Tuesday, 12 June 2018

TBC: Overtime

As promised, Teebz's Book club is making a triumphant return to HBIC as I want to clear a number of books off the bookcase that are begging to be read. I find that I do my best reading in the summer, but it's hard to find a moment of peace where I can plow through a couple hundred pages. The book featured to the left was hard to put down, making it easy to read from cover to cover. With that being said, Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Overtime, written by Chris Chelios and Kevin Allen and published by HarperCollins Publishers Limited. I'll be honest when I tell you that I had a very narrow view of who Chris Chelios was prior to reading this book. I'll be upfront in telling you that you learn a great deal about the man, his life, his career, and everything in between in Overtime!

I shouldn't need to introduce him, but Chris Chelios was a long-time NHL defenceman who suited up for the Montreal Canadiens, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Atlanta Thrashers. As per the dust jacket of the book, "Chelios spent 26 years in the NHL" and "was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013." He most recently was seen behind Team USA's bench at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games, works regularly at his Detroit restaurant Cheli's Chili Bar, and spends as much time with his wife, Tracee, their four daughters, and the rest of his extended family.

Also from the dust jacket, "Kevin Allen has been USA Today's hockey writer since 1986 and is currently president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The author of several hockey bios, Allen lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Follow him on Twitter @kausatoday." He has written other hockey books such as Without Fear: The Greatest Goalies of All Time, Why is the Stanley Cup in Mario Lemieux's Pool?, and Mr. & Mrs. Hockey: A Tribute to the Sport's Greatest Couple.

When I first sat down with this book, I had some preconceived notions about Chris Chelios: do anything to win, wouldn't flinch in hurting an opponent, better to be on his team than against him, and a true vocal leader on all the teams for which he played. In Overtime, Chelios didn't really do much to change those notions, but he did provide perspective on them that gave me a greater understanding of why he was like this as a player.

For that that don't know, professional hockey was never a future occupation for teenaged Chris Chelios. As a forward, he was noticed playing in a beer league in San Diego after being cut by the NCAA's US International University by an Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League player named Bobby Parker who suggested that Chelios come north with him to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and suit up for the Canucks. It was there, under the tutelage of a coach named Larry Billows, that Chelios really found his stride as a defenceman despite having played forward all his life. His play in Moose Jaw led to him being recruited to the University of North Dakota before abruptly switching his NCAA commitment to the University of Wisconsin where he played under "Badger" Bob Johnson and Grant Stradbrook, the man who Chelios credits as being the reason why he made the NHL. I won't tell you what made him change his commitment - you'll have to read Overtime to find out!

There are great chapters about his time in Montreal, Chicago, and Detroit, the trades that moved him to Chicago and Detroit, and how through it all he has been more committed to his family thanks to the trades. There is one section during his trade to Chicago that I found rather interesting, and the passage goes as follows:
After going home for a good night's sleep, I was awakened by a call from Serge Savard.
"I guess you heard," I said.
"Heard what?" he asked.
"I was arrested yesterday," I said.
"That's okay," he said, "because I traded you last night."
"Where?" I asked.
"Chicago," he said.
That's when I realized that I had mixed emotions about the deal. I had spent seven fun seasons in Montreal and I was sad about leaving the Canadiens. I told Serge that.
"Well," he said, "I could have really [expletive] you and traded you to Winnipeg for Dale Hawerchuk!"
I'm not going to lie: I think my jaw hit the floor when I read that. Chris Chelios as a Winnipeg Jet? Dale Hawerchuk as a Montreal Canadien and a potential Stanley Cup champion in 1993? No Housley-to-Selanne? The NHL landscape would have changed dramatically had Winnipeg and Montreal made that deal. Of course, Serge Savard could have simply been taking a shot at the team that once employed him, but that's for him to answer. Either way, that could have been huge news!

Of course, there are chapters on the international play that Chelios was involved in, and he does an excellent job at explaining the unfortunate "trashed hotel room" in Nagano, the US's World Cup of Hockey victory in 1996, his Olympic experience in 1984, and his time at the Canada Cup. Through it all, we get to understand the psyche of Chris Chelios in how he simply was neither going to be outworked nor allow an opponent get the better of him. While some of his play would fall into the "dirty" category, it was quite common for that era of hockey so I can't really fault him. After all, as one of his chapters is titled, "Winning is a Habit".

It's amazing to read his thoughts on the coaches and management for whom he played. Legends such as Scotty Bowman, Mike Keenan, and Jacques Lemaire were some of his coaches, and you can tell he holds them in high respect. While family comes first, he also holds his friends to the same level of respect, talking admirably about people like Kid Rock, John Cusack, Michael Jordan, Tony Danza, John McEnroe, and Wayne Gretzky. Honestly, the more I read Overtime, the more apparent it became that Chris Chelios is a stand-up guy who would do anything for his friends and family, not to mention teammates and coaches who expected greatness out of him.

Overall, Overtime was a fantastic read that kept me wanting to read further. Learning about the ups and downs about Chris Chelios' life was something far more interesting than I would have probably given it credit if I was judging a book by its cover, and I'm very glad I didn't do that. For all appearances, he seems like a great guy with some incredible stories, a few heartbreaks, and a general zest for life. Overtime was a fantastic read, and it certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Find Overtime at your local bookstore or library today! Due to a few choice words in the story, I'd recommend this book for adolescents and up, but it would make for a great Father's Day gift this year!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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