The three stars of the NHL book game, at least for today

Excerpts from three recently released hockey books we’ll put out there as something to read between periods:

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The book: “The Lives of Conn Smythe: From the Battlefield to Maple Leaf Gardens: A Hockey Icon’s Story.”
The author: Kelly McParland
The publishing info: McClelland & Stewart, $32.99, 370 pages.
The background: The man who built the Toronto Maple Leafs along with Maple Leaf Gardens (celebrating its 80th anniversary on Nov. 12) during the Great Depression, his life as a soldier in both World Wars, including a time as a prisoner of war in Germany in 1917, molded his attitude toward being a hockey executive. His life is divided into four sections: Poor boy, builder, warrior and mogul.
The excerpt: Page 197: “Just weeks before the orders for D-Day bean appearing, he stormed up to London and demanded an end to the constant efforts to oust him. … Smythe finally received the reassurance he’s south and was promised he’d be allowed to lead his batter when it went to battle. The pledge held, and in June, as the successful assault on Normandy took hold and the Allied armies moved inward from the beaches, he received orders to prepare to embark for France. It was the culmination of all he had been working for, but at the last moment he almost blew it. With the guns and equipment ready to go, the men occupied their time with regular softball games. A few days before they were to leave, Smythe was guarding third base when the ball came to him just as a runner was barreling from second. He stood his ground and the runner, trying to dislodge him, knocked him right through the coach’s box, breaking four ribs. Smythe passed out, then came to long enough to hear the men discussing plans to get him to a hospital. He insisted they find a civilian doctor, knowing if he was taken to a military hospital he’d almost certainly be prevented from going to France. The men got him to a compliant doctor, but word got around anyway and a colonel turned up at Smythe’s bedside warning that he’d have to report this situation. “My holster was right beside the bed,” Smythe recounted. “I reached over and put my hand on the revolver and said, ‘Now listen, I’ve been through two and a half years to get here. If I’m not going, you’re not going.” He was once again allowed to keep his command, with his ribs heavily taped. … He was strapped into the seat of a gun wagon and hoisted ashore at the end of a crane.”

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The book: “My First NHL Goal: 50 Players and the Goal that Marked the Beginning of Their NHL Career.”
The author: Mike Brophy
The publishing info: McClelland & Steward, $17.95, 254 pages
The background: From Jean Beliveau to Steve Yzerman, and all the great ones in between (including The Great One), they tell the first-person account of their first NHL goal.
The excerpt: Page 251, Luc Robitaille on his goal on Oct. 9, 1986, on a pass from his childhood hero, Marcel Dionne: “Our first game was at home against the St. Louis Blues, and Pat Quinn, our coach, decided to spread the scoring around a bit. Dave Taylor was going to play with Jimmy Carson and Marcel Dionne was going to play with me. The third line had Bernie Nicholls. When the game started, he started Bernie’s line and then went with Taylor’s line. Then something happened and he went back to Nicholls’ line, and I remember sitting on the bench and suddenly it’s been over four minutes and I’m going crazy because I haven’t been on the ice yet. Marcel leaned over and said, ‘Don’t worry, our chance is coming, kid … It’s coming, kid.’ About 30 seconds later, Quinn called for our line to go next. The centers always changed first, so Marcel jumped over the boards. Then whoever was the left winger came to change, so I jumped on the ice. Someone dumped the puck in and the Blues goalie, Rick Wamsley, went behind the net and played the puck to his left along the wall. I saw that Marcel anticipated it, and Wamsley didn’t get good wood on the puck. When I saw that, I hurried as fast as I could to the front of the net and yelled as loud as I could, ‘Marcel! Marcel!’ because the goalie wasn’t there yet. Marcel saw me and passed it, and in one motion I tipped it into the empty net. … It was the greatest feeling.”

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The book: Star-Spangled Hockey: Celebrating 75 years of USA Hockey”
The author: Kevin Allen
The publishing info: Triumph Books, $24.95, 214 pages
The background: Filling a 2010 Olympic hockey roster with U.S.-born NHL players is a pretty significant feat. The organization that began as the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States is ready to tell its history, including the 1938 Chicago Black Hawks’ Stanley Cup win with a U.S. coach, Bill Stewart, and a goaltender from Minnesota, Mike Karakas, the 1980 “Miracle On Ice,” and the emergence of the women’s national team.
The excerpt: On Angela Ruggiero, the Simi Valley native, making her mark: “In 2005-06, Bill Ruggiero was playing for the Tulsa Oilers in the Central Hockey League when he dialed up his older sister Angela and made a pronouncement that was clearly designed to convince her to visit him. ‘You are better than our defensemen – you should come and skate with us,’ Bill Ruggiero said. Angela took Bill up on his offer, skated with his team and was surprised to later receive a call that the Oilers wanted her to play a game. She jumped at the opportunity. .. On January 8, 2005, she played for the Oilers in a 7-2 victory against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees. She played more than six minutes, recording an assist and a plus-2 rating to become the first woman other than a goalie to make more than a token appearance in a North American men’s pro league … “To be honest, I blended into the men’s game. Remember, this is minor pro, not the NHL. There are guys who were shorter than me, or skinner than me. I was in the middle.” She came away feeling satisfied but regretful that she didn’t accept the offer she received to play in the CHL on a regular basis. She wishes now she would have tried that after the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. “I felt like I fit in,” Ruggiero said. “I do actually think I could have played there.”

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