Wednesday, 21 November 2007

TBC: Future Greats and Heartbreaks

Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Gare Joyce's Future Greats and Heartbreaks today. Mr. Joyce's book is all about the work of a professional scout in the National Hockey League. If there is one subject that seems to be completely underappreciated for the work that is done in the NHL, it is the subject of scouting. These are the guys that build dynasties through their hard work and sometimes sleepless nights. It is these men who ultimately are responsible for a team's destiny of playoff heroes or 82-game also-rans. And despite knowing more about some of the prospects than the prospects themselves, it is normally the scouting staff that is fired first if a team has a poor track record at the draft even though the GM signs off on all the draft choices. Is it fair? No. However, the life of a scout can be both rewarding and anxiety-filled, and Mr. Joyce does an excellent job in exploring this interesting topic.

Mr. Joyce is a writer for ESPN The Magazine. He is a regular contributor to several national publications as well, such as Christian Science Monitor, Canadian Geographic, Maclean’s, and The Walrus. He was won three National Magazine Awards, and has three other books that have been published. Mr. Joyce also writes a blog called 100 Games A Season: Gare Joyce's Puck Blog. It will be added to the Hockey Blog list to the right as well.

In his book, Mr. Joyce receives permission from former Columbus Blue Jackets' general manager Doug MacLean to join Don Boyd and his crew of scouts at the combine in Toronto. He spends a considerable amount of time working pro bono for the Blue Jackets' team as he learns the ins and outs of the scouting world. However, he doesn't make the book exclusively about Blue Jacket life.

He spends a fair amount of covering the Canadian Hockey League, the foremost feeder league of players to the NHL. He spends some time with the WHL's Swift Current Broncos, discovering what it means to play for and manage a hockey team in the smallest market in the Western Hockey League. He tags along with the Sudbury Wolves for a few games, discovering why Akim Aliu's hockey career thus far has been a rocky road. He spends time in the QMJHL at Rimouski. He travels to the World Junior Championships. All of this is to get a read on prospects for the Blue Jackets, and to check in on some of their already-drafted players.

Mr. Joyce is thorough and thoughtful in his discussion in the book about some of the players he encounters through his travels. He doesn't reveal any major secrets about the scouting world, but he does bring the scouts into the limelight. They are a different sort of people through their experiences, but all share one common passion: the desire to find the best draft pick available for their team.

Through his book, Mr. Joyce has presented an excellent look at the tireless efforts that the scouting teams go through in drafting a player. I have an extreme appreciation for the pressure scouts are under. They spend little time chatting with the people around them due to the work that envelopes them. They are loners as much as they are part of an exclusive brotherhood. They scribble notes on a clipboard or in a notebook about certain players, ignoring the game that surrounds them in order to be precise and clear about a player's tendancies and abilities. Overall, he shows that the teams of scouts employed by NHL teams have never-ending work.

Perhaps what is best about Mr. Joyce's book is that he doesn't become a scout per se, instead keeping his author's mind about him - he speaks to parents, players, friends, coaches, general managers, and other scouts in looking for the real stories behind the upper echelon of potential draftees. He isn't just interested in how the player plays the game. He is more interested in what is going on inside a player's head about the game, the draft, his respective position in the draft, and where he came from. This is the part that is so telling about each of the players.

Future Greats and Heartbreaks by Gare Joyce comes highly recommended, and I give it the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval. If you've ever had a dream of trekking across the globe watching hockey while being paid for your opinion, this book will give you an excellent idea of what scouts go through to sit at the draft table. Mr. Joyce's book is an excellent read, and I recommend it to all hockey players, parents of hockey players, and hockey fans.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Kirsten said...

Getting paid to watch hockey...sign me up! I have heard nothing but good things about this book, so I really think I will pick it up at some point. I just picked up Lou Nanne's book about the North Stars for my mom's birthday, so I'm hoping that is good as well.