Two Minutes for Reading so Good

The Stanley Cup and Kate's hockey greatness

Two Minutes for Reading so Good

Greg Oliver

The Stanley Cup and Kate's hockey greatness

Posted April 01, 2019

Viewed 1284 times

Eric Zweig was so surprised to see the ad for his book in the Toronto Star on December 8, 2018, that he posted this photo to Facebook

In the music industry, every so often a song from the past makes it back onto the charts, usually tied into a film or TV show, like Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody” charting in three different decades. It doesn't happen very often with books.

So for a book from 2012, updated, to make the Top 10 lists in Canada at Christmastime 2018, it's a moment worth celebrating.

Part of the success this go-round of Stanley Cup: The Complete History, an official Hockey Hall of Fame book written by Eric Zweig, is a publicity push by Firefly Books, and a revamped layout, with a lower price point.

“The format of this book is so different from the first,” said Zweig in an email, referring to the slightly-differently titled Stanley Cup: 120 Years of Hockey Supremacy. “A lot of things had to be cut ... and even at that, this one runs 528 pages. The original edition included about a dozen 'essays' on various themes (Bill Barilko's goal, Bob Baun's goal, the Montreal-Detroit rivalry of the 1950s, etc.) as well as several 'My Most Memorable Moment' from the pages of Hockey Digest. All that was cut. This book just has year-by-year recaps, including stats and notes, all the way back to 1893.”

The 2012 edition (also from Firefly) had more of a coffee-table book feel to it, and featured Bob Gainey hoisting the Cup along with his victorious Montreal Canadiens. The new edition has Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman hoisting the chalice.

For this go-round, Zweig added six more seasons, as the previous book ended with the Los Angeles Kings' first Cup win.

But for all the blood, sweat and tears an author puts into a product, sales are dictated by outside forces.

“I was very happy to see the large ads in sports sections (I know they ran in the Globe and the Star; don’t know how many others) in the weeks leading up to Christmas. And very surprised!” admitted Zweig, who has more than 40 books to his name. “I’ve never has such a push for my books before ... and I’ve never had any of my books reach the top 10 in the Canadian best-sellers lists, so I don’t see how there could not be a connection!

“On the other hand, even the marketing people at Firefly seemed surprised. They’re not really sure what to attribute its success to! The price ($24.95) was certainly better than the original, huge, hardcover edition ($45). And perhaps people like the new format better. And I do believe the 'non-traditional' book sellers (Walmart, Costco) were all over it. But I think the advertising had to help.”

For more on Zweig, check out his website:

 Kate's Really Good at Hockey


Kate's Really Good at Hockey is a really good hockey graphic novel. In talking to the co-authors in separate interviews, they both used a word I was unfamiliar with in reference to the book.

It came up in each conversation, referring to Howard Shapiro's original idea being modified, with a lot of help from Christina M. Frey. The word was

retcon /'retkän/

which Shapiro used as a noun and Frey used as a verb. Since I didn't know the word, the Internet came through as it often does, usually when trying to make sure you spell the last name of the latest Soviet import to the NHL correctly. It's short for “retroactive continuity” and it's a showbiz term that essentially means that a project started out one way and veered in another direction.

“The Kate book is a retcon of a self-published book I did called Hockey Days, which is about a father and son and how hockey brought them together,” said Shapiro. “This one, I wanted to retcon it to be about a mother and daughter and grandmother.”

Enter (the) Frey. “He wanted to retcon an idea he had for a previous book but he wanted to re-think it in terms of a girl's experience,” said Frey. “One of the very important things to both of us was that there be a girls' sports book that didn't revolve around boys or romance, just girls playing sports and their relationships. And that was a very big focus of this particular story.”

Kate's Really Good at Hockey is aimed at 8-12 year olds, and Frey's 13-year-old daughter was, in the words of Shapiro, “our secret weapon” making sure the characters were speaking like kids would. “We tried to make it as honest as possible,” said Shapiro.

The promotional blurb sets up the story: “Kate can't wait to attend the elite girls' hockey camp in Denver and go up against some of the best players from around the world. But then Mom says Kate has to stay with her grandma in Denver, who doesn't care about Kate's hockey dreams at all. And two players at the camp have it in for Kate both on and off the ice. Toss in a tough-as-nails coach and a huge family secret, and Kate's perfect summer isn’t turning out quite like she planned.”

Shapiro is an accountant by day, but at Animal Media Group, which produces books and documentaries. Frey ( has edited about five books for the publisher, and Shapiro called her a “phenomenal editor,” especially on memoirs.

When he is not crunching numbers, Shapiro works on his books, which now number nine. Hockey Days, which came out in 2007, was Shapiro's first hockey book, following two children's books, Hanukkah Counts Too! and Destructo Boy & Spillerella ... We Are Who We Are! Then Hockey Player For Life came out in 2011, and there are three books in his Forever Friends series of graphic novels: The Stereotypical Freaks (2013), The Hockey Saint (2014), Hockey Karma (2016). “The hockey books I've done are not the typical, kid scores a goal, wins the championship game kind of thing. There's always been more to it than that, as far as life lessons you learn from playing the game,” he said.

He's a big hockey fan, but he didn't start playing on ice until he was 13 years old. “It taught me so much as far as hard work, being a teammate, all those kind of things that I never got from playing baseball or basketball or any other team sport that I was in,” he said. Shapiro has been going to a few Pittsburgh Penguins games each season for years and years, and usually includes a trip to Toronto to see the Leafs yearly too, as he is buddies with organist Jimmy Holmstrom. In 2010, Shapiro launched a corporate sponsorship program has donated 2,500 of his children's hockey books to NHL teams for their community and educational initiatives, and he's organized a charity raffle since 2006 that has raised funds for hockey-related charities, including the Mario Lemieux Foundation and Hockey Fights Cancer. (Email Howard at to get involved.)

Frey is happy that Shapiro could deal with the hockey aspect of Kate since that was not her area of expertise. “I did not come to this story with much hockey experience, other than living in Canada. I was actually a baseball player,” she said. Frey currently lives in Maryland.

Their illustrator, Jade Gonzalez, did not have any experience either. She lives in Chile. But together, teamwork paid off. “It's a team effort because there's an illustrator, there's a colourist, there's a letterer, proofing, there's a whole group of people involved. It's a long process,” said Shapiro. But this one came together pretty quickly, with the script finished in January, and to the printer by September.

There's a magic to a graphic novel, said Shapiro. “It's just wonderful to see it come to life. That's what I like about doing graphic novels. You take it from the page, and just to see it literally spring to life is really an amazing, amazing thing.”



Author David Salter announced that he has signed a deal with Nimbus Publishing to write a book about the untold stories of World Hockey Association players from Atlantic Canada.

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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 and you can follow me on Twitter @gregmep. For info on my own books, see