Saturday, 3 November 2007

TBC: King Of Russia

Teebz's Book Club is proud to bring you another book in my on-going series of hockey-related books. This one is entitled King Of Russia by Dave King and Eric Duhatschek. The story of this book is a look back at the year spent in Russia by Dave King as the head coach of Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Russian Super League. Mr. King recounts the entire season chronologically from the time he was contacted by Metallurg Magnitogorsk to the point where they dismissed him as head coach of the hockey club. Mr. King explores the mystery and culture within Russia, discussing at length some of the problems that both the country and the Russian Super League faces. He talks about language and cultural barriers, going into great detail about how he overcame them. All in all, Mr. King did an admirable job in showing exactly how different the hockey culture is in Russia as it compares to North America.

Dave King was a hockey coach in the NHL, both with the Calgary Flames and the Columbus Blue Jackets. He also served as an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens. Additionally, he gained some notoriety as a head coach when he was in charge of the Canadian Olympic squad in the late 1980s for approximately nine years. Eric Duhatschek has been covering hockey as a member of the press since 1978, most recently joining The Globe And Mail, a nationally-read newspaper in Canada, in 2000. In 2001, Mr. Duhatschek received the Hockey Hall of Fame's Elmer Ferguson award for "distinguished contributions to hockey writing". He can been seen regularly on the CBC's Hockey Night In Canada on a segment called The Satellite Hotstove.

In general, Mr. King explores life in Russian hockey with this book, but also discusses the everyday tasks that we, in North America, may overlook as luxuries. He describes hardships that the people of Russia, particularly in the city of Magnitogorsk, face daily. Things like the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that we have here in North America - lettuce, carrots, blueberries, strawberries - are almost unheard of over there, except at for short periods of time during the year. Mr. King doesn't overlook the hockey side of of his time in Russia, though, giving detailed descriptions of the day-to-day operation of the hockey club - both its struggles and achievements.

In particular, I enjoyed Mr. King's look at how he tried to make life better for all the he people he came across, both in hockey and in life. At one point, he and his wife, Linda, begin to look after abandoned pets, feeding them and caring for their young to make their lives better than what may have become of them. He helps the local orphanage in Magnitogorsk, providing them with necessities they need, and brings along some of Metallurg's players as a way for them to reach out to the community. He gives more money than necessary to older Russian people who are forced to set up roadside stands selling goods to help them make ends meet. It is this kind of charity that makes you smile as you read this book.

Mr. King also delves into the Evgeni Malkin story from the 2006 season, from his rise as a 19 year-old kid with immense talent through to his disappearance in Finland and arrival in North America. He talks about how the Russian teams rely heavily on these young superstars, and how the NHL robs the Super League of the immense talent before the Super League teams can capitalize on their marketable young stars. He doesn't get very political in his views, but you can get a sense of how the Russian Super League teams rely so much on these young, exciting players.

"Think of it as a cold, industrial, northern version of A Year in Provence. This is a place we might never wish to actually visit in the flesh, but in the reading it is absolutely enthralling." - Roy MacGregor

Kudos to Mr. King and Mr. Duhatschek for their work in providing an intimate view in the the life surrounding the first Canadian coach in the Russian Super League. They have truly made this an enjoyable read from start to finish, and I encourage anyone who enjoys a good story of life, whether it be a life in hockey or not, to pick up King Of Russia. This book certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval. If you'd like to read an excerpt of the book, please click here.

I am now out of hockey books that are available at my disposal, so I'll start my search for a few more. More book reviews are sure to follow this one, so keep your eyes on this site for more hockey literature!

Until next time, держите ваши палки на льду*!

*That's Russian for "keep your sticks on the ice".

No comments: