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Icing On The Plains
Troy Treasure is very much aware that, at first glance, Icing on the Plains, which came out in November 2018, may not be seen immediately as a hockey book.
“The cover of the book, if you just look at it, you would not have a particular sense that it is a sports book, and even a hockey book,” Treasure said in a phone interview. “And if you look at the sub-title, and if one were to read that, 'The Rough Ride of Kansas City's NHL Scouts,' well, if a person is familiar with what NHL stands for, then they're going to be clued in.”
The Kansas City Scouts, established in 1974, only lasted two seasons, before moving on to Colorado to become the Rockies, and then moving on to New Jersey and having a Devil of a time.
In the early part of Icing on the Plains, Treasure details his memories of the team, from when he was a kid, quickly establishing why he was a good choice to pen the definitive history of the short-lived team. His years working in newspapers and radio helped too.
An unfortunate reality, though, made it possible.
His mother developed dementia, and needed care, so Treasure left his newspaper job. He was her sole caregiver until her recent passing.
“I did have the time to do the necessary research,” he explained. “I had passion for the subject.”
The work on the book went on for two years, beginning in November 2016, and ending when it was self-published by BalboaPress.
“I tell anybody who will listen that it's not a literary masterpiece, but I didn't really write it with those folks, literary critics, in mind. I just wanted to do the best job I possibly could within the time constraints I was under to tell the story of the Kansas City Scouts, because, in my humble opinion, they're long forgotten,” he said.
While he was a fan growing up, there was still much to learn about the Scouts, from how the team came about, to the suicide of the team's athletic trainer during the first season, to its departure for higher ground in Colorado.
As with any project, some key names become primary sources who propel the story along.
G. Robert “Bob” Fisher, who was the team's general counsel, and alternate governor “was a huge get,” said Treasure. “His memory is very sharp. I interviewed him twice at his downtown law office in Kansas City. He was invaluable as far as informing me and the readers how the franchise came about, how his group, of the four local groups that were interested in obtaining the franchise, he had key insight on how his group got it as well as the initial members of that ownership group.”
Dale Graham was the team's young assistant athletic trainer, thrust into a greater role when his mentor, Gordon Marchant, killed himself. But it was more than just the tragedy, said Treasure. “[Graham] had insight on, for example, Steve Durbano, and he enters the narrative here and there throughout the book.”
The other key non-player was journalist Jay Greenberg, who went on to a Hockey Hall of Fame writing career, after stops in Philadelphia, Toronto and New York, but in those days was just a cub reporter in Kansas City.
On the playing side, for every Gary Croteau, who was “very gracious” and “contributed mightily” there are plenty who escaped Treasure's search.
“Probably the hardest part of this book was contacting the sources, although several of the main characters are long since deceased,” he said. “I sent so many letters to addresses in Canada, and they were never returned to sender.” Wilf Paiement, for example, was someone Treasure never connected with; a Scout for a short time, Craig Patrick, who went on to plenty of big things in hockey, was another. “You've got a deadline, you've got to put it to bed.”
Treasure had a drive to finish Icing on the Plains. “I was determined to do this book, and if the self-publishing route was the way I had to go, then that's what I was going to do, and I did it.”
He did try a few traditional publishing houses, but ended up settling on BalboaPress, which helps get a project through the publishing process for a fee. “I discovered that self-publishing is a murky world. I was rejected by the traditional publishing houses that I approached,” he admitted. “It's a very niche subject, and hockey's a niche sport, although it continues to grow.”
Thinking about it, Treasure gives BalboaPress a “solid B” for its efforts, though it was frustrating as the publisher was uncomfortable with some of the photos that Treasure wanted to use—many directly from primary sources—and copyright worries kept the book from being more visual. “We were pushing deadline and I got frustrated with the person I was dealing with, and I just punted on it,” he said, using one of many sports metaphors that he picked up during his long career writing about sports.
Still, for all that he has written through the years himself, Treasure wanted to give props to another writer and his work—and this SIHR hockey book column would be the place to do that.
To Treasure, Jeff Gordon's 2000 book, Keenan: The High Times and Misadventures of Hockey's Most Controversial Coach, is “one of the best hockey books I've read, I still have it,” he began. Treasure read Gordon for many years on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. “I've always admired Gordon's writing style, his sense of wit. and there's no denying his writing style has influenced me over the years.”
Now, with Icing on the Plains, Treasure can influence his own hockey book readers.
For more on Troy Treasure and Icing on the Plains, see https://www.troytreasure.com/
The not-so-Great American Sports Page
John Schulian was an award-winning sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Philadelphia Daily News, before moving into Hollywood, where he had a hand in shows like Xena: Warrior Princess and J.A.G., and fiction, with his novel A Better Goodbye.
What he is not, apparently, is a hockey fan.
How else to explain that the massive new collection, The Great American Sports Page: A Century of Classic Columns from Ring Lardner to Sally Jenkins, does not contain a single article about hockey. Flipping through the index, there's not even a reference.
So you mean to tell me that in all the years, with all the great writers that have contributed to newspapers, not one wrote anything worthwhile about hockey?
Flipping sports, to quote Raptors colour man Jack Armstrong, “Get that garbage out of here!”
Well, I'm being harsh, an over-reactive hockey fan. There's amazing writers and writing in here, giants of the industry that I can only dream of emulating: Damon Runyon, Grantland Rice, Ring Lardner, Frank Graham, Shirley Povich, Red Smith, W.C. Heinz, Dick Young, Jim Muray, Dave Anderson, Bud Collins, Jane Leavy, Mike Lupica ...
But pick it up as a fan of writing, because if you pick it up as a fan of hockey, you are going to want to throw down your gloves and give Schulian a pummeling.
Great American Sports Page: A Century of Classic Columns from Ring Lardner to Sally Jenkins
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