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Two recent releases in the world of hockey books are after the funny bone, but beware, they might take a cheap shot and slash you in the shinbone too.
Eddie Shack - Hockey's Most Entertaining Stories, written with Sportsnet's Ken Reid, is exactly what one would expect from Eddie “The Entertainer,” and it's a coffee table book that you might spill your java on from laughing too hard.
Beware as well of The Fundies: The Essential Hockey Guide from On the Bench, as the duo of Olly Postanin and Jacob Ardown are as much Bob and Doug McKenzie as they are (self-proclaimed) great hockey players.
Their bio from the book: “Olly Postanin and Jacob Ardown are the deadliest players to ever tickle twine. After years of dominating the Bangladesh Pro League and the Virgin Islands Elite League (respectively), they returned to Canada to share their unparalleled knowledge and skills in the hope that one day there would be enough competition for them to really light it up. They are currently holding out for the greasiest conny (contract) to ever be signed.”
Left out of the bio is that the boys made a name for themselves on YouTube, and their short videos have soared in popularity, and there have been a number of current NHL players who have taken part in some of them.
Here's their most popular video, as of October 2019:
But you're here for the book, and The Fundies takes the YouTube lessons one step further and into print. It's a wild ride, full of questionable advice, wacky jargon, and amusing photos, all tied together in a “it has to be seen to be understood” kind of book.
Interviewing the boys is a wild ride, as Rogers Hometown Hockey found out, and so did I, over the phone, the next morning after a live appearance in Toronto to promote the book. A transcript of the chat:
Greg Oliver: What was the challenge of translating YouTube videos to print?
Olly Postanin: For us, it was easy, as natural athletes, right Jacob?
Jacob Ardown: Yeah, we can really do anything, so making the transition from video to book, we just watched the footage and we just wrote it down, basically. Being the best, like we are, things just come super-easy for us.
Greg: You just delivered one edition, no editing, it was perfect on the first go?
Jacob: Yeah, absolutely.
Olly: No, that's not true.
Olly: They said they edited, all of it.
Jacob: I didn't know that.
Olly: They edited all of it, because all of the spelling was wrong, but other than that, it was pretty good.
Greg: How did you split up the work? Did one guy work on one chapter? Or did you sit together and bang it all out?
Jacob: We were together and just banged it all out quick.
Greg: Did you write in longhand or are you guys good on a computer too?
Olly: I don't have a computer.
Jacob: Yeah, so we just wrote it on my computer. I actually scooped it from my mom. It's one of those cool InkPad ones.
Greg: My son is 12, and when his buddies saw the book, those that play hockey immediately knew you guys, as YouTube celebrities. Is part of the goal to get kids to read? Were you guys big readers growing up?
Olly: I really wasn't much of a reader growing up, but we figure when the kids are on the bus, that's probably a good time to brush up on their fundies before games.
Jacob: I didn't really read a whole lot either. We're just thinking, when you run out of cell phone reception, or you drop that iPhone and the screen cracks and you can't see anything, you might as well have a secret weapon in your back pocket, hence the Fundies book. It never goes out of style, you can just read it whenever you need to.
Greg: And it's appropriate for those 12-year-olds too. Both your YouTube videos and the book are relatively clean, as in there's not a lot of swearing and that kind of thing. Was that a conscious decision, or is that just who you guys ares?
Olly: We made that decision early, but that's also kind of who we are. We don't really swear, because we'll get in trouble. I think that's just who we are.
Jacob: It was a smart move not to do it because if we do too much, then our moms will actually wash our mouths with soap.
Greg: Do you guys have any non-hockey inspirations for all this? The hockey is one thing, but is it Roch Carrier's The Sweater, or something like that?
Olly: I think the inspiration for it has always been the love of the game. Regardless of what we do, we do it because we love sports, we have love having fun, and obviously we love hockey, so we just find every channel to go down to create laughs inside the game.
Greg: Is this the start of a real multi-media empire, if you've gone from YouTube to books? What's next?
Olly: Oh yeah, it's going to be big. We're going to take over TV and hopefully one day the movies.
Greg: Is there much talk of merch?
Olly: Yeah, we've got merch, https://onthebench.life/">www.onthebench.life, we've got some pretty greasy merch, we just dropped an alternate ... is it Jacob? Or alternative?
Olly: New jerseys, third jerseys on our website, they're pretty greasy, they're “Top Corns.” There's a bunch on there.
Greg: Watching the videos, when the NHLers come involved, that had to have been a bit of a thrill, even if you guys were better than them. Are the NHL players coming to you at this point?
Olly: So, we've never reached out to those guys, they just kind of hit us up, and want to learn a little bit more. Jacob, tell him the guy that called you.
Jacob: One of the first calls that we got was Drew Doughty, and he's one of the best/worst D-men in the league, so that was pretty cool for me. They just call. Once that footage was leaked, everyone just wanted a piece of it. Having these guys call, it's really nice, and obviously rewarding, as like, the two top coaches. But sometimes it can get a little annoying because we're just trying to work on the fundies and some videos, and we've got guys like Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid calling us two, three times a day, because they're freaking out about what they should do in the game that night.
Greg: It's interesting you mention those guys, because they're both very young, and they would have grown up watching YouTube videos. I'm sure they're a lot like my kid that knows PewDiePie, and whoever it is that's a YouTube sensation more than they know, say, your local politician. Is there a difference between the younger players and the older players and being able to play along with you guys and learn?
Olly: The older players are little tougher to work with, because they're old. But the young ones are pretty easy and they get it.
Greg: How much time goes into a video? It might be five minutes long, but is it a full-day affair?
Olly: Yeah, we filmed one about two days ago, the Keeping Pucks in Play, and we filmed for about four hours.
Olly: For four-minute video, so it takes quite a long time.
Greg: Has the whole process gotten smoother?
Olly: Oh yeah, the process is pretty quick now.
Greg: What was the reaction like for the piece on Hometown Hockey? Was that a big game-changer for you guys?
Jacob: Yeah, that was one of the coolest things that we got to film. in my eyes. We got to tell our story, what and why we love the game so much. It helped open other people's eyes to understand really what we were doing and have people buy into it a little bit more. It made a huge difference for us. It's still one of the coolest videos out there, I think. Selfishly, I love watching it.
Greg: A little bit of navel-gazing, you'll go and watch yourself and enjoy the moment.
Olly: Jacob does that all the time.
Jacob: Yeah, absolutely.
Greg: Do you find yourselves losing yourselves in all the fame?
Olly: Absolutely not, I don't think so.
Olly: We're not famous at all.
Jacob: We're not famous, we're fortunate. I think every day we wake up, we're just gracious and grateful whatever we're doing, and just happy to be here, and just looking forward to the next round, chapter. I don't think we have, and I would hope that if it ever happens, our moms, wives, girlfriends, fans, would put us back in our place real quick.
Greg: This is for the Society for International Hockey Research page, and this book may have not gotten their attention yet, as it's geared at a young market, which is great. We need the young readers out there.
Jacob: Yep, we've got to keep the kids loving hockey.
CLEAR THE BOOKSHELF
There's a lot of “new” to Eddie Shack - Hockey's Most Entertaining Stories. It's a new book about Shack, following 1998's Clear the Track: The Eddie Shack Story by Ross Brewitt. It's the first hockey book for Frameworth Sports after a number of specialty entertainment books. And it was the first rush job for author Ken Reid.
Frameworth boss Brian Ehrenworth contacted Reid early in 2019 and pitched the idea of a book with Eddie Shack. Reid, who has done four books with ECW Press (One Night Only: Conversations with the NHL’s One-Game Wonders; Dennis Maruk: The Unforgettable Story of Hockey’s Forgotten 60-Goal Man, and two editions of Hockey Card Stories), figured the process would be similar—research, write, submit, wait a year for publication. Nope, the manuscript needed to be submitted by June, and its launch was October 30, 2019. Those who saw Reid co-hosting Sportsnet Central during the NHL playoffs would not have known that he was frantically putting together the book during the day, and working into the wee hours on TV.
Fortunately, Shack made it a blast.
“Needless to say, Eddie's absolutely hilarious. His stories are not the kind of stories you hear from up-and-coming players these days. So he started talking and I started listening. The original plan was to write your pretty much standard 60,000, 80,000 word book, but Eddie's a guy that pictures mean a lot to him, given that he's struggled with being illiterate his entire life, so he wanted a lot of pictures in the book,” explained Reid. “The more we talked, the more conducive I thought the stories were to short little bullet points, so we decided on a coffee table book format.”
Why a second Eddie Shack book? “The first book was the story of Eddie Shack written by someone else. This is Eddie sitting there ... just telling me stories,,” said Reid. “I'm adding what we're calling 'Ken Notes,' on the side, Post-It notes, to set the record straight, because this is Eddie's version of history—which is sometimes maybe tweaked a little. It would be as if you're sitting with Eddie, having a Pop Shoppe, or a beer, or smoking a cigar in his garage, so that's what we went for when we sat together and kept talking and talking -- that's the style of the book with stumbled upon. It's a lot different than Clear the Shack was.”
Photos came from Shack's personal collection, and other goodies came from other sources, like Mike Wilson's collection of Maple Leafs memorabilia, and Paul Patskou. Shack's wife, Norma, plays a part. “Norma, was awesome too. She was hilarious,” added Reid.
Eddie Shack - Hockey's Most Entertaining Stories will be in select stores, such as Indigo-Chapters, and autographed copies are available through Frameworth (https://frameworthshop.com/); laughs are included with shipping.
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