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Kerry and Roy MacGregor
For all the greatness of Roy MacGregor, whether it’s in hockey writing, radio and TV commentary, newspaper or magazine features, or his nationalistic non-fiction passions, like Canoe Country: The Making of Canada, or Escape: In Search of the Natural Soul of Canada, I can personally attest that he has had a significant impact on my son with his Screech Owls Mystery Series.
There are 30 books in the series, and my 11-year-old son Quinn, has read them all, many of them more than once. He celebrated like he’d struck gold when he found the elusive The Screech Owls Scrapbook. When Quinn and I teamed on our self-published kids book, Duck with the Puck, Roy was one of the people we sent a copy to, with a note about how much his work meant to Quinn.
To Roy’s credit, he replied and encouraged Quinn to keep reading and writing. Quinn subsequently wrote out some plot ideas for future Screech Owls books, which he now says are “cringe-worthy.” But the point is that getting praise from one of your heroes can be pretty important in a young life.
A similar parental tie is there in the latest book from Roy and his daughter Kerry, The Ice Chips and the Magical Rink. The two also worked together on the final Screech Owls book.
It’s book one in the new Ice Chips Series, aimed at grade school readers, and they have a contract for three total; The Ice Chips and the Haunted Hurricane comes out in the fall of 2018.
The premise is quite fun. Members of small-town team stumble upon way to go back in time; when they time travel, they slowly get to know a major future hockey star when he was just a boy. The clues are there for a big-time hockey fan to guess out who it is early, but figuring it out isn’t the point.
Both Roy and Kerry MacGregor shared a little about what went into The Ice Chips and the Magical Rink
“Kerry wrote more than half. I expect the division of labour will usually be two-thirds Kerry one-third Roy,” explained Roy in an email. (Good parenting is teaching your kids how to do the chores! Kerry is one of Roy's four children with wife Ellen.)
For a real expert, though, I turned to Quinn Oliver, who submitted some questions for them, and posted an online book review as well:
QUINN: I noticed in the Ice Chips book that the characters were really defined, especially compared to individual Screech Owls books. What made you really want to flesh out the Ice Chips characters?
ROY: Kerry did more work on the characters than I did. The Owls “grew” into their character as the books went along. The Chips were more formed from the start.
QUINN: Was it fun working with your daughter / father?
KERRY: It was far more interesting than I’d expected, especially when it came to putting our characters into the story! A writer doesn’t have to be similar to a character in his or her book, but you often leave a bit of how you see the world behind in your writing. Because of that, two writers—even related ones—might see the same character differently. It was fun to see how different our ideas about our characters’ reactions could be! I think we learned a lot about each other!
ROY: Made me very proud. Very satisfying.
QUINN: Was it fun to work on?
KERRY: I loved working with the idea of time travel—I’m always a sucker for sci-fi. It was also really fun writing a fictional story around a person who was real (the famous hockey player the kids visit in the past). We wanted to write an exciting story, but we also wanted stay true to the history of this real-life hockey player. That challenge was pretty cool.
ROY: It was fun seeing how two writers could end up with one story.
QUINN: What was your inspiration for writing The Ice Chips and the Magical Rink?
KERRY: We co-wrote the final book in the Screech Owls series and enjoyed working together, so we thought we’d come up with a new series. When I was a kid, I met a lot of hockey players because my dad was covering hockey for the newspaper. I remember wondering how a kid like me could ever become a famous hockey player like them—about what happened in between. So, we thought we’d go back in time and find out!
ROY: I missed the Screech Owls, plain and simple. But 30 books in a series is too many. Good readers will have moved on.
The art in the Ice Chips book was by illustrator Kim Smith. She raved about working with the MacGregors. “It was fantastic working with them!” raved Smith, a Calgary native. “Sometimes, on other books, I don’t get a chance to connect with the author, but since this was a project that required a lot of expertise and historical correctness, Kerry and Roy were a great source of information for fleshing out the illustrations. The characters and story were so wonderfully written, they made it such a treat to illustrate. I could picture these characters in my head as living, breathing things.”
FIGHTING TO GET JOHN BROPHY’S STORY TOLD
Gregg Inkpen worked on two hockey documentaries through the years, and came away from a 2000 project musing about something bigger with legendary tough guy turned coach John Brophy.
“From reading the old news articles it occurred to me that Broph was a wild man in a wild league,” Inkpen said. “So after that brief on-camera interview I did with him for that 2000 documentary, I wrote him asking if he’d be into writing a book with me on his life. He agreed and in 2004 I drove to Virginia (he wasn’t coaching at that point) and spent a weekend interviewing him.”
Lots of research and secondary interviews followed in the subsequent years, until Inkpen went to sit down with “Broph” again in 2008, this time when the old coach was living back in Nova Scotia.
Most fans know the basics of Brophy’s career—Eastern Hockey League goon, successful if foul-mouthed coach in the minors before making the bigs, with a memorable stint behind the bench for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Inkpen’s goal is to tell the whole story of Brophy, who died in 2016. “Readers will see he was all about hockey. His pursuit of playing and coaching pretty much led to two divorces (he was divorced three times total) and they’ll find it’s not your typical bio of a coach,” said Inkpen. “At around 12 months of age the family suffered a house fire, destroying it, then his mother died when he was around three. At nine they had another house fire and the siblings were split up where he lived with his uncle for a while. His father was out west in Vancouver working the rails so he was raised by his older brother for the most part. The day before John’s first wedding his father died and John didn’t find out until after the ceremony because he was on the way home with his team on a bus and he couldn’t be reached.
In 1967 he crashed his car into a tree on Long Island (not too far from me) and his girlfriend died—she was the passenger. Then he had the car crash in 2000 where he almost died.”
So it’s a story of perseverance, too. “But he made it to the NHL as a coach but there were two and a half tumultuous years. Has issues with a couple of players, leading one to quit. But many players loved him.”
That stick-to-it nature defines Inkpen, who currently has the book in the hands of a couple of potential publishers; if he doesn’t get the okay from one of those companies, he’s prepared to self-publish. Maybe, in the end, that’s closer to Brophy, who was hardly “establishment.”
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