Friday, 27 September 2019

TBC: Relentless

For the first time in what seems like months, I have a full weekend off. I have nothing planned, no else has anything I have to be at, and it honestly is a rare occurrence in my life. That being said, I figured I would get ahead of the game by doing something I wanted to do since receiving a package in the mail. Teebz's Book Club will add a new entry today thanks to the delivery this week, and I'm telling you upfront that I read this book in one sitting. TBC is proud to present Relentless, written by Bryan Berard with Jim Lang and published by Simon and Schuster Canada. The advanced copy of Relentless that I received may not be the final version, but it was still entertaining, informative, and compelling as Bryan Berard looks back on his life and career that took him from Woonsocket, Rhode Island to Detroit, and through a number of stops in the NHL and across the globe!

You likely know Bryan Berard from his days in the NHL where he was selected first-overall in 1995 by the Ottawa Senators before being traded to the New York Islanders. He won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie in his first campaign, and was lucky enough to have worn the Fisherman! Following that stint, he was traded to Toronto where he suffered a major eye injury that kept him out of hockey for a number of years before making a comeback with the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Chicago Blackhawks where he won the Bill Masterton Trophy for hid dedication to hockey. He got the opportunity to play at the Nagano Olympic Games in 1998 and suited up in the KHL for HC Vityaz for one season. Bryan currently works for Whale Rock Point Partners LLC, and lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

Jim Lang is a Canadian sportscaster, journalist, and radio personality, perhaps best known for his work on Rogers Sportsnet. Jim has been in the radio business for years and is currently hosting The Jim Lang Show, a morning radio show on 105.9 The Region in Toronto. When he's not involved in some sort of broadcast, Jim also writes books! He is the co-author of Shift Work, Tie Domi's autobiography, and Bleeding Blue, Wendel Clark's autobiography. We knew Jim was a great guy, and he was kind enough to appear on The Hockey Show at the start of summer for a full interview about his life and work! Jim currently lives with his wife and children in Toronto, Ontario.

There are assumptions made about a player's health following injuries nearly all time as to the length of time for which that player may be sidelined. When Bryan Berard suffered the gruesome eye injury, it was thought that his career was over based on how important a player's vision and visual acuity is at the NHL level. As we find out in Relentless, Bryan Berard's career was only stopped while he recovered. It was through the strength of his family and the desire to keep playing that burned in Berard that allowed him to find a way back to the NHL after one of the worst eye injuries in NHL history.

Relentless takes us through Bryan's childhood where he grew up with brothers and sisters under the watch of his dad, a mechanic, and his mom, a homemaker and amateur bookkeeper for his dad's garage. It would be Bryan's dad who would first introduce him to hockey, and there would be nothing that stopped him from following his dream outside of his parents insisting he finish school before thinking about major junior hockey.

Bryan played for Mount Saint Charles as he began to hone his skills before jumping into the OHL as a seventeen year-old after being drafted by Jim Rutherford of the Detroit Junior Red Wings. His work with Detroit saw he and the Red Wings play well under a young coach by the name of Paul Maurice, and these Red Wings began to turn heads as they entered the OHL Playoffs in 1994-95. They defeated London and Peterborough before downing a heavily-favored Sudbury team in seven games to advance to the final against a stacked Guelph Storm team. Six games later, the Red Wings had qualified for the Memorial Cup. I'll let Bryan tell that story in Relentless, but it's pretty impressive to see how well Bryan was playing in his draft year.

That, of course, led to him being ranked highly by scouts, and Ottawa would make a dream into reality by drafting Berard first-overall in 1995. However, the Senators would experience some money troubles and couldn't quite meet Berard's demands, so he went back to junior hockey while he waited for his agent and the team to find terms he liked. The problem? The Senators decided that wasn't to be, and Berard was dealt to the New York Islanders.

I was especially interested in this portion of Relentless as I have heard all sorts of crazy stories from Mike Milbury's days as the Islanders general manager and coach, and I was hoping that Berard could either confirm or deny or add details to some of these stories. While I won't reveal any of the details in this chapter, I will say that Berard was caught off-guard by the trade to Toronto for Felix Potvin.

Berard's time with Toronto sounds like he enjoyed being a Maple Leafs player, and it's here where he goes over his eye injury, the surgeries needed, the rehab he did, and the toll it took on him after his eye was clipped by Marian Hossa's stick. It's here where we learn how relentless Bryan Berard's passion for playing in the NHL truly is as he could have simply given up with his vision seriously affected by his injury. He could have walked away and no one would have faulted him. Instead, he was able to play again after working hard at his craft and spending countless hours with doctors. The New York Rangers, the Boston Bruins, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Chicago Blackhawks, and the KHL's HC Vityaz all gave Bryan Berard another shot at hockey glory, and he lived every day with a new appreciation for being in professional hockey.

We also learn in Relentless of how Bryan Berard's trust in his financial adviser nearly cost him everything. Bryan had been investing with a man named Phil Kenner who was eventually convicted of six counts of wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering following a joint investigation by the IRS and FBI. CTV's W5 did a full piece on Berard's situation with Kenner, and this is the episode of the deceit and fraud committed by Kenner described in Relentless.

Overall, Relentless was an excellent read. I couldn't put the book down tonight, reading the full 230-page book from start to finish in one night. I admit I was never that interested in the details of Bryan Berard's career, but the details contained within Relentless are riveting, entertaining, and very interesting. For a man who likely is remembered by most fans simply for the injury he suffered, his career was so much more and I'm glad I took the chance to learn about Berard's career because it is an incredible read. For this reason, Relentless absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

If you're looking to crack the spine of Relentless, you'll have to wait until its release on October 29, 2019. I do implore you to seek out Relentless, though, as Bryan Berard's story is one that any hockey fan will enjoy. There are a few instances of adult language in the book, so I'd recommend it for teenage readers and older. Find it at your local bookstore in late October, and maybe put a copy of Relentless on your gift-giving list this holiday season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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