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Reg Lansberry wants to talk about his book – a lot. In the many months that this column has run, no one has been so enthused to share his story. It's like striking oil if you're on the writing end, with rich, black gold spilling out, and the challenge is to cap it and produce something from it.
So, on to Lansberry's epic, 9 Goals: The New York Rangers' Once-in-a-lifetime Miracle Finish, a self-published book about one single game, on Sunday, April 5, 1970, when the Blueshirts somehow managed to score nine goals, winning 9-5 over the Detroit Red Wings, qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
At time, Lansberry was a high school sophomore, living in Rowayton, Connecticut, and he was there for the thriller at Madison Square Garden, “the most amazing game I have ever attended.” His love of the Rangers never left him (even as he currently lives outside hockey-less Atlanta), and that single game was one of the reasons that he eventually became a writer.
“It is literally true that, once I learned late on Sunday night that the Rangers had, indeed, qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs after Chicago’s titanic 10-2 defeat of Montreal, I had made up my mind that . . . one day . . . I was going to write about the 9-5 game!” said Lansberry. “As only a 15-year-old can, I did not necessarily think I would, one day, write a book about it . . . as opposed to an article in Sports Illustrated which, back then, was just about as 'glamorous' a forum as existed . . . but I really did decide that, somehow, I would write about a game I was convinced bordered on a miracle bestowed by the Hockey Gods. (I have been, and always will be, a firm believer in the Hockey Gods. And nothing will ever change my mind.) “
Reg and Emile Francis
Lansberry began his career in sports journalism in May 1977 as a writer on the staff of World Tennis magazine in New York City, and spent 13 years there, then joining the Men’s Tennis Council on Madison Avenue, helping to run the men's tennis tour. He also wrote often on thoroughbred racing.
But through it all, the idea of writing about that 9-5 game never left his mind, a fire burning in an aging Ranger fans' soul.
“Without trying to sound arrogant, I have had the 9-5 game, as well as the Rangers’ 1969-70 season fixed in my mind all of these years. I mean that,” confessed Lansberry, sharing further on his love of great writing and the Rangers.
“It is also important to mention that one of my two or three most favorite hockey books (The Game, by Mr. Dryden would be one of the other two) of all-time is A Year on Ice, by Gerald Eskenazi. That simply brilliant book, which I could never surpass if I tried (nor could anyone else), has always resonated with me. As all of us did —especially given that I grew up in Rowayton, CT . . . and that I consider Madison Square Garden to be my 'second home'— who grew up reading the 'Old Grey Lady' (the nickname for the N.Y. Times), I devoured every scrap of Jerry’s reporting on the Rangers, hockey, and all other sports. (Plus the entire Times’s sports section every single day without fail.) Jerry went on to cover football — and anything else he was assigned. He was never a mere 'sportswriter.' Jerry is a WRITER. Marvellously talented. He can write about anything. He was also very generous with his time with me on the phone.”
So were many others generous with their time, chief among them, the amazing Emile Francis, coach and general manager of those Rangers. Bob Nevin wrote the foreword, and dozens of players, journalists and fans helped out with their own recollections of the season and the game itself. In the interest of “journalistic balance and objectivity,” Lansberry also interviewed five members of the 1969-’70 Detroit Red Wings. “In no way did I want the book to be one-sided in favor of the Rangers.” (Jean Ratelle, “the J.D. Salinger of the Rangers,” was his one missing big interview.)
“It broadened the entire book; after all, if most of the Rangers recalled largely the same things, what I produced would likely have been much more 'narrow,'” explained Lansberry. “It was my great good fortune that the players were not only generous with their time, but indeed seemed interested that someone was calling them about a game (subject) they had not thought about for a long time. Another great stroke of luck for me.”
He hit the microfilm machines to read game accounts, dug into online archives, and sourced footage of the game from, who else?, SIHR member and video archivist Paul Patskou.
Lansberry's luck ran out though as he sought an agent and then a publisher. Despite his writing credentials, as he shopped around his 28-page book proposal, Lansberry was told again and again that it was “too local; too provincial; a New York-only story.”
Self-publishing was a necessary outcome, but his many contacts came in handy there, from blurbs from the likes of SIHR founding member Brian McFarlane, to the cover design by Wendy Reingold, who he worked with back at World Tennis. Therefore, online is the best way to get your hands on the 292-page 9 Goals: The New York Rangers' Once-in-a-lifetime Miracle Finish.
The story of Lansberry going from fan at the 9-5 Rangers victory to published author on said game is almost as compelling as the game itself.
NEW YORK, DON'T LOSE A NUMBER
Like well-established linemates, Mark Rosenman and Howie Karpin make for a formidable pairing. And they have the numbers to prove it. Their third book together, New York Rangers by the Numbers: A Complete Team History of the Broadway Blueshirts by Uniform, came out in late 2017, and the dynamic duo shared the story behind the book.
Showing off New York Rangers by the Numbers are, from left, Mark Rosenman, broadcaster Sam Rosen, Howie Karpin, and analyst Joe Micheletti.
“We work well together as a team so when we brainstorm for ideas, we are usually on the same page,” said Karpan, a lifelong Bronx, NY, resident, who has spent two decades as an accredited Official Scorer for Major League Baseball, working Yankees and Mets games. His “day job” is with Sirius XM Satellite Radio as a sports update anchor.
“Howie and I loved writing our other two books and really wanted to do another project together,“ said Rosenman, who calls Melville, NY, home, and is the co-host of WLIE 540 AM's SPORTSTALKNY.
Their first book together was 2015's Shoot to Thrill: The History of Hockey’s Shootout, and the second came out the following year, Down on the Korner: Ralph Kiner and Kiner's Korner
“We pitched some ideas, we really loved some of the ideas, but [Sports Publishing] liked things that were tried and true, so we pitched a hockey version of a series that they had for baseball, and wanted to do the team we love and cover, so the Rangers by the Numbers was a natural.” said Rosenman.
With more than 1,000 players since the team was founded in 1926, there was lots of research to do. The players are listed alphabetically and by number, with mini biographies telling their stories, and the story of the team.
“People who have the book love it, because you can pick it up anytime and go to any page and there will be something that either brings a smile to your face or a fact you didn't know about your favorite team,“ said Rosenman.
How was the workload shared? “Howie was a rockstar on this one,“ said Rosenman. “I first did research on all the players that played, entered them into a spreadsheet, added first games and some notes, Howie then went to work, as I would find some interesting tidbits on the players I would set up interviews or forward him notes.“
The way Karpin sees it, Mark did a lot of “grunt“ work, tracking down interviews, photos and such, and Karpin welcomed the data and information. “While I research some things on my own. I write most of the text. That's my forte,“ said Karpin, who also does a column for www.nysportsday.com, and has written four other books.
Given their status on the New York sports scene, the pair were able to interview just about whomever they wanted, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it all ended up in the book.
“What we wanted to include but we were already way over page wise was the coaches and announcers as they were a huge part of the team,“ said Rosenman. “I did an interview with Monty Hall before he passed away and he was truly amazing; people only know him as the host of Let's Make a Deal but he was a Rangers color man, and had some great stories.“
Those stories will continue down the road too, including another hockey book together: Before 94: The Story of the 1979 New York Rangers Stanley Cup Run.
When a pairing keeps racking up the points, why break up a good thing?
BOOK IT: UPCOMING EVENTS
- On Sunday, May 6, 2018, there's an event to celebrate James Vantour's book with Guyle Fielder, I Just Wanted to Play Hockey - Guyle Fielder - The Unknown Superstar. It'll be at Pioneers Pub (#200 - 10111 No. 3 Road) in Richmond, BC. There will be a panel discussion led by Jim Robson with legends Tom McVie and Connie Madigan. Tickets for the event can be purchased by mailing a cheque payable to Pioneers Pub (mark Guyle Fielder in the memo line) to c/o Rick Noonan 3141 Broadway Street, Richmond, BC, V7E 2X2. Cost is $50 includes beer/wine ticket, snacks and signed copy of Guyle's book. For more details, or to receive a personalized message in your signed book (to be picked up or mailed later), email your request to Rick Noonan: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please RSVP by April 30, 2018. [For more on the book, see my earlier column: A Hat Trick of Self-Published Gems]
- There's a book launch for David Ward's Bay of Hope: Five Years in Newfoundland, on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, at Words Worth Books (96 King St. S.) in Waterloo, ON, at 7 p.m. [I wrote about Ward, his hockey photos and new book, in this column: When it's not just a hockey book]
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