The Lost 10 Point Night: Searching for My Hockey Hero, Jim Harrison is not your typical biography. Instead of the usual formula — early days, career and post-career with current reflections woven throughout — this is a story about both the subject and the chronicler, liberally flip-flopping between past and present. The result is a book that, in many ways, is more about the journey than the destination.
Jim Harrison was a 12-year pro hockey player in the NHL and WHA. In 1973, he scored 10 points in a single game with the WHA’s Alberta Oilers. Author David Ward grew up a Maple Leafs fan and looked up to Harrison when he was a center for the Maple Leafs. Now in his 50s, Ward sought out Harrison to write a book about him, mainly as a means to reconnect with his childhood hero, but also to chronicle some of the game’s forgotten voices.
The Lost 10 Point Night is a mixture of Harrison’s recollections, former teammates’ and coaches’ reflections on Harrison, and Ward’s own memories of Harrison from the 1970s. Not only does it paint a picture of a man who, though not a superstar, was an honest and respectable player, but also of the author’s connection to the subject as a fan. The inclusions of Ward’s own memories might seems a bit presumptuous — are we reading the book to learn about the player, or the kid who worshiped him? — but they are nonetheless relatable. We were all that kid, if not for hockey, then for baseball or music or something else. It is Ward’s contributions that make us understand why a third-line center from the 1970s is worthy of a book.
That said, much of Harrison’s story is an unhappy one. Alan Eagleson, who was both Harrison’s agent and the head of the NHL Players Association, cheated him out of salary and disability payments. The Chicago Black Hawks and their team doctor made decisions that worsened Harrison’s back problems. Thirty-five years after retirement, Harrison is constantly in some form of pain — sometimes so bad he can’t get out of bed — and is still fighting a losing battle with the Players Association over what he is owed. However, Harrison is quick to tell Ward that he does not want to come off as an embittered ex-athlete or one who seeks pity.
And we see that. The traits that got Harrison into the NHL — hard work and perseverance — have helped him survive long after his final shift. Hearing Harrison and his former colleagues’ recollections, show us what the game was like in the expansion era. The book is broken into 20 short chapters — more vignettes, really — and never lags.
Quote that epitomizes The Lost 10 Point Night #1: [David Ward] “However, I do need to revisit my youth and a role model I adored at the time — with the belief that writing will take me into some complicated corners I desperately need to explore, with the hope that I can recapture some of the childlike joy that life has beaten out of me.”
Quote that epitomizes The Lost 10 Point Night #2: [Jim Harrison] “And it’s like they [the NHLPA] think I should be ashamed of what I’m fighting for. Not a chance. I’m proud that I was a hockey player. I worked hard to get where I did. The guys would say, ‘We’re certainly not playing this game for the money.’ We all knew we had the best job in the world, but too few of us knew anything about business.”
What I like about The Lost 10 Point Night: The conversations that Ward has with Harrison’s former teammates and coaches keep the book moving along. You get many different voices and many points of view. If one is not very interesting, it isn’t long before the subject changes. Harrison himself is an inspiring subject; not so much for his career, but for what he had to endure because of it.
What I dislike about The Lost 10 Point Night: The book has two photos, but definitely could use more. For example, Ward describes how cool Harrison looks on his 1977-78 O-Pee-Chee hockey card, but we are left to Google it ourselves. Photos of Harrison from his junior or minor league days would also have filled in a lot of gaps and made a more complete work. The book also finishes in an uninteresting, uninspiring way; Ward should have ended it six pages sooner.
Lack of pictures and a weak final chapter are not deal-breakers. This book is a solid read. Those expecting the standard player biography are not going to get it here. That’s just fine. The Lost 10 Point Night, in its own unconventional way, works very well at telling the story of Jim Harrison, and succeeds in making his story an endearing one. ■