I feel like I’m about to write a book report… I haven’t done one of those in probably 20 years… so here goes nothing!
About a week ago, I was browsing Amazon on my iPad. I came across Hockey Dad, True Confessions of a (Crazy) Hockey Parent, a book by Bob McKenzie, as in the TSN Media personality, and dad of Charlotte Checker Mike McKenzie. The book came out in 2009, so clearly I came to the party a bit late, but it was a FANTASTIC read. The book is kind of an autobiographical tale of Bob’s experience being a Hockey Dad while his two sons Mike (who we all know and love in Charlotte) and his younger brother Shawn navigated the world of youth hockey in Ontario.
Unfortunately, living in the US like I do, I’m not given the opportunity to watch Bob McKenzie in action like my Canadian friends north of the border are on a regular basis… we only get to see him on Draft Day, Free Agency and the Trade Deadline when the NHL Network shows TSN programming, so I didn’t have the full grasp of who Bob is as a media personality before I read the book, and neither did I have nearly the comprehension of what youth hockey is like in Canada. Sure, I have a pretty clear understanding of the OHL, and NCAA eligibility, but it is so much more involved than that! I loved the way Bob educated me on the perils of youth hockey in Canada, and how involved it is to support your children through the levels.
I loved every page of this book. Sitting at work, in my theater, I’d be reading it and laughing loudly at some of the antidotes Bob shared about his sons and their childhoods while my theater friends mocked me for being sucked into a book about being a hockey dad, something I will clearly never be. I loved Bob’s writing style (it reminded me a bit of my own, and how I tell stories, truth be told!). I loved the stories, both good and bad, even when sometimes I cringed at the more embarrassing ones centering on Mike. As I turned each page (Or swiped my finger across the screen of my iPad), I couldn’t help but feel like the preacher’s kid that I am, when I would sit in one of the back pews at church and hear my dad the pastor tell stories about my antics. He always asked permission (and still does, because I can assure you, just because I’m adult doesn’t mean he’s stopped telling stories about me and my brothers on Sunday mornings!), and I hope Mike and Shawn got to read a draft of the book before it went to print, and give their permission to their dad to out some of the more embarrassing moments of their childhoods.
I loved getting to know Mike and his brother Shawn through the pages of Bob’s book. I wanted to reach out to Bob’s wife, Cindy, and hug her for having to put up with that lifestyle, because she is clearly a saint!
Mike wasn’t drafted into the NHL (though, according to Bob, he almost was, by a fantastic team based in Raleigh, NC) Jim Rutherford drafted Nick Dodge that year instead, at the suggestion of Bob McKenzie. I think both of these University arch-rivals have benefited our organization a great deal!
The book was published two years ago, when Mike was still an NCAA athlete at Saint Lawrence University in upstate New York, so unfortunately we didn’t get to hear about Bob watching his son’s first professional game in Charlotte (I was there! I remember seeing Bob in the next section over!), or how proud this Crazy Hockey Dad must have been when Mike was invited to the Hurricanes NHL camp last year, and signed an AHL contract. I’d love a few chapters of follow-up, to see Bob’s perspective of how Mike’s career has progressed since he graduated from college, and to hear what Shawn is up to these days.
I can’t say enough how much Checkers fans need to read this book. All hockey fans, really! I loved it, and I can honestly say I haven’t read a book about sports since I was researching material for my Master’s thesis on “Intentional Rules Violations in Sports” (yes, the thesis I never finished…), but I’m so glad I bought this book on a whim. I kind of wish I’d bought a hard copy of it so I could have Mike sign it… he’s as much the author as his dad is, since he provided so much of the material! I also want to get a tshirt or jersey from the Whitby Wildcats, where Mike and Shawn played the majority of their minor hockey. I figure it would go nicely with my OHL Chris Terry jersey, and New Hampshire Wildcat tshirt in honor of Jacob Micflikier. I love supporting a pro athlete’s roots!
If you are looking for a fun read this summer, and missing hockey as much as I am, grab a copy of Bob’s book. You won’t be disappointed!
Edit: A GREAT interview with Shawn McKenzie from this past April about the book!