Tuesday, 27 November 2012

TBC: The Best Seat In The House

I have really been hitting the books over the last couple of weeks, and I can honestly say that I'm enjoying myself by taking in the literary hockey world rather than the hockey world in reality. From funny stories to unknown facts to just general entertaining writing, the hockey world is being lit up with some great books about hockey in general. Today's addition is no different as Teebz's Book Club is proud to present The Best Seat in the House, written by Jamie McLennan and Ian Mendes, and published by John Wiley & Sons Canada, Limited. This book had me laughing from the first chapter right until the very end, and there's a lot to like about everything that Jamie McLennan puts on the pages from his time in the CHL, AHL, NHL, and KHL over his hockey career.

From the biographies on the Wiley page, "Jamie McLennan — known to many as "Noodles" — is an Edmonton-born former NHL goaltender. Jamie spent 17 years playing professional hockey, 11 of those in the NHL, playing in 245 games and dressing for over 550 games with the New York Islanders, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames organizations. Later in his career, he had a short stint in Russia and Asia before retiring and working for the Flames again as part of their coaching and player development staff. Jamie is currently an analyst for TSN and the NHL Network and sometimes writes a column in The Hockey News.

"Ian Mendes has spent more than a decade as a television reporter for Sportsnet, covering the NHL and other major sporting events for the network. A graduate of Carleton University's journalism program, he is also a regular contributor to the Ottawa Citizen and Today's Parent." Mr. Mendes can be followed on Twitter at @ian_mendes where he regularly checks in with stories and comments on the stories he's following for Rogers' Sportsnet. Follow him if you're on Twitter to keep up-to-date on the Ottawa Senators as Mr. Mendes is assigned to the NHL team!

The Best Seat in the House gives readers a unique perspective on the game of hockey as Jamie McLennan was primarily a backup goaltender in his NHL career, backing up the likes of players such as Grant Fuhr, Ron Hextall, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Roberto Luongo. The stories he tells are from the vantage point of a player whose main responsibility on most nights was keeping the guys loose and opening the door at the far end of the bench. It's this vantage point, though, that offers such great and funny stories from a guy who a key cog on a lot of teams as a valued stopper.

McLennan talks about the legends he backed up in terms of the lessons he learned from them and the deep respect in which he still holds each of those men. He speaks about some of the coaches he played for and how each of those men brought a different twist to the game, but how each man's perspective taught him something new that he hadn't known before. And, of course, he talks about his teammates, their intensity on the ice, the kind of person each was off the ice, and the pranks and jokes that teammates played on one another. In short, The Best Seat in the House has lots of stories and a ton of laughs.

One thing that I was slightly shocked at was how candid Mr. McLennan is in his retelling of some of the stories. The chapter where he speaks about Darryl Sutter is very frank in terms of the language he uses, but it's easy to imagine a closed-door meeting between a coach and his under-performing team sounding like it did. Mr. McLennan's encounter with Gene Simmons of KISS also paints a very candid picture of the interaction between them. Needless to say, Jamie McLennan is very open and honest, and the stories told in The Best Seat in the House come across as very believable when reading them.

One such story happened while Jamie McLennan was playing with the Florida Panthers and was teammates with Roberto Luongo who, as you may be aware, is an avid poker player. On the plane, Mr. Luongo liked to play cards, and Mr. McLennan would find himself in the middle of a card game with Mr. Luongo.
"He used to hate playing cards with me on the back of the Panthers' charter plane, because I wouldn't take the game as seriously as he did. Roberto is one of the most intense and competitive poker players in the National Hockey League. You'll often see him in those celebrity poker tournaments because he loves to play so much. But I was one of those poker players who had ADD or a short attention span, so I couldn't get engaged in game for longer than 15 or 20 minutes. And when I'd get bored or frustrated with the game, I would simply lay my cards on the table and go all-in.

"This would frustrate Roberto to no end because I would often beat him by going all-in - and he hated the fact that I took all the strategy and decision-making out of the game. He would rip me and curse me a blue streak when I beat him, vowing that he would never play cards with me again."
I can totally see this being true from the candid way that McLennan tells the story, you can imagine the scene on the Panthers' plane as Luongo's intensity ratchets up just before McLennan gets bored and goes all-in. While McLennan doesn't specify how many times this scene unfolded on the plane, I can guess that the "never play cards with you again" vow was broken on a number of occasions.

The Best Seat in the House really is an inside view of one man's career as Jamie McLennan takes readers through the various stages of his career. What makes the book great, though, are the inside stories of Mr. McLennan's career - inside the dressing room, on planes and on buses, in practices, and on the bench. If anyone wanted to know what goes on when players aren't playing in games, Mr. McLennan's The Best Seat in the House provides a good look at the inner workings of a professional hockey team.

The Best Seat in the House is one of the best hockey books I've read this year simply due to the fact that Mr. McLennan is so open, honest, and candid in his stories. While there are a number of instances of PG-rated language, they all fit into the flow of the stories that Mr. McLennan sets up, so the usage of the coarse language doesn't feel forced or contrived. I'll admit that it only took me a couple of hours to get through this book because it was very funny and very entertaining.

Because of the language contained within the covers of The Best Seat in the House, I'd have to recommend it for a young adult crowd and older. The 238-page book will be a great read for anyone who loves to hear old "dressing room" stories that seem a little out there, so this book would be a great Christmas gift for a large number of hockey fans. Because of the book's honesty, candidness, humor, and great hockey stories, The Best Seat in the House absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

MO' BRO: We have a roster of 22 players, two coaches, and two referees signed up for the Mo' Bro All-Stars, so where do we go from here? How about a mascot? What furry, moustachioed creature can I find to represent Mike Gartner, Wendel Clark, Dirk Graham, Grant Fuhr, Dennis Maruk, Larry Robinson, Mike Ramsey, Derek Sanderson, Lanny McDonald, Bryan Trottier, Dave Babych, Dave Schultz, Rod Langway, Jamie Macoun, Harold Snepsts, Dave Tippett, Michel Goulet, Paul MacLean, Mike McPhee, Mike Bullard, Bob Murdoch, Rejean Lemelin, Pat Burns, Joel Quenneville, Bill McCreary, and Don VanMassenhoven?

The mascot for the New Jersey Devils - NJ Devil - is actually the only NHL mascot with a moustache! While others have full beards or goatees, NJ Devil is the only one to sport a year-round 'stache. He made his first appearance for the Devils in 1993 by throwing peanut shells onto the crowd from the rafters in the old Continental Airlines Arena. Since then, NJ Devil has been a fixture at all Devils games and events! Some little known facts about NJ Devil are that he learned his dance moves from his mother and that he enjoys Charades! Needless to say, he's not a fan of Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, or Islanders. For more info on NJ Devil, click here!

The lone moustachioed mascot finds his way onto the Mo' Bro All-Stars! I would have thought there may have been one or two more mascots in the NHL that wore a soup strainer, but it's not to be! If you want to get in on the action, head over to the Movember page and get registered so your 'stache can stand amongst these great 'staches!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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