Wednesday, 1 November 2017

TBC: Dennis Maruk

The best part about reading and reviewing books about hockey is that I come across stories of which I am neither aware nor I am sure are true. It seems a lot of great hockey stories come out of hockey in the 1970s and 1980s, and I'm lucky that the man who wrote today's book played during that era as he has some great stories that he tells. Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Dennis Maruk: The Unforgettable Story of Hockey's Forgotten 60-Goal Man, written by Dennis Maruk and Ken Reid, and published by ECW Press. The title is a reference to Mr. Maruk's oft-forgotten name in the list of 19 NHL players who have cracked the 60-goal plateau in an NHL season, but I'm quite certain that after reading Dennis Maruk that he will be far more memorable than ever before!

While today's autobiographical book is all about the man in question, Dennis Maruk's biography from the book jacket reads, "Dennis Maruk scored 356 goals and added 522 assists for 878 points in 888 career NHL regular season games. He played in two NHL All-Star Games and still holds the Washington Capitals' record for most points (136) in a single season. He lives in Toronto, Ontario." To add a little to that, Maruk was selected 21st-overall by the California Golden Seals in 1975. He would follow the team through relocation to Cleveland before being merged into the Minnesota North Stars who traded him to the Washington Capitals. He would be traded back to the Minnesota North Stars before retiring with the WPHL's Lake Charles Ice Pirates.

You might know Ken Reid as one-half of the Sportsnet Central anchor team along with Evanka Osmak. Reid grew up in Pictou, Nova Scotia and graduated from Pictou Academy before getting a shot at a local station in Dartmouth. After establishing himself as a credible play-by-play man for the junior A team, the station hired Reid to do a weekly news program where he was editor, videographer, and anchor! Reid moved to Calgary, Ottawa, and Edmonton before landing in Toronto where he worked with CP24, TSN and the NHL Network before landing a permanent gig with Sportsnet in 2011. Ken, his wife, and two boys live in Toronto. Teebz's Book Club also has reviewed his other books, Hockey Card Stories and One Night Only!

For those who are Washington Capitals fans, you may know of Dennis Maruk. For those who live in Minneapolis/St. Paul or Aspen, Colorado or Las Vegas or London, Ontario or Lake Charles, Louisiana, you may know Dennis Maruk as well. In Dennis Maruk, though, you learn how all of these cities come together in career that is beyond amazing yet rarely gets a mention when it comes to great players in specific NHL franchises. As an undersized player for his entire career, Dennis Maruk played bigger than his listed stature, and he reached a plateau that, at the time, only six other men had reached.

Dennis Maruk follows a loose timeline through the NHL star's life, but I thought it was a bold move to put a short chapter about Mr. Maruk's Fu Manchu at the start. Known for his thick facial hair design through his career including his junior career, Mr. Maruk even gives those who are looking to grow a "Fu Maruk-chu" a recipe on how it's done in this chapter. I'm not saying that Dennis Maruk should be bought for one chapter in the book, but having the owner of one of the greatest moustaches in the history of the NHL tell you the backstory of how and why he started wearing the Fu Manchu might be worth the price of the book.

In all seriousness, it's interesting to learn that Dennis Maruk, a man who would be a feared scorer, almost called it quits in junior hockey before finding himself as a trusted and lethal scorer for a few less-than-stellar teams. He found chemistry with players such as Al MacAdam, Bob Murdoch, Ryan Walter, Chris Valentine, Jean Provonost, and Bob Kelly. He was twice an NHL All-Star, and he represented Team Canada four times at the IIHF World Championship. Dennis Maruk had an outstanding career by most measures, and yet he hasn't been honoured with a jersey retirement in any of the cities in which he played nor has he been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Something seems incomplete here for a player who averaged nearly a point-per-game in his career despite playing on some mediocre teams.

Having been through a couple of franchise moves in his career already, Dennis Maruk speaks about facing the same uncertainty in Washington, DC in 1982 in Dennis Maruk. He writes,
Soon after the 1981-82 season, word spread that the Caps could be on the move out of Washington. This sounded all too familiar. It was Oakland and Cleveland all over again. What I would give to play for a stable franchise. Why couldn't I just play in a place where people came out to watch?
I find it funny that in that short paragraph contained in Dennis Maruk that he speaks of the same plights that affect today's franchises such as Carolina and Florida. Despite Washington averaging "11,377 fans per game" in 1981-82, the owner of the Capitals, Abe Pollin, stated that he was losing millions of dollars. With all we know about how dependent hockey is on ticket sales today, it seems that history continues to repeat itself with regards to the business of the NHL.

Towards the end of Dennis Maruk, we learn of Dennis's struggle with mental illness as well. Having read a couple of autobiographies that deal in the subject, it's heartbreaking to know that Dennis almost did the unthinkable in taking his own life after a few missteps. Thankfully, his daughter, Sarah, played a big role in bringing him back from the brink, and we're lucky to still have the great Dennis Maruk with us today. Had he completed his self-destruction, all that we learn about the player and the man known as Dennis Maruk in Dennis Maruk: The Unforgettable Story of Hockey's Forgotten 60-Goal Man may have been lost forever.

Dennis Maruk is written in a stream-of-consciousness style of writing, so it feels like you're listening to Dennis Maruk tell you stories as opposed to reading long-winded sentences of prose. Ken Reid's work in this area to refine the stories and shape the narrative in putting Dennis Maruk together really shows in how well the book flows and how entertaining the stories are that Mr. Maruk has volunteered. You get a lot of timeline events being told, but there are sections where we weave from the past into the present along this timeline that bring some real levity to how his career ended and what Dennis Maruk has done since hanging up the skates. In this style, I really found Dennis Maruk: The Unforgettable Story of Hockey's Forgotten 60-Goal Man to be an enjoyable and entertaining read!

Dennis Maruk: The Unforgettable Story of Hockey's Forgotten 60-Goal Man is a solid read for any hockey fan who wants to learn a little more about one of the NHL's nineteeen 60-goal scorers, about what it was like playing for the Oakland Seals and Cleveland Barons, and about what the last active NHL player who was a Seal did after he retired. Dennis Maruk's life hasn't been a fairy tale by any means, but he's very honest about his career, his accolades, his accomplishments, and his failures along the way. Mr. Maruk and Mr. Reid have put together a very enjoyable read about one of the NHL's best smaller players, and there should be no doubt that Dennis Maruk: The Unforgettable Story of Hockey's Forgotten 60-Goal Man deserves Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Dennis Maruk: The Unforgettable Story of Hockey's Forgotten 60-Goal Man is available at all bookstores and libraries right now, and it is recommended for teenage readers and up. If you're looking to start your holiday shopping, Dennis Maruk: The Unforgettable Story of Hockey's Forgotten 60-Goal Man would be an excellent addition to your hockey fan's bookshelf!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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