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Book Review: “Behind the Net: 101 Incredible Hockey Stories” by Stan Fischler

December 19, 2013 Leave a comment

If you’re looking for a great gift or stocking stuffer for a hockey fan on your Christmas list, or just a great collection of hockey stories for yourself, look no further than Stan Fischler’s latest book, Behind the Net: 101 Incredible Hockey Stories.

BTNFischler, an Islanders, Rangers and Devils correspondent for MSG and veteran author of over 90 books, writes a wide spectrum of hockey stories in BTN – everything from the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2013 playoff collapse against the Boston Bruins, to puck tales that predate the NHL. There’s a story about how a game that went deep into overtime in the 1930’s was almost decided by coin toss – a crazy notion when you consider the discussion of the shootout and other game ending approaches these days. Today’s debate about preventing and managing concussions make the game’s stewards in the 1940’s look like primitive cave people – it sounds like it was commonplace for fights to spill into the stands and involve spectators, and sticks were regularly cracked over helmetless players’ heads. It makes for interesting commentary on where the game has evolved from when you read that teams used to only cost $75,000 and gunshots used to signal period ends, seasons used to last around 20 games, and the Art Ross Trophy winner would net 70 points in that short span.

As today’s hockey fans are aware, the NHLPA and NHL don’t always get along, but those of us affected by their disagreements may take solace in learning that the NHLPA has been a thorn in the side of NHL ownership since the 50’s. And as we are all reminded by Gary Bettman’s annual awarding of the Stanley Cup always being met by a deafening rebuttal of boos from fans in attendance, the NHL commissioner has not always been a fan favorite either. When Clarence Campbell was at the league’s helm, he had everything from insults, tear gas, and items from the produce section whipped at him by fans who did not agree with his suspension of Maurice Richard. Can you imagine Bettman having to make public appearances in riot gear?

Hockey players have always been known for their toughness, resilience, and overwhelming desire to keep playing the game. One of the best examples of this is included in the book. It depicts the story of Bill Chadwick, who lost sight in one eye from an injury but kept playing. He later injured his other eye too, and was forced to end his playing days. But he stayed in the game, becoming a referee, and then an announcer. Do you think they were having the visor discussion even then? The book also digs up interesting tidbits on player oddities, like how Jaromir Jagr runs the stairs of every arena he plays in, and how Gordie Howe was ambidextrous and gave goalies he faced double the grief in trying to stop him.

Fischler’s book gives us glimpses into the days when the NHL competed for fans and players with rival leagues like the WHA and the lesser known Eastern League. He tells us stories of when players were bought with, and arenas were built on, horse race winnings. It unveils stories of “Big” Bill Dwyer, a bootlegger in the 1920’s, who owned the New York Americans; and local rival New York Rangers coach Lester Patrick, who okayed the team publicist’s suggestion to modify to players names to Jewish and Italian last names to attract fans of those local minorities to Rangers games, and away from Americans games.

And if you thought the Winnipeg Jets had a tough travel schedule when they were still competing in the Eastern Conference, things won’t seem so bad when you read about the team from the Klondike that rode dogsleds to Ottawa to challenge for the Stanley Cup in 1905, only to get shelled 23-2 and see Frank McGee score 14 goals in a game against them.

It’s an enthralling and easy read – most of the stories are only 1-3 pages long, suitable for any age or level of reader, and any completion time frame. Any fan of hockey will be a fan of this book. You can find it a print or digital copy for around $20 on Amazon, Chapters, or your local bookstore.

Here’s the Press Release:

Stan Fischler’s latest hockey classic, Behind the Net: 101 Incredible Hockey Stories (Sports Publishing, November 2013) is a collection of short, zany (but true!) tales that have taken place over more than a half century of hockey-watching. An easy read for fans of all ages with photos to accompany the anecdotes, this book offers a unique perspective into the NHL from one of today’s most prolific hockey writers. Different from the typical NHL “game” stories, this book details everything, from the hilarious to the absurd.

Fischler details the time that:

• Bill Mosienko scored three goals in 21 seconds

• Rene Fernand Gauthier accepted a challenge to shoot the puck in the ocean

• Sam LoPresti faced 83 shots on goal in one game

• And 98 more unique stories!

So lace up your skates and hit the ice with Behind the Net, a comprehensive collection sure to entertain any hockey fan, regardless of team allegiances.

About the author:

Stan Fischler is a legend of sports broadcasting. He began his career as a publicist for the New York Rangers in 1954 and has been covering hockey in the over half a century since. The winner of five Emmy Awards, Fischler has worked in every medium from print to TV to Twitter. This “Hockey Maven” currently serves as the resident hockey expert for MSG and MSG Plus. He can be seen every week on MSG Hockey Night Live. He lives in New York City.

Contact the Publisher:

Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

307 W 36th Street, 11th Floor | New York, NY 10018

Ph:(212) 643-6816 x 226 | Fax: (212) 643-6819

skyhorsepublishing.com

Winter Classic and 24/7 Back, Leafs Alumni Jerseys Should Have Stayed Back; 2014 WC in LA?

April 7, 2013 Leave a comment

The 2014 NHL Winter Classic has been officially (re)announced, and so have the jerseys each team will wear for both the main event and the alumni game. Not everyone appears to be as enthusiastic about the choice for the New Year’s Eve alumni game’s uniforms as Gary Bettman does.

leafs wings WC

The jerseys for the real teams will wear on New Year’s Day are, on the other hand, phenomenal. The potential 100,000+ fans in attendance at Michigan Stadium will be far happier to see Toronto in these ones — both of Detroit’s look sharp.

WCJerseys

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Also announced was the return of HBO’s 24/7 series, this year following both the Leafs and Red Wings behind the scenes as a lead up to the Winter Classic game. I still would love to see HBO place this amount of cinematic drama on the Stanley Cup Final — which is far more important than the mid regular season game that the WC is — but my opinion continues to fall upon deaf ears. Either way, I love this show, and I’m glad HBO stayed on board post-lockout to put it back on the air.

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Also reported (albeit not confirmed) by multiple sources was that an outdoor game (assumably the Winter Classic) in 2014 will be played — get this — in Los Angeles. You know, a place where people tired of being cold retreat to in order to escape the most necessary ingredients for outdoor ice hockey — cold and ice. It seems environmentally impossible, but Dodger Stadium is apparently getting a $100 million face-lift, so who knows what it’ll be capable of. Seems like an odd thing to lie about, but I’ll wait for confirmation from the NHL before I believe it. If it’s true, I sure am pumped for the LA Kings.

Reports also hint at the return of the Heritage Classic, to be played at a Canadian venue.

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While all those games were be announced as happening, looks like the NHL’s Europe Premier games for 2013 have been dealt the opposite fate — reports say 2013-14’s version of the across the pond games are out, with much discussion to be had on the NHL’s future international presence.

Why The NHL vs Europe Exhibition Experiment is a Bad Idea.

October 4, 2011 3 comments

 

As mentioned last blog, The NHL’s New York Rangers, Anaheim Ducks, LA Kings, and Buffalo Sabres play a total of 7 exhibition games against teams in Slovakia, Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic before the NHL regular season gets underway. 

I think it’s a good concept; letting European fans see how their home teams stack up against teams from the best hockey league in the world.  But after EV Zug of Switzerland beat the New York Rangers 8-4 on October 3, I wondered, how can this possibly benefit the NHL at all?

The Swiss National League A (which EV Zug plays in) is no pushover of a pro hockey league; many former NHLers dabble in, or finish their careers there.  So you can make all the excuses you want – the Rangers played 4 games in 5 nights in 4 different countries (which they did, and that would be tough) and the other teams were well rested, jetlag, they played their pre-season roster, the European ice is too big (it is.), yadda yadda yadda; but at the end of the day, you have a team from the league recognized as the best in the world, not just beaten but routed, by a team from a relatively unknown league, comparatively.  All of a sudden, the best league in the world can’t be all that great because its teams are getting beaten by teams that are even lower than the NHL’s supposed European equivalent, the KHL.  And it doesn’t even matter that NHL teams win the other 6 games, because that’s what they’re expected/supposed to do.  Losing one game over there is a far bigger deal than sweeping every game they play and maintaining their hockey dominance.  The NHL has nearly nothing to gain (besides some minor fan support and merchandise/advertising sales, and having the players enjoying seeing the other side of the world or returning to their homeland) by playing these games and a lot to lose credibility-wise; European teams had nothing to lose and everything to gain.  The loss unnecessarily dropped the NHL down a few pegs on the international hockey landscape, and European hockey just gained a lot of cred in return.

And how in the world do some people from the NHL argue that they don’t want to send NHL players to the Olympics because of roster depletion, injury potential, and other nonsense; yet they won’t even blink an eye about sending 4 entire rosters of NHL clubs to Europe and exposing them to the potential of the very same pitfalls?       

Let’s be honest, as much as fans would like to believe professional sports leagues just want to treat them to competition featuring the best talent in sport, the league is in it to make money and sustain the multiple billions of dollars it has to hand out in player and staff salaries each year, bottom line.  I just don’t see how subjecting NHL talent/franchises to the potential of losing to teams in lesser leagues can be good for business.  The only way it really makes any sense is if the NHL has a serious plan to expand to Europe in the future.  If the NHL doesn’t plan to do this, the only reasons for them to be there in this capacity are either to:

1)      Crush European teams, and assert NHL dominance in hockey.

2)      Break the hearts of European fans as NHL clubs roll-over their hometown heroes.

3)      Milk all the merchandising and advertising sales possible out of a one-month promotion and playing schedule from a market that the NHL fears is cornered by European leagues. 

If an NHL club loses to any of these European teams, then all 3 points of this hat-trick attack plan are compromised.  After all, why would a hockey fan residing in Switzerland purchase an NHL pay per view broadcast, or plan a North American vacation and buy NHL tickets if they know their Swiss teams are better than NHL clubs?  And what Rangers fan is going to get more excited about cheering for his or her team knowing they get beat by Swiss teams?  What hope does that give them of their hometown team every winning a Cup again?   

As a fan, I think the European experiment is fantastic, and great for the growth of hockey, globally.  But let’s not kid ourselves, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman isn’t overly concerned about doing much for the game of hockey as he is making sure the NHL breaks into the American television market and makes a ton of money.  From that perspective, this move is quite a head-scratcher.   

 

    

Hockey Talkie: Boston’s Beating Ability, BP’s Bandwagons, Bettman, and some Winnipeg Saga Thoughts.

June 6, 2011 Leave a comment

So it’s become abruptly apparent that the Boston Bruins can beat the Vancouver Canucks. And I use the word beat with two definitions: one, mercilessly on the scoreboard; and two, physically mauling them all over the ice… Lucic slapped Burrows around, and even Tim Thomas hammered a Sedin. When I was debating who would come out of the Eastern Conference to play Vancouver, I reasoned that Tampa would offer a strong skating and finesse challenge, while Boston’s would be of a far more physical, bruising variety. I’m dumbfounded why it took Boston until game 3 to figure out the strategy to success, but nonetheless, here we are. With game 4 leading to either a 3-1 Vancouver lead, or a 2-2 series draw, “pivotal” seems to be an accurate descriptive term to use. I wonder which Boston team will show up.

An interesting tidbit I heard on Sportsnet was about how in Round 1, when Raffi Torres hit Brent Seabrook, and how that seemed to be an awakening point for Chicago. The Rome hit on Horton and the resulting game score doesn’t seem to be straying from that pattern.

Speaking of that hit (and the people who have to deal with it), why did they replace Colin Campbell with Brendan Shanahan mid-playoffs? Don’t get me wrong, I think it was a good move and Shanahan will be a great fit, but why not start with a clean slate next season? Now an inexperienced Shanny is thrown directly into the fire, and has to deal with this exact high-stakes scenario, instead of Campbell, who’d surely been down that road before, and probably has a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book to reach a conclusion through.  By the way, this is a clear late, blindside headshot, that he left his feet on.  Open and shut.  There’s no reason Rome should play next game, at the very least.

Also on NHL decisions, I want to know why they can’t strike a deal with the NBA to start one of the leagues one month earlier so the seasons and championships don’t overlap. Seems like a dropped ball in the ratings department, or in the how-can-we-make-Dave-care-about-basketball department. Wait a minute… didn’t Bettman used to work for the NBA??

I haven’t decided yet whether I think Tim Thomas’ laughy-smiles after making saves are Cool Hand Luke-like, or Joker-like.

PICK A TEAM ALREADY

Does Boston Pizza not seem like the world’s worst bandwagon jumper? First they “changed” their name to Montreal Pizza, now they’re Vancouver Pizza…. all the while, their ACTUAL NAMESAKE was in the playoffs the whole time, and doing just fine. If there’s any Boston Pizza restaurants in the actual city of Boston, I wouldn’t be surprised at a rise in police reports of suspicious arsons.

The gym I work at has the TV’s on mute and uses closed-captioning for shows while the satellite radio is playing. Fair enough. But I do have a couple of balks at the CC system…. one: closed-captioning spelled Ryan Kesler’s last name as “Koestler”. While his jersey was on the screen; namebar and everything. Are blind people CC writing for the deaf? And, two: Do sports closed-caption writers put the text boxes right over the score on purpose? It’s bad enough I can’t hear the game, must I be deprived of the score at all times too?

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“So you want me to pack my life up in Hot-lanta, and move to Winter-peg? No thanks.” said every Atlanta Thrashers player and staff member, upon learning of the franchise’s relocation.

So chasing the Coyotes franchise was just a gigantic waste of Winnipegers time, hey? Why did they not just pursue the Thrashers from the start? Was it just nostalgic sentiments that wanted the Coyotes franchise back? I mean, what would have even been the same, besides Shane Doan? All I know is, it’s gonna get awkward next season when the Thrashers are in Winnipeg masquerading as the Jets, and the Coyotes/real Jets still don’t have legit owners and need a new home. Also, the Coyotes playing in Winnipeg will be interesting too.

So Gary Bettman comes out at the True North press conference and says it’s not going to work in Winnipeg if the building isn’t sold out every night? What kind of deal did you make, Bettman? He’s so proud of himself for making stable deals, and doesn’t like to move franchises, yet he basically threatens to take away Winnipeg’s team again if there aren’t enough people in the rink? Good thing Winnipegers already bought 13,000 season tickets. Well done, Manitobans.

Interestingly, Bettman also said if True North wants the Jets name for the franchise, the NHL will make it available to them.

Forget rennovating the MTS Centre to seat more people, Winnipeg needs to immediately spend every dollar of its cap space on trading for Teemu Selanne.

LEAKED ALTERNATE ENDING to the NHL/True North Winnipeg return announcment press conference!

June 2, 2011 2 comments

Apparently the NHL and True North Sports filmed an alternate ending to the May 31/2011 press conference announcing Winnipeg’s purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers and subsequent return to the NHL. After the deal concluded positively, this ending was trashed, and never meant to see the light of day…. Luckily for you, we here at The SDC Blogs employ the resources to find such material meant to be seen by the public eye.  Have a look at how much different that announcement may have turned out:

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