Two Minutes for Reading so Good

Undrafted provided Kypreos a 'real clear look in the mirror'

Two Minutes for Reading so Good

Greg Oliver


Undrafted provided Kypreos a 'real clear look in the mirror'

Posted October 20, 2020

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Undrafted: Hockey, Family, and What It Takes to Be a Pro

Before Undrafted: Hockey, Family, and What It Takes to Be a Pro came to be, Nick Kypreos had to be convinced that there was any sort of market for his book.

Veteran sportswriter Perry Lefko, coming off working with Eddie Olczyk on his autobiography, had pitched Kypreos.

“My first thought was, Who's gonna buy it besides maybe my family and a few people on the Danforth?” said Kypreos in an early morning interview, the day before the book's official publication date of October 20. “But he was pretty convincing in telling me that it was a good story, and one that the hockey world and others outside of it, would be inspired from it.”

Lefko knew Kypreos, both from the winger's time in Toronto with the Maple Leafs, and through broadcasting.

“I always thought his hockey career and broadcasting career would be of interest,” said Lefko. “He was an undrafted hockey player who transitioned well into broadcasting, even though he almost got fired after the first year. But similar to his hockey career, he worked hard and parlayed that into a 20-year broadcasting career, including becoming part of Hockey Night In Canada and breaking stories on a regular basis. No other former NHL player had a similar profile.”

Kypreos and Lefko talked a few times about what the book would look like, and then Lefko found them a deal with Simon and Schuster.

“Nick is a pro's pro,” said Lefko. “He was a ton of fun to work with because of his enthusiasm and that booming laugh of his.”

Undrafted takes the reader from Kypreos early days in Toronto, playing junior, and, through determination, making the NHL despite not having been selected in the NHL entry draft. On the ice, he played a tough game, a physical presence that dropped his gloves plenty of times while in uniform for the Washington Capitals, Hartford Whalers, New York Rangers, and Leafs, through eight seasons.

The highlight and lowlight of his career are not hard to guess.

“Some things are just so darn easy to remember, thank goodness,” said Kypreos. He closes his eyes and can feel himself on “a float going down the Canyon of Heroes in New York City for the [1994] Stanley Cup parade, like it was yesterday, five minutes ago.”

The end of his career, seen by many in a disturbing YouTube video, came as a Leaf, during a fight with Ryan VandenBussche of the Rangers, Kypreos falling to the ice, gushing blood. That was tough to revisit.

“I've always kind of brushed off my career-ending injury as just part of the job, or, just the unfortunate risks that we took. But revisiting it in a positive way put a lot of closure on it, in terms of me truly understanding it,” he said of the preseason incident on September 15, 1997.

Years later, deep into a career as a broadcaster, Kypreos had VandenBussche on a Sportsnet special. Reflecting on it now, he doesn't think he processed the moment properly at the time. “I was just caught up in what would make a good TV. But I didn't take it personally enough. And although I thought my thoughts and what I was saying on air, were true, and where I felt, I didn't absorb it emotionally enough, because I was so busy trying to appease my producers to make good television. And once again, revisiting it in the book, I was able to put it in its proper place for me emotionally.”

Kypreos sees the very idea of an autobiography as deeply personal, you are committing time to delve into someone's life (not a big reader, he recently read Miroslav Frycer's memoir). Slowing down (a bit) to work on it, having stepped away from Sportsnet, the book was good for his own soul.

“It really gave me an opportunity to reflect. And everybody says once your career is over, that's when you really start reflecting and appreciating it,” Kypreos mused. “No, you're always in the present, or thinking about the future. You don't really ever go back and give it the quality time to truly absorb how you got to this certain point in your life today. But the book did that for me.”

Some of the details of his own life were crystal clear and others foggy through time. But it all came back, eventually.

“For the most part, I didn't struggle at all. I've had multiple concussions and as my wife says, I can forget to take the garbage out on Wednesday, but I remember going to Yankee Stadium with Mark Messier and Brian Leetch like it was yesterday. ?Yeah, hon, it's Yankee Stadium.'”

Those '94 champion Rangers come up in another anecdote, explaining how everyone has their own memory.

“We had a Stanley Cup reunion for our '94 championship in New York, a little over a year ago. And it's so funny to listen everybody's version of certain stories and events. You'd listen to Mike Keenan tell the story, and then it would be Brian Leetch going, ?Well, I don't really remember it that way,'” said Kypreos. “And it's true, because everybody could experience the same story, but everybody could have different versions of how they interpreted it, or the lesson they got out of it, or what they remember most about it. And that's the way I really looked at this book, that ultimately, it's just my version of the events in my life. I hope my voice comes through in it, because it's my interpretation.”

On top of working on the book over the last year, Kypreos has also launched the Little Buddha Cocktail Co. (www.littlebuddhacc.com) with his wife and a long-time family friend, for something completely different. “I wanted to do something away from the game, too, which was really important for me to show that there's more to life than hockey,” he said. “We went totally off the board and formed a cocktail company called Little Buddha. And we were able to get a cocktail in the LCBO. And it's been a great experience too.”

What Kypreos will have little trouble with is the promotional aspect of things. He's thoughtful and considerate in conversation, in contrast to the on-air personality who has dueled with Doug McLean (who wrote the foreword), or spouts his opinion or chats with hockey players and coaches on his Real Kyper at Noon show (www.youtube.com/linemovement), which exists as a YouTube event and a podcast.

He has been a sought-after voice on hockey in general for decades now.

“If promoting this book doesn't come easy to me, then I've really wasted 21 years of my life!” he joked.

“Whether this book sells one or a million, I don't think it will truly change the way I feel about it. It was actually a very good exercise, it was a very good experience. In many ways, for me personally, to start a new chapter in my life at age 54, it was almost kind of like a therapeutic process for me, if that kind of makes sense where, again, not only putting closure on certain events in my life, but just to truly understand how you got here is a wonderful experience.

“I've said this before, whether or not you want to write a book or not, putting your life through pen and paper is a really amazing experience. I can sit at a bar having a few beers with somebody, and talking about certain events—and I have a million times—but it's nothing compared to doing what I did with Perry for 12 months. Now that's a real clear look in the mirror like you've never had your whole life.”

Co-author Perry Lefko shows off his Eddie Olczyk and Nick Kypreos projects.

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As always, I welcome your suggestions, notes, and feedback on other books and authors to feature here. You can email me at goliver845@gmail.com and you can follow me on Twitter @gregmep. For info on my own books, see OliverBooks.ca