'll work through a book that talks to a vast number of players who were considered tough guys, but actually were far more than just goons on the ice. There are a pile of great players examined in this book, and Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Don't Call Me Goon: Hockey's Greatest Enforcers, Gunslingers, and Bad Boys, written by Greg Oliver and Richard Kamchen, and published by ECW Press. From Bob Probert to Tie Domi and from Eddie Shack to John Ferguson, there have been a pile of guys who could be considered hockey's greatest entertainers. Don't Call Me Goon take a look at the more notorious guys who dropped the gloves and were loved by fans.

From the ECW website, Greg Oliver, seen on the left, "is the author of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame series — The Canadians, The Heels, The Tag Teams, and Heroes & Icons. He has been writing about professional wrestling for over 25 years, starting with The Canadian Wrestling Report newsletter when he was still in high school. Upon completing a degree in journalism from Ryerson University, he worked at the Toronto Sun and for a decade. A freelancer since 2001, he has worked on more than 40 books as an editor, writer and layout artist. At the moment, he has two hockey books in the works. He lives in Toronto with his wife Meredith, son Quinn, and is active in the community, both in scouting and as a soccer coach."

Seen on the right, Richard Kamchen "is a freelance writer whose journalism has covered subjects as wide ranging as professional wrestling and genetically modified foods. He lives in Winnipeg with his dog, Max." He can be found on Twitter at @RKamchen.

Don't Call Me Goon starts off by looking at the "pioneers of mayhem" in the NHL. Being that I happen to enjoy good hockey history, it was interesting to read about players such as Joe Hall, Sprague Cleghorn, Jean Pusie, Red Horner, and Billy Coutu. To hear some of the craziness that went on during the early years of the NHL makes today's game look tame, but these men stood out from the rest as being the guys who stirred the pot when it came to anarchy on the ice. While I'm a little surprised that a name like Eddie Shore wasn't included, these five men literally pushed the envelope well past the point of sensibility.

With the league shrinking to six teams, the two authors focus on some of the true fighters in NHL history. They look at Gus Mortson, Lou Fontinato, Reggie Fleming, Orland Kurtenbach, and John Ferguson in-depth in the "Original Six" chapter, and it becomes very interesting to hear other players talk of these five men and what they brought to the game. Most times, it was fear and fists, but Mr. Oliver and Mr. Kamchen show that these men were just important with a stick in their hands to their teams as they were delivering vengeance upon opponents. I especially was impressed with the section on John Ferguson and how he came to be the preeminent enforcer in the 1960s.

There is a great chapter on the 1967 expansion wave and how three teams redefined intimidation. The collection of ruffians that the St. Louis Blues brought into the NHL actually were the precursor to the Broad Street Bullies, and it's amazing to see how many of those players played a major role on the Blues, Flyers, and the Bruins who followed suit. "Battleship" Bob Kelly, John Wensink, Steve Durbano, Dave Schultz, the three Barclay brothers, and Noel Picard get mentioned a number of times in this chapter as they terrorized the league during the 1970s. It's amazing to read about these guys and what they did not only to other players in the NHL, but to players on their own teams during training camps!

Don't Call Me Goon dives deep into the guys a lot of people remember in the fourth chapter. They look at the devastating duos that patrolled the NHL - Probert and Kocur, Twist and Chase, Miller and Byers, Williams and Maloney, and Grimson and Ewen - before moving on to look at guys who could score and fight, guys who were hard-nosed defencemen that didn't mind stepping in when necessary, the entertaining fighters who could play but had real personalities on the ice, and the guys who people simply feared due to their size and strength. Names like Domi, Laraque, Semenko, Brown, Manson, McGill, and Gillies all are examined in this chapter, and it's a fantastic look at some of the NHL's best players who policed the ice during this time.

There's a great section at the end of the book about some of the issues facing enforcers today: the rise of the agitator, what constitutes a good body-check versus a dirty one and when to fight due to a check, concussions, and the requirements for being an enforcer. In this section, there's a fantastic quotation from Bob McGill about Sean Avery and his antics on the ice. In how he would address Mr. Avery before the instigator rule and the other rule changes, Mr. McGill said,
"He probably wouldn't be as flamboyant as he is because guys would be in his face and after him all the time. You'd have to be more accountable," said Bob McGill, who played in the Norris for most of his NHL career. "One thing about the guy is he can play. I don't understand why it has to be such a sideshow all the time. It bothers me because the guy can play yet he wants to be a jackass. I've got no time for a guy like him - I'd like to play against him a couple of times just to fricken try and give it to him, no question."
Clearly, Bob McGill has no patience for an agitator like Sean Avery, and it would be interesting to see some of these players from today's age thrown back into the hockey world of yesteryear!

I usually am pretty hard on books that randomly select various players to fulfill the book's need, but where Don't Call Me Goon succeeds is in speaking about the players with other players. The stories and comments from the players in the book about the tough guys profiled really show you the kind of respect and fear these men demanded when they laced up their skates. Over the book's 280 pages, there are a pile of great stories, some excellent quotes from former NHL players, and some excellent research done by the authors in putting these enforcers into a new light. Because of the authors' work in getting all of the quotations from the players, Don't Call Me Goon is a fantastic read about some of hockey's toughest guys, and it absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Look for Don't Call Me Goon at your local bookstore. It is highly-recommended for all hockey fans, and is an entertaining and enjoyable read!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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