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Monday, 17 March 2014

TBC: Journeyman

I wish I had more time to get more reading done since there are a ton of older books on hockey that I'd like to read. Alas, time waits for no man, I've been told, so I'll make due with what I have. Thankfully, time has allowed me to squeeze in a fantastic book for Teebz's Book Club today. Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Journeyman, written by Sean Pronger and Dan Murphy, and published by the Penguin Group. If you like players who write funny autobiographical accounts of their careers, you'll like Journeyman. If like books about guys who can be funny while being humble enough to admit they almost didn't have a career, Journeyman is the book for you. Sean Pronger is hilarious in his recap of his own career, and really takes you inside the locker room and his head as he describes his life as a journeyman hockey player.

Sean Pronger, the older brother of Chris Pronger, was drafted 51st overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 1991 after playing four years for the NCAA's Bowling Green State University Falcons. While it was expected that Pronger would break into the NHL soon, he started his career in the IHL with the San Diego Gulls before bouncing between Greensboro and Knoxville in the ECHL. While he would eventually see NHL games with the Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, the New York Rangers, Boston, and Columbus - not to mention being briefly picked up by the Islanders and not being notified - Pronger's career has taken him through sixteen professional hockey teams. Journeyman is Sean's first book.

Dan Murphy is a graduate of the University of Ottawa with a degree in Communications. Murphy followed that up by attending BCIT where he graduated with a Broadcast Journalism degree. He began work in Vancouver on Global's Sports Page program, and was hired by Rogers' Sportsnet in 1999. He is a mainstay on Sportsnet's Vancouver Canucks broadcasts, and regularly works special events with and for the team. Journeyman is also Dan Murphy's first book.

For a guy who grew up in Dryden, Ontario, being the first player drafted from that city has to hold some importance for Sean Pronger. It seems, though, that Pronger is able to laugh at ups and downs of the hockey career that unfolds after being drafted. His career includes him becoming a free agent a number of times, holding out on the Anaheim Mighty Ducks after playing as a fourth-line player for them, and being traded to different teams. Looking back on it all, though, Pronger holds no disdain for any of his experiences except for his experience in Germany which he maintains was the worst decision he made in his hockey career.

I found Pronger's insight into the game to be invaluable. He really takes you into his psyche as he enters training camp each year with the same thought: will I make it? For a guy who was bounced around the ECHL, IHL, and AHL as he looked to find a roster spot in the NHL, Pronger certainly questioned why he was riding buses for three games in three nights, but he never gave up on the dream. His wife, who followed him through thick and thin, was always there for him as well, guiding him through the annual decisions of staying or leaving with various teams.

Through his career, though, he was able to play with some of the biggest names in hockey. Guys like Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Jaromir Jagr, Rob Blake, Wayne Gretzky, Brian Leetch, Joe Thornton, Ray Bourque, and Rick Nash have all been teammates at one time or another with Pronger. Some the men listed above are remembered fondly, and others pick up his ire when he discusses his experiences with them. For the majority of his career, though, he seems to have enjoyed the guys he's been teammates with over his sixteen-team career.

One of the best passages in the book had to be from Pronger's time with the New York Rangers when he was given a red jersey as a linemate of Wayne Gretzky in practice. The night before, however, Pronger had been out enjoying life as a healthy scratch by having a few adult beverages until the wee hours of the morning. When he discovered the red jersey the next morning in his locker, he begged Wayne to keep the puck away from him. You can only imagine what happened throughout that practice, but you'll have to read the book to hear it in Sean's words!

The one thing that struck me in Journeyman was how much respect he had for the Manitoba Moose, Mark Chipman, and Craig Heisinger. He played for the Moose on two different occasions - once in the IHL and again in the AHL - and he really says some nice things about the fans and the team that called Winnipeg home.
It's funny to look back now and see how things could have been different. I truly believe that if I didn't get traded to Manitoba my hockey career would've been shortened by about four years. Winnipeg reignited my passion for the game. That was my first time playing for a Canadian team, and even though it was in the minors I couldn't help but feel the energy the city had for the game. Yes, there are some great minor league franchises in the States. There are proud franchises with enthusiastic fan bases that support their team. But there is just something different when you play in Canada. No doubt I'm biased, and I do consider myself an unabashed over-the-top patriot. Still, playing in Winnipeg meant playing where people knew who you were. The Moose (although not the Jets) were Manitoba's hockey team at the time and fans cared about the guys who played for the club. The Moose were not second fiddle, and as a player I could feel that.
It's pretty awesome to hear a guy talk about the fans in your hometown like that. Heck, I was one of those fans the first time #19 came through, and we did love those Moose. What made Journeyman even better for me was that Pronger included a ton of stories from his days with the Moose, including a semi-famous dust-up between teammates Fedor Fedorov and a kid named Kevin Bieksa. Classic story!

Throughout reading this book, I found myself laughing at some of the situations that Pronger found himself in. While he broke down the seasons into chapters, he probably could expand on some of these chapters quite easily. There are a lot of shots at his brother in the book as well, so it made reading Journeyman fun and entertaining while being highly informative in terms what went on inside some teams' locker rooms and inside Sean Pronger's head. Because the book is highly entertaining, easy to read, and worth a look for any hockey fan, Journeyman absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Journeyman can be found at most bookstores, and is available online though most major book retailers! Pick yourself up a copy today!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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