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Chris Mizzoni and his books
Time between sequels isn't a surprise in and of itself. However, with Chris Mizzoni's two books on Clancy Cooke, the 13 years in between comes with a lot of backstory.
You see, Clancy with the Puck came out in 2007, published by Raincoast Books, at the height of the British Columbia-based publisher's heyday, and Mizzoni rode that wave, with the book selling about 10,000 copies. IT even had a promo vide narrated by Bob Cole available on YouTube.
Raincoast “made their hay on Harry Potter, distributing Harry Potter 25 years ago when nobody knew what it was,” said Mizzoni while taking a break from hiking up a mountain outside Vancouver. “That allowed them to subsidize their Canadian publishing, and they were putting out 100 titles a year. And mine was the number one Canadian title right after they put out Harry Potter, the second amount of money they put in marketing wise. It was great, and I was looking at a publishing career. I was having scotch with the CEO at Christmas time in his office, he greenlit a couple of books and that. Of course, once the last Harry Potter came out, all the money went away. I got a letter in the mail from the CEO saying, 'We're not going to publish anything more, we're just going to distribute.' I had 10,000 books, printed out, sold, shortlisted on a bunch of library awards.”
Fortunately, Mizzoni has always had a day job, working in animation. That goes back to his days at Oakville, Ontario's Sheridan College in its renowned animation course.
In 1991, while in school, Mizzoni, a big hockey fan, first dreamed up Clancy Cooke, hockey's answer to baseball's famed Casey at the Bat. It percolated until he had work in a B.C. Animation studio. “I pitched it to my studio, and they said, 'Yeah, this is good, let's try and sell it to Raincoast also.'”
It all worked out for Mizzoni, including a short, five-minute movie, Clancy with the Puck. It features Bob Cole as the narrator, and the DVD was included with hardcover books. “They put a lot of money into,” he said of Raincoast.
As with Casey, things don't all work out for Clancy, though. “At the end, he fails, and it's a down ending. But not everything's going to be happy, kind of a tale of hubris. And I had to have him come back, and end on a higher note now, in the second one.”
Clancy Makes a Comeback is the sequel, and without spoiling the story, let's just say that there's a happier ending, even if Clancy still has much go wrong in his hockey career and life.
Mizzoni referred to Clancy as a “Charlie Conacher-type character,” but fans will recognize the direct link to a famed story from the past, when Lester Patrick went from behind the bench to the net as an emergency goaltender. “I was always fascinate by that Lester Patrick story,” said Mizzoni, reminding everyone that the story was written a dozen years ago, so it has nothing to do with Toronto Maple Leafs emergency goalie David Ayers going in net for the Carolina Hurricanes from recent times.
The drawings in both books, and the also recently-released Hockey Phrases for Kids are lively and colourful, and have an inspiration lost on the younger set, but recognizable to those who might be reading the books to their progeny.
“The main design was the cartoons in the back hockey cards in the '70s,” he said, referring to the small art that were on Topps and O-Pee-Chee cards. “It was a weird design. They were very simple drawings.” Mizzoni even owns a few of the original drawings.
The deep dive into more books at www.east3creations.com is a family affair. His wife, who is studying for her MBA, is onboard. “She's telling me, 'Keep writing books and let's get them out there.'” chuckled Mizzoni. Pandemic living means their daughter is home and helping with the social media pitch.
The next book? Probably something on Cyclone Taylor's early life, including a backwards skating race. Mizzoni also has run his hockey blog, Nitzy's Hockey Den, for eons too.
The years between books mean that there are new eyes on the work. “It's a lot of my friends that bought it for their kids back 12 years ago, they're buying it now for their younger cousins and nephews.”
ADDING TO THE MAPLE LEAFS LIST
A lot has happened to the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise since the 2014 book, 100 Things Maple Leafs Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, came out.
For one, the team drafted Auston Matthews number one overall in 2016, and has a competitive, young team, complimented by veterans such as a John Tavares, and, now in 2020-21 (or whenever the season starts), Joe Thornton.
Unfortunately, in that same time period, one of the authors of the book died as well. Mike Leonetti, an author of many hockey books, passed away in 2016, so it fell to Paul Patskou to revamp the book for Triumph Books.
Officially, it's been “updated and revised,” but in an email interview, Patskou said that it was more than that.
“I actually revised almost every story from the previous edition,” said Patskou. “It was not difficult to decide which stories to replace. In fact, I wanted to replace more with new stories. The publisher only asked for five new stories but I did several more.”
Leonetti was on Patskou's mind as he wrote. “I did think of what he would have done but I had to make all the decisions on my own.” There is a dedication to Mike as well.
New entries include:
Every author has their own way of writing, and Patskou said that he and Leonetti meshed well. “The way I write is to tell 'backstories' and present and solve mysteries. I did that with the new stories and Mike and I did that with some stories in the first book.”
Of course, the question on minds in Leaf Nation is, Will there need to be another update with a Stanley Cup win?
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