Book Review: ‘J.R.: My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless, and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey’ by Jeremy Roenick with Kevin Allen

*Written in 2014.

Hockey season is about to start, as my Blackhawks have already played their first two preseason games. To get pumped up and shift my attention from the Cubs to the Blackhawks for the next six months, I’ve been revisiting some of my favorite hockey books.

There are a lot of characters in the sport of hockey. None of them though, are quite as outspoken, charismatic and beloved as Jeremy Roenick. So who better to pen the man’s biography than the man himself? And honestly, Roenick does a fine job of telling his story and keeping you enthralled for the journey. In fact, this is one of the best sports autobiographies that I have read.

Roenick finally, in his own words, sheds light on how he felt about being a Blackhawk, leaving the organization, his resentment towards them and how that melted away when he was there to witness them win their first Stanley Cup in almost five decades.

J.R. also goes through his childhood and how dedicated he was to hockey. He covers his time in Phoenix as the sort of poster boy for the then new franchise. He also talks about his time as a Flyer, a King and a Shark. He spends a lot of time discussing his family life, as well as his broadcasting career thus far. The most interesting stuff though, is when he tells tales that most people don’t know. One of his stories involves him and Dennis Rodman and how they partied.

This is an enjoyable read and one of the gems in my hockey library.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Tough Guy: My Life On the Edge by Bob Probert and Kirstie McLellan Day, Made In America by Chris Chelios and Kevin Allen

Book Review: ‘Miami Ice: Winning the NHL Rat Race With the Florida Panthers’ by Dave Rosenbaum

*Written in 2016.

As the Florida Panthers started getting good again with a team I really enjoy watching, I wanted to read a book about their fairly short history. I am a Blackhawks fan but I have lived in Florida my whole life and frequented a lot of games during the Panthers big playoff run in the mid ’90s.

Miami Ice is just about the only book I could find that covers the early days of the team. It was released in the late ’90s, so it is pretty outdated but it covered the era I wanted to read about in great depth.

This book actually gets into how the team came to be. It chronicles all the early talks of expansion of the NHL into Florida. It even talks about the history of the sport itself in the Miami area. I never knew about the Tropical Hockey League that existed for one season from 1938-1939. But that is just one cool little tidbit about Florida’s hockey history that no one has ever talked about in my lifetime. Miami Ice holds a lot of surprises.

Dave Rosenbaum penned a pretty awesome book here. It is immensely informative, as well as being an entertaining and fun read. It certainly doesn’t feel dated.

Whether you are a fan of the Panthers or not, this is a good book to add to your hockey library, if you have one. I’m sure I will thumb through it from time-to-time and still refer to it during drunken hockey debates.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Grit and Glory: The Remarkable Story of the Florida Panthers by David Smale, Florida Panthers (Inside the NHL) by Taylor Reed

Ranking All 30 Original Episodes of ESPN’s 30 For 30

*Written in 2014.

1. The 16th Man
2. The Two Escobars
3. Muhammad and Larry
4. Little Big Men
5. Once Brothers
6. Straight Outta L.A.
7. Kings Ransom
8. Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?
9. Silly Little Game
10. Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks
11. June 17, 1994
12. Guru of Go
13. The U
14. Four Days In October
15. Pony Excess
16. Without Bias
17. Fernando Nation
18. One Night In Vegas
19. The Band That Wouldn’t Die
20. No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson
21. Marion Jones: Press Pause
22. Jordan Rides the Bus
23. The Best That Never Ways
24. The Birth of Big Air
25. Into the Wind
26. Unmatched
27. The Legend of Jimmy The Greek
28. Run Ricky Run
29. Tim Richmond: To the Limit
30. The House of Steinbrenner

Book Review: ’100 Things Blackhawks Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’ by Tab Bamford

*Written in 2014.

I recently reviewed the Chicago Cubs version of this book.

While Cubbie blue is what runs through my veins, I still have almost the same amount of love for the Chicago Blackhawks. Especially over the last several years, seeing this team win two championships in four years and knowing that the current team could reach dynasty status in the next few seasons. (note: they have since won four in six years)

I loved this book. Actually, I just love the formula of this series of books. Like the Cubs one, this book gave me 100 factoids that weren’t just recycled from every other similar book. There was a lot here that was new to me and the stories were great.

I can’t not praise this series enough, and this volume just reinforces my opinion. I think I’ll get a few more of these in the future, as they are interesting enough to make me want to read ones that aren’t even of teams I like.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other books in this large series.

Book Review: ‘Leave No Doubt: A Credo For Chasing Your Dreams’ by Mike Babcock & Rick Larsen

*Written in 2015.

Mike Babcock is already one of the greatest ice hockey coaches of all-time. He is the only coach to win the Stanley Cup, the World Championship and gold at the Olympic Games. He is also still pretty young and has a lot of years ahead of him, considering he recently signed a deal making him the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs for at least a decade. So who wouldn’t want to read his words of wisdom?

It is rare that a leader as great as Babcock allows someone to get inside their head. This book is certainly a treat in that respect. He has accomplished a lot but he is still very down to Earth and humble. It isn’t a book about ego or his accolades, it is more or less a book about how his attitude and passion helped him achieve victory on the ice and in life.

It is a short book but it doesn’t need to be an epic. He goes through all of the big parts of his career and describes his mindset and how he overcame and succeeded in the face of hard challenges.

The book teaches leadership and attitude management in a very straightforward and practical way. Most of what Coach Babcock says in this book is common sense but Leave No Doubt is a solid piece of work that exists to serve as a reminder of how one should carry themselves personally and professionally.

His passion is clear and it works as a great motivator while working your way through this quick read. There isn’t much new or world changing in the book but it is one of the best written and straight to the point works on its subject matter.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Tough Guy: My Life On the Edge by Bob Probert and Kirstie McLellan Day, Made In America by Chris Chelios and Kevin Allen

Film Review: Miracle (2004)

Release Date: February 6th, 2004
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor
Written by: Eric Guggenheim
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Noah Emmerich

Walt Disney, Buena Vista Pictures, 135 Minutes

Review:

“Great moments… are born from great opportunity. And that’s what you have here, tonight, boys. That’s what you’ve earned here tonight. One game. If we played ’em ten times, they might win nine. But not this game. Not tonight. Tonight, we skate with them. Tonight, we stay with them. And we shut them down because we can! Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players. Every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their time is done. It’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. Screw ’em. This is your time. Now go out there and take it.” – Herb Brooks

*written in 2014.

Miracle is considered by many, if not most, to be the best hockey film ever made.

I don’t agree with the popular opinion, although it is a good film. The problem though, is that there is a real under-abundance of hockey movies. I mean, compared to baseball, football and even basketball pictures, hockey is really underutilized as a subject for sports films. While I would put this in probably the top two or three hockey movies of all-time, it would be hard to put it in a top ten including other sports.

While the subject matter of this film, the 1980 Winter Olympics and the United States’ beating of the unstoppable Soviet team during the Cold War, is compelling, it falls flat when comparing it to the bigger picture.

There are scenes in the film that are great. In fact, the acting is stellar. The problem is that it is just missing the magic you find in films like The Natural, Field of Dreams, Rudy and Hoosiers. While it has a bit of a magical feel at times, it never really pulls you in as emotionally as those other classic sports motion pictures.

Additionally, the pacing of this film is strange, as at times it drags and other times it flies by. There are also so many characters to get to know, that you really can’t get to know any of them all that well. The film suffers from not investing more time in just a few people; instead it gives you bits and pieces of many people. It plays like a television pilot overstuffed with too many characters from the start.

Miracle is a good film, despite the criticisms I have. It just isn’t the great movie that people believe it to be. At least, that’s how I see it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Mystery, Alaska

Book Review: ‘Don Cherry’s Hockey Stories and Stuff’ by Don Cherry and Al Strachan

*written in 2014.

Don Cherry is a hell of a sports personality and probably my favorite guy in the world of hockey that was never a Blackhawk. Cherry has an interesting panache and style. In fact, I recently did a post that counted down his flamboyant jackets (that was for another website). He also has a very Don Cherry way of talking and expressing himself and tapping into that is what made this book unique and special.

Instead of this being a book penned in an academic or typical biographical style, it is a disorganized oration of Cherry telling disorganized stories – written verbatim by co-author Al Strachan. It reads in exactly the same way Don Cherry talks when he is gracing the television set ranting about this or that.

It is a beefy book with a lot of tales: some short, some long. Regardless of their length, each story is engaging and entertaining, as you read the words on the page and hear Don Cherry in your mind, boisterously reciting the words on the page. This book is almost like sitting in a room with the man, as he tells countless stories and enhances the legend of already known tales.

Don Cherry, is a “love him or hate him” type of character. If you love him, this book is well worth your time. If you hate him, go worship that piss midget Pierre McGuire.

Rating: 7.75/10