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Dennis Maruk and Ken Reid (Photo: Quinn Oliver)
Ken Reid is not going to lie. While he ended up co-writing Dennis Maruk: The Unforgettable Story of Hockey’s Forgotten 60-Goal Man, it wasn't that long ago that he knew very little about his subject. “All I knew about Dennis Maruk a couple of years ago is that he was a sniper and I really liked his hockey cards,” said Reid at the book launch in Toronto, adding that Maruk always had a “wicked moustache.”
So during the process of writing book, not only did Reid, a Sportsnet sportscaster, learn about Maruk, his rise to the NHL, his suffering through so many poor franchises—only one of the four teams he played for still exists in its original location—and mostly playoff-less life, but he found a human being with whom he could relate on a much deeper level.
“I myself suffer from anxiety and depression, and I'm happy to say I see a psychologist, I'm on medication, it's something I have to manage,” shared Reid. “Lo and behold, I learn that Dennis has had his ups downs with things like that, so we could really kind of relate to each other.”
The result of the tag team is a remarkable book, one that will appease hockey fans, especially those who lived through the wacky 1970s and the high-scoring '80s, but will also resonate in other ways. “It's not really a hockey book, it's a book about an amazing man who has just one of the biggest hearts of anyone I've ever met,” said Reid.
The 61-year-old Maruk, originally from Toronto, had an autobiography on his mind for some time. “I first thought about doing this book a few years ago after discussing issues throughout my career on and off the ice and the negative and positive situations I’ve been through,” said Maruk. He first talked to Reid when the author was working on Hockey Card Stories.
“After the book came out I got a call from a friend of Dennis's asking if I would like to write a book with him,” recalled Reid. “I was quite curious. I knew Dennis was a sniper back in the day but that was about all I knew. I agreed to meet for a quick lunch with Dennis. I brought my recorder. That half hour lunch turned into a four-hour interview session. His story drew me in right away. He was so much more than just a face on a card that I knew as a kid. It turns out he had quite a story to tell. Scoring 60 goals in an incredible feat, but the fact that Dennis managed to find himself after his hockey career came to an end is what really stood out for me. He had some incredible highs and incredible lows. He shared them all with me. His story makes for a fantastic book.”
There are plenty of lows, including a suicide attempt. Maruk found the sharing cathartic in a sense, but not easy to do. “Speaking out about personal issues I faced during my hockey career and after was definitely difficult, but I have become so much happier in life in Toronto and thought sharing my story could help others,” said the forward who finished with 356 goals and 522 assists in 888 NHL games with the Seals, Barons, North Stars and Capitals from 1975-89.
Reid was pleased that it didn't turn into a book about point totals.”I didn't really have a lot of interest in writing a book about goals and assists. I wanted to write the story of the man who scored the goals and assists. Luckily for me that is the story Dennis wanted to tell as well. Dennis ended up working on a boat in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. He was a bellhop for guys like Will Smith and Joe Cocker. He was a farm hand for a rock star. He was a furniture delivery man for a Hollywood star. These things shocked me at first. Dennis is so much more than a hockey player but in his heart, he is just that – a hockey player.”
At the book launch at Toronto's SPORT Gallery in October 2017, surrounded by vintage merchandise, classic photos and plenty of friends, Maruk seemed a man content. “I've learned that you take one day at a time and you enjoy what you have, and respect what you have,” he told the audience.
There are plenty of things to do, he said. “Nowadays, friends and even the NHL alumni have helped by keeping me busy and with events. My good friend Steve Walton, who directs Hockey Legends, keeps me involved with events out east. And I am so lucky to have met a wonderful loving lady, Suzan, to help me fulfill my happiness and enjoy life.”
Likewise, Reid is busy. Besides his young family at home and the high-profile Sportsnet gig, Hockey Card Stories II is going to hit bookstores in October 2018. “I couldn't believe how many people shared my interest in the stories behind old pieces of cardboard. I kind of thought I was the only one. Turns out it was a bestseller. That still blows my mind,” Reid said. “Hockey Card Stories II is going to feature some classics from the ’70s and ’80s (just like the first book) but we are going to get into cards from the boom era of the early ’90s as well. There are some real beauties in there. We have interviews with several Hall of Famers along with players you may have never heard of. It was a ton of fun to put together.”
With the publication Nine Lessons I Learned from My Father, Dr. Murray Howe's tribute book to his legendary father, Gordie Howe, it begs the question ... since there are books out there by Gordie Howe (2014 bestseller Mr. Hockey: The Autobiography Of Gordie Howe), his wife Colleen Howe (1975's My Three Hockey Players, as well as two books she worked on with Gordie, And Howe!: An authorized autobiography, with Tom DeLisle, from 1995 and After the Applause, with Charles Wilkins from 2009), and their son Mark Howe (Gordie Howe's Son from 2013, written with Jay Greenberg), why isn't there one by Marty Howe? (Or their daughter Cathy for that matter!)
When Marty Howe was in Toronto at the Hockey Hall of Fame for the launch of the latest set of Canada Post hockey stamps—the “Ultimate Six” being Howe, Jean Beliveau, Rocket Richard, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky—I asked him just that.
Q: You're the only Howe now without a book.
“It's probably going to stay that way. Heh heh. You can't print some of that stuff.”
Nine Lessons I Learned from My Father is a terrific book, and at the risk of ruining a Christmas surprise, let's just say that I know a certain father and father-in-law that are both getting copies.
But, according to Marty, it was a much, much bigger book at one point.
“I read versions before they did this version, because originally he was going to write a book about the whole family and his parents, and what he thought about Gordie growing up sort of thing. He actually had enough material for four books,” said Marty Howe. “I told him, 'When you talk to Penguin, you're going to be getting rid of a lot of stuff that you may not want to.' They had to focus more on him on Gordie.”
Marty delivered a nice, short speech as Canada Post recognized his father. But usually it falls to Dr. Howe for the public speaking.
“Normally at this event today, we would have Murray give the speech,” said Marty, his mind going back to Gordie's funeral. “He gave the eulogy. When they named the bridge after him between Detroit and Windsor, he always knocks it out of the park when he does it. It's funny because the Prime Minister was there, and the governor of Michigan, and they both gave a speech and then Murray gave his speech. So he pulls out these ragged notes and pulls it out and apologizes for having to read the notes, because it was short notice. He sitting there and he gives the speech. ... [Later] the governor and the Prime Minister stopped at Murray and they both looked at him and they go, 'Are you running for office?' So that kind of gives you an idea about how good his speech was. Usually on these events we usually try to get him to do them because I dread it, but I get by."
With Fast Ice: Superstars of the New NHL, prolific Toronto author Andrew Podnieks has ended up back with ECW Press. It was then-publisher Jack David who okayed the idea of a then part-time teacher for a book, which became 1995's Return to Glory: The Leafs from Imlach to Fletcher. A few more hockey books followed at ECW Press before his Canadian publishing odyssey began in earnest. (Head to his webpage -- http://andrewpodnieks.com/books/ -- and be prepared to scroll and scroll and scroll down the page for all the books.)
"I've probably done a book with every publisher in Canada,” Podnieks said at the book launch for Fast Ice. "One book just lead to another and to another and to another, which is also very good."
The publisher's info on Fast Ice: “From the incredible debut of Auston Matthews to the unparalleled speed of Connor McDavid, the NHL is experiencing a rebirth that is based on speed and skill, not size, fighting, or intimidation. Fast Ice: Superstars of the New NHL features profiles of more than 50 of today’s greatest stars. Included are veterans like Sidney Crosby and arch-rival Alexander Ovechkin, but the heart of the book is the youth movement that has given fans new optimism for an exciting future. Written by bestselling author Andrew Podnieks and featuring dozens of full-colour photographs, this is sure to be a compelling addition to the hockey lover’s library.”
Podnieks can't help to look back. "This book is really just an extension of that first book."
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