Saturday, 7 July 2018

TBC: No Heavy Lifting

I feel fairly lucky to have read books by media personalities who have covered hockey as I like when they pull back the curtain and reveal the craziness that goes on behind the scenes. The vast majority of these stories are about Hockey Night in Canada, so it was interesting to read about Rob Simpson's experiences with NESN, TSN, Sportsnet, and other networks in today's featured book. Teebz's Book Club is proud to review No Heavy Lifting, written by Rob Simpson and published by ECW Press. Rob has been lucky enough to cover all sorts of amazing events, situations, and people, and his work in the hockey community has made him one of the best storytellers in the industry!

Rob Simpson is a 25-year veteran in the sports reporting and broadcasting business, producing such television shows as Hockey Odyssey on the NHL Network and Maple Leaf America on Leafs TV. He has worked for NESN, MSG Network, the NHL Network, TSN, Sportsnet, and NBC Sports among the various networks he has called home. He spent time as a weatherman and sports anchor in Hawaii where he honed his trade, and his play-by-play work for baseball and hockey at the college and ECHL levels is still some of the finest on the planet. He has co-authored Black and Gold: Four Decades of the Boston Bruins in Photographs and Between the Lines, both of which have been reviewed here on HBIC.

Rob doesn't take us on a usual behind-the-scenes tour of a studio or what happens in a production truck. No, he takes you deeper than that. There's work in Africa with Right To Play with Steve Montador and Andrew Ference. There's stories of being a high school radio journalist who gained access to the Detroit Pistons' locker room. There are stories of jumping out of planes and flying in planes. All of the stories in No Heavy Lifting are how Rob Simpson found his way into another great broadcasting situation that led him to meeting some incredible people and visiting some incredible places.

Mr. Simpson's stories are detailed, making you feel like you're along for the ride on one of his adventures. He's not verbose, but he exudes feeling in his writing. There are stories of humour, stories of drama, and stories of achievement, and all of them are based on his broadcasting experiences. From the Olympics where he formed a tight bond with PJ Axelsson to Madison Square Garden where he and Scott Gomez had a fun bit to hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro with Zdeno Chara, there are some moments of "wow" when you reflect on what Rob Simpson has written.

Mr. Simpson makes a good point for young journalists about how monotonous the routine gets for athletes in the chapter "The Peewee Press" in No Heavy Lifting. He writes,
Larry Bird was the first player who made me realize just how monotonous it was for these ball players to answer pretty much the same questions night in and night out, especially for star players, like Bird, who automatically were approached by at least a half-dozen media types after every game. He answered quickly, succinctly, and in a monotone voice, like a computer with a rural Indiana twang. To me, that made it more imperative to ask him smart questions.
This is something that we try to do on The Hockey Show with guests as we venture outside the box with some of the questions. Rob makes a good point in that smart questions will get the interviewer better answers, so do your homework and don't be repetitive!

Overall, I really enjoyed No Heavy Lifting. Rob's storytelling is very good, he evokes a response from the reader with his writing, and his stories are entertaining. There are a couple of bits in the book where one may raise eyebrows - the Joe Thornton trade piece was very interesting - but Rob Simpson's stories will get one chatting about what he wrote. That's a good thing and, considering all these factors, No Heavy Lifting certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You can find No Heavy Lifting at most bookstores and hopefully most libraries across North America, and, while there is some PG-rated words, I would say it would be a suitable read for most teenagers and older!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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