“Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey” is a book that was adapted and made into the 2012 movie Goon that starred Sean William Scott. That movie, in turn, led to the 2017 sequel, Goon: Last of the Enforcers. Because of the success of the two Goon movies, the “Goon” book — published in 2002 and long out of print — shot up in value and was generally difficult to find.
Fortunately, Doug Smith — the goon himself — and co-author Adam Frattasio decided to update and release a second edition of the book, now entitled “Goon: Memoir of a Minor League Hockey Enforcer.”
“Goon” is the story of Doug Smith, a Boston-area native who did not learn how to ice skate until he was 19, but lived the unlikely dream of playing minor league hockey as an enforcer. Smith trained as an amateur boxer and loved hockey almost as much as he loved fighting. He and his friends would practice hockey fighting at their local boxing gym, suiting up in hockey gear and trying to master the different techniques used by NHL enforcers. Eventually, Smith and his friends took this to the ice, ending their midnight pickup games with fight practice.
After a summer spent playing in a rec league, Smith was noticed by a scout and given a shot at playing for the Carolina Thunderbirds of the newly-formed East Coast Hockey League. Smith’s 28-game stint with the Thunderbirds was the basis for the Goon movie, but that’s only the beginning of his story. Smith also played a season of senior professional hockey in New Brunswick, becoming a local favorite, and then became a “goon for hire,” playing in games here and there for teams in the ECHL, IHL and AHL.
Smith talks about what it is like to be an average guy living the dream of playing pro hockey. He also gives details of every hockey fight he ever got into, including skirmishes with longtime minor-league heavyweight Frank Bialowas, future all-time career penalty minute leader Dennis Bonvie and several other tough guys who made it to the NHL.
Sometimes, Smith breaks his narrative to give background on the East Coast Hockey League and its predecessor, the Eastern Hockey League, senior professional hockey, the Allan Cup, and other subjects that the reader might not be familiar with. Smith’s former teammates — and even opponents — also chime in, adding color to his stories.
The second edition of “Goon” has new material about Smith’s life since the first edition was published. He worked as a hockey fight instructor, tutoring future heavyweights Colton Orr and John Scott, and had some involvement in the making of the two Goon movies — including his short, but sweet, cameo as one of the “Bruised and Battered” combatants in Goon: Last of the Enforcers.
Excerpt that epitomizes “Goon” (Second Edition): Most kids who start out playing hockey don’t set their goal to become the next Dave Schultz; they want to be the next Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby. In my day, every kid aspired to be Bobby Orr, whistling past opponents and pirouetting around a defender before firing a laser beam into the low corner. When I put on my first pair of skates at 19, I wanted to be Dave Schultz.
I also loved rematches. If I lost a fight you’d be sure I’d be back for a second try — 10 rematches if need be. That may be why a lot of my opponents got sick of me. I could never get enough. I was never satisfied and I’d never go away. Then again, a goal scorer wouldn’t be totally satisfied with one goal because two were better, and as far as I was concerned, two fights were better than one.
What I like about “Goon” (Second Edition): I loved reading about Smith’s experiences as the wide-eyed average guy, playing in front of large crowds and tussling with some of the toughest men from the 1990s. “Goon” is a quick, fun read.
What I do not like about “Goon” (Second Edition): What’s not to like about an average dude literally fighting his way into playing pro hockey? If you are not a fan of fighting in hockey — or at least tolerant of it or its history in the game — then you probably won’t be too excited about this book.
When I reviewed the first edition of “Goon” last year, my only complaint was that it was long out of print and selling for up to $100, making it hard to read. That’s no longer the case now that this revised and updated second edition is readily available to those who want to read the source material for the first Goon movie. “Goon: Memoir of a Minor League Hockey Enforcer” was a book that I could not put down. I hung on Smith’s every word, and absolutely loved his stories of minor league rough stuff and about his foes who ended up in the NHL. ■
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.