The gift that keeps on giving…even though no one asked for it!
Happy Holi-Chris-Kawan-Hana-whatever! I’m back to bring you hilarious joy as you decorate the domicile or as you just get around to throwing out the rotting Jack-o-lantern with some quality throw back “puck juck” from 1979!
These days, a lot of our hockey teams produce fun little videos celebrating the time of year and thanking the fans; it’s nice — and awkward as hell. The Boston Bruins put out a spectacular video in 2013, the San Jose Sharks owned 2014 with their ode to Holiday Sweaters, and the awkward nod to capitalism thanks to the Calgary Flames in 2015.
Dale Morrisey is a filmmaker with a passion for hockey documentaries. His latest work, entitled “Only the Dead Know the Brooklyn Americans,” takes a long look at a long-forgotten NHL team. The Americans pre-date the “Original Six” Era and contributed more to the long-term success of the NHL than most would credit them for. At the same time, the Americans were a horrible team, struggling for years, first in New York City and then finally Brooklyn.
Morrisey, 45, was born in Oshawa and is, in his words, “a long-suffering Maple Leafs fan.” He previously wrote and directed documentaries “The Father of Hockey” (2014) and “Hockey’s Lost Boy” (2016). Recently, he spoke about his newest work, and why anyone should care about a team that’s been dead for over 75 years.
Sal Barry: Please explain the meaning behind your film’s title, “Only the Dead Know the Brooklyn Americans.”
Dale Morrisey: That’s from Thomas Wolfe’s short story “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn,” which appeared in the New Yorker magazine in 1935. The gist of the story is that it takes an entire lifetime to know Brooklyn, and even then, you wouldn’t know all of it. So, we played off of that, because the Brooklyn Americans area forgotten team, and only someone who was around back then would really know and understand who they were.
SB: The Americans have been gone for how long now?
DM: About 76 years.
SB: Why would anyone care to know about the Americans today?
Pucks in Deep is a party game that you would want to play with your beer league teammates or hockey-loving friends. While you could probably play a more mundane game like Poker or Monopoly, Pucks in Deep is appropriate for a hockey crowd — and a little inappropriate, too, in a mostly fun way. Pucks in Deep is similar to games like Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity, where players try to match an innocent-sounding question with the most hilarious answer possible.
I play-tested Pucks in Deep with four other people. Our group of five consisted of two beer league hockey players (myself included in that demographic), two non-hockey playing hockey fans, and an all-around sports fan.
Before I begin this book review, it is necessary to disclose that I never liked Sean Avery during his NHL career. At the same time, I tried my best to have an open mind and be fair when reading his autobiography; what I think of the man should have no bearing on whether or not his book is entertaining or worth reading.
Also, note that Avery’s book goes by two different titles. In the U.S., where he spent his entire NHL career, his book is called “Ice Capades: A Memoir of Fast Living and Tough Hockey,” while in Canada it is called “Offside: My Life Crossing the Line.” The covers vary slightly, but the book is otherwise the same. However, the Canadian title seems more fitting, as Avery was one to push boundaries on and off the ice.
“Ice Capades,” a.k.a. “Offside” — which I will herein refer to as “Avery’s book” — is co-authored by Micheal McKinley, who previously wrote “Hockey: A People’s History” and “Hockey Night in Canada: 60 Seasons.” Avery prefaces his memoir by stating that it is not his intention to change readers’ opinion of him. But reading his book might just soften your opinion on — as Avery calls himself — hockey’s most-famous third-line player.
If you follow women’s pro hockey, then “Who’s Who in Women’s Hockey Guide, 2018 Edition” is a book you will appreciate. It is packed with statistics on over 1,900 current and former professional women’s hockey players from the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) and the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). It also includes stats from defunct leagues: the Western Woman’s Hockey League, the Central Ontario Women’s Hockey League and the previous incarnation of the National Woman’s League.
The name O-Pee-Chee was synonymous with hockey cards for more than two decades. While the London, Ontario company had its beginnings in making gum, the company would ultimately be best known — especially in the 1970s and 1980s — for its annual set of hockey trading cards. Richard Scott’s new book, “The O-Pee-Chee Hockey Card Story,” gives the history of the long-gone company that gave hockey fans many long-lasting memories.
Gilles Gratton was one of pro hockey’s most colorful characters. He had a short, tumultuous career in the NHL and WHA in the 1970s, and is better known for his awesome goalie mask and strange behavior than for stopping pucks. He had enough talent to land six-figure contracts and play for Canada internationally. Sometimes, Gratton was said to be an even better goalie than Ken Dryden — when he felt like playing. But Gratton had almost no desire to play pro hockey. Now, almost 40 years after he retired from the game, Gratton decided to write a tell-all of his, ahem, interesting career.
Twenty-five years ago, in October 1992, The Mighty Ducks flew into movie theaters and changed hockey forever. The film hatched two sequels and had an NHL team named after it, all in a five-year span. Terms from The Mighty Ducks like the “Flying V” and the “Triple Deke” became part of hockey’s cultural lexicon. A few years before all of that happened, though, it was just an idea, flapping around the mind of an unemployed screenwriter.
It is the late 1980s. Steven Brill started working on his script for a hockey movie. He combined his memories of playing hockey as a child, his renewed interest in the game after Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, and his love for the film The Bad News Bears.
Steven Brill, writer (and movie cameo as ‘Frank Huddy’): I played peewee hockey as a little kid, on one of the worst teams ever, and it was just a horrible experience to be horrible at a game that I didn’t know how to play. We had a mean coach, but I loved being part of a team. It was something that always stuck with me. My passion for hockey and memories of my youth made me always want to revisit the sport.
We all knows what happens to a first-round draft pick who goes on to an exceptional career in the NHL. They rack up accolades and are talked about even long after their playing days have ended. But what about the players who don’t make it? What are their careers or lives like after the shot at NHL stardom is long past? “Tales of a First-Round Nothing: My Life as an NHL Footnote,” written by Terry Ryan in 2014, is a hilarious autobiography of a highly-touted prospect who didn’t pan out. But just because Ryan only played in eight NHL games is no reason to ignore his 228-page memoir. In fact, that’s all the more reason to read it.
August 9, 1988 was arguably the single most important day in hockey history. On that day, the biggest trade in professional sports took place when the Edmonton Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings. Here, the best player in his sport was traded at the height of his career. Gretzky’s trade changed hockey forever. “Kings Ransom,” an ESPN documentary directed by Peter Berg, recounts that fateful day and the events that led up to it.
Unfortunately, “Kings Ransom,” released in 2009, is not the documentary that I hoped for. It tries so hard to be dramatic and doesn’t say anything that hasn’t already been said.