Book Review: Tales of a First-Round Nothing

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. 

Title: Tales of a First-Round Nothing: My Life as an NHL Footnote
Author: Terry Ryan
Pages: 228 pages
Size: 6″ x 9″
Price: $19.95 U.S./Canada (Paperback)
Get it at Amazon for less
Publisher: ECW Press

Ryan was drafted eighth overall in 1995, two spots ahead of Jarome Iginla. Early on in his book, he explains that his short NHL career was due to a series of poor personal decisions, poor managerial decision and badly-timed injuries. He talks about all of these in greater detail, but doesn’t dwell on what could have been. Rather, he takes us on an often-funny trip through his life, from his youth as a hockey prodigy all the way up to his post-professional years playing senior amateur hockey. 

What makes Ryan such an interesting character is how far he was willing to go to achieve whatever he wanted to accomplish. This is a guy who used hot sauce to win a hockey fight, knocked out his own teeth to save money on dental work, and managed to out-snark then-Islanders GM Mike Milbury during a pre-draft interview. 

Ryan also talks about several sexual escapades during his career — this book is not for minors — and just when you think it’s going to be another tale of an athlete bragging, the story veers off into an unexpected, hilarious direction. 

I could go on and on about “Tales of a First-Round Nothing,” but I feel that the more I tell you, the less surprises you will get to experience for yourself. If you like hockey and have a good sense of humor, go read this book now. 

Excerpt that epitomizes “Tales of a First-Round Nothing”: That’s when I broke down and cried like a baby, frustrated at my attitude. I couldn’t help but feel selfish. There I was, depressed that my ice hockey professional career was coming to an end. I was feeling sorry for myself, tripping over my bottom lip over the fact I was about to hear the term “first-round bust” a few tens of thousands of times. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: despite everything, I was one lucky motherf–ker. I mean, how many folks had these kinds of experiences so frequently? 

What I like about “Tales of a First-Round Nothing”: Most of Ryan’s book is laugh-out-loud funny. He is good at telling his story. 

What I do not like about “Tales of a First-Round Nothing”: A few very serious events took place in Ryan’s life — divorce from his first wife, the death of his best friend from junior hockey, and adopting that friend’s son — but Ryan only touches on these. I could understand that he would want to respect the privacy of others, but a bit more about these would have made Ryan’s story feel a little more complete, as well as making him seem a little more grounded. 

“Tales of a First-Round Nothing” is one of my three favorite hockey autobiographies from the past decade; the other two are “J.R.” by Jeremy Roenick and “Tough Guy” by Bob Probert. All three books have a “tell-it-like-it-is” style that is anything but bland. Ryan may have not have lasted in the NHL as long as Roenick or Probert, but he still carved out a seven-year professional hockey career and had a fun time doing it. You’ll have a fun time reading about it, too. ■

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk


Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Tales of a First-Round Nothing”

  1. Loved this book too–lots of funny stories—I went to high school with his father Terry Sr.—another similar type book is Jamie McLennan’s The Best Seat in the House: Stories from the NHL Inside the Room, on the Ice and on the Bench–read these both in the same week

  2. I am another big fan of the book. Picked up last fall to read on the beach when we were in Myrtle and loved it. GF didn’t – she kept wanted to go swimming or walk on the beach but I kept saying, “how about in 10 mins” or “maybe later” over and over. I think what I loved the most was how he didn’t take himself too seriously. He wrote it at the right time in his life (as compared to memoirs when he is in his 60’s or something) where he was old enough to see things for what they were (including how stupid in some cases!) and appreciate them, but young enough to have that certain energy and freshness about his writing. Plus young enough to vividly recall every detail (I was visiting some older family members today so I can appreciate how small things can get lost in time). You are spot on with suggesting that he is a great storyteller.

  3. I agree that Ryan tells a good story, but I found that story presented in a way that was much too self-centered even for an autobiography. Could be a direct reflection of his attitude while he was taking his shot at the NHL, which would help explain why he fell short. I’d give his book 3-1/2 pucks on its behind-the-scenes content, but only 2-1/2 on entertainment value.

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