Wednesday, 10 August 2011

TBC: Stop It There, Back It Up!

Teebz's Book Club is back with another book in the trends that seem to be developing in my reading this summer. This book doesn't deal with any Bruins explicitly, but it does feature another former CBC personality that was very well-known for what he did on Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Stop It There, Back It Up!, written by Howie Meeker with Charlie Hodge, and published by the Stoddart Publishing Company, Limited in 1999. Stop It There, Back It Up! is an examination of fifty years of hockey through the eyes of Howie Meeker, a former Stanley Cup champion with the Toronto Maple Leafs, a former Calder Trophy winner, and a man who was famous for his telestrator work on HNiC broadcasts on Saturday nights. Fifty years of hockey sounds like a lot, but Mr. Meeker does a great job in bringing it together in this book.

From the bio on the book's dust jacket, "Howie Meeker was the NHL's top rookie in 1946-47 as a forward with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and was a star until he suffered a career-ending injury. He has coached and managed the Maple Leafs, and was the analytical voice of the suspenseful Canada-Soviet series in 1972. He was a member of parliament, and is a supporter of the Special Olympics and other charities. Meeker's famous phrase 'Stop it there, back it up!' is familiar to hockey fans everywhere." Howie Meeker was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998 as a broadcaster, and was made a Member of the Order of Canada on December 30, 2010. The 87 year-old hockey lover and four-time Stanley Cup champion currently lives in Parksville, BC.

Stop It There, Back It Up! starts off rather strangely: Mr. Meeker complains about the state of the game at the grassroots level! He does make a number of good points in the early chapters about the game in Canada a decade ago, and some of his suggestions about keeping teens interested in the game at their skill levels should be put in practice. Honestly, the early chapters in Stop It There, Back It Up! are about as candid and honest I've seen any writer be about the state of the game at the grassroots level in Canada.

At the heart of the book, Mr. Meeker takes a look at how each of the seasons unfolded from 1949 to 1999. He goes over Stanley Cup winners, the best players each year, the best lines from each year, and really gives a brief synopsis as to what was happening in the game each year. He speaks at length about some of the players who made the biggest impacts in each of the seasons, noting that players like Howe, Orr, and Richard were important, but players like Ted Lindsay, Phil Esposito, and Jean BĂ©liveau were vital to their teams' successes.

One chapter I particularly enjoyed was the chapter about the 1972 Summit Series. Mr. Meeker has a bird's eye view of the action as one of the analysts hired to cover the eight-game series, and his take on what happened is quite insightful, specifically when you hear about what the broadcast team went through just to get the games televised back in Canada.

"The broadcast crew arrived in Moscow a couple of days ahead in order to figure out how we were going to get our work done. We needed to learn what we could and could not do from a technical broadcast perspective. We soon found out there were a whole lot of things we couldn't do, and a lot of other things that were going to make our job much more difficult. From day one it was like working in a maze designed to slow and aggravate us."
From there, Mr. Meeker details the incredible tactics and workarounds that the crew came up with in order to pull off the broadcasts without all the hassle from the Soviet technicians and diplomats. Needless to say, they accomplished their goal, but it wasn't without some drama along the way.

Overall, there are some great insights into each of the fifty seasons before the calendar flipped to Y2K, and Mr. Meeker's love of the game and respect for the players who made the game so entertaining shines through in his writing. While the former CBC and TSN analyst won't win any Pulitzer Prizes with his work in Stop It There, Back It Up!, he is open and honest about the game that has kept him employed for the better part of five decades, and it this honesty that is refreshing to read on the pages. From his complaints about youth hockey in Canada to his choices for all-time greatest player, you get a little bit of everything from Mr. Meeker in this book.

I will warn you: this book seems very wordy through its 309 pages, but it actually moves at a very good pace once you get into the meat of the book. It's not a very difficult read and would be suitable for older teens, but I'm going to say that adults will enjoy the book most simply due to the timeframe that the book is centered around. Mr. Meeker's passionate writing deserves a read, Stop It There, Back It Up! certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval for all of Mr. Meeker's stories and insights into the game!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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