Saturday, 17 March 2012

TBC: Calling The Shots

I'm always on the lookout when cruising through vintage and second-hand stores for hockey stuff. Often I find t-shirts in sizes that would make it seem as if I shop at Baby Gap, but occasionally I find gems like the book I had the opportunity to most recently read. I picked the book up for less than $10, but the information on the pages is worth a lot more. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Calling The Shots, written by Bruce Hood with Murray Townsend and published by Stoddart Publishing Company Limited in 1988. Mr. Hood takes us through his life right through his career as an NHL referee, and it's a fascinating read about some of the referees, players, executives, and situations from days past. I didn't think it would be as entertaining as it was, but I honestly could not put this book down.

From the dust jacket, "Bruce Hood officiated from 1963 to 1984. He was the first NHL referee to hit the 1,000-game plateau. He and his family live in Milton where he runs his travel agency business."

Calling The Shots is an autobiographical look at Mr. Hood's life, from his childhood up to the time of publishing in 1988. From his growing up around the metropolis of Toronto in several small towns before settling in Milton, Ontario, Mr. Hood's early life was very interesting, especially when one considers that the rough-and-tough defenceman known as Bruce Hood won a cutest baby contest!

Mr. Hood has been involved in some of the biggest games in hockey history, including the infamous Good Friday Brawl between the Canadiens and Nordiques. He takes us through the entire ordeal from his perspective, and really gives you a good idea what it was like to have an absolute melée break out on the ice. He speaks of his time officiating in both the IHL and AHL as he broke into the professional ranks as he dealt with fans, players, management, and arena problems throughout his tenure in those leagues. Mr. Hood also speaks of the people who made his job good and bad in terms of the dealings he had with a number of well-known hockey figures. While his book isn't a tell-all tabloid piece, it certainly tells you more about the historic figures in the NHL than other books do.

What I found particularly interesting in Calling The Shots was how Mr. Hood spoke of all the inner workings of the NHL officials in terms of how they dealt with the NHL head offices at that time in Montreal. He spoke of the various roles of the off-ice officials and how they were relied upon if an official was injured to help the remaining two officials. He also spoke of rule changes that were being tested in some years that were eventually dropped. An example of this was the "free face-off" rule.

"One memorable experiment involved the 'free face-off' rule, designed so that when the defending team caused a delay in their own end, for example freezing the puck against the boards, the opposing team was awarded the puck at the corner face-off spot - without any competition. Everyone lined up as they would in a normal face-off except the defending center, who had to be outside the circle. The attacking center was then allowed to do anything he wanted with the puck except take a shot directly on goal. What usually happened was that he would draw it back to a big shooter at the top of the circle, who would blast it at the net. Goaltenders in particular weren't too excited about that proposed rule, and after several tries the idea was discarded.
Overall, Calling The Shots is an excellent book that really speaks volumes about the referee's role in the game through its 237 pages. While the autobiographical accounts of Mr. Hood's life are documented, the vast majority of the book deals with his time as an official. Mr. Hood was responsible for the formation of the NHLOA, and there's an excellent chapter about that battle as the NHL was not prepared to recognize the officials' stance in making their workplace better for them. Calling The Shots really looks at an era of hockey where the game changed dramatically through NHL expansion, the formation of the NHLOA, the emergence of international hockey, and the formation of the WHA. Because Mr. Hood takes us through all of these major events in hockey and more, Calling The Shots absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval! If you get a chance to pick up this book, you won't be disappointed in its content!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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