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 761 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.

Viewed 761 times

Go to top

Podnieks delivers a flurry of firsts
Posted November 13, 2019

Herb Carnegie's story still relevant today
Posted November 07, 2019

On the Bench and Shack aim to put fun back in hockey books
Posted October 31, 2019

Eddie Olczyk's Beating the Odds not just a hockey book
Posted October 22, 2019

Pelletier back in game, sharing Canucks pain
Posted October 17, 2019

OFFSIDE fills in the ?gap’ in women’s hockey history
Posted October 09, 2019

Saving hockey the noble goal of Before The Lights Go Out
Posted September 30, 2019

The modest empire of DeMarco’s "Small Saves" goaltender
Posted September 25, 2019

Farris' It Takes 23 to Win really '5 books in 1'
Posted September 20, 2019

CBC Radio's Jeremy Allingham explores 'Human Cost of Fighting'
Posted September 03, 2019

Victoria hockey book a long time coming
Posted August 19, 2019

Beers and books with Goldie and Liam
Posted June 14, 2019

Book on Kansas City Scouts a real Treasure
Posted May 28, 2019

Exploring Seattle's rich hockey history
Posted May 13, 2019

The unappreciated Lionel Hitchman and George Orton
Posted April 29, 2019

Addicted to Hockey, in Any Format
Posted April 13, 2019

The Stanley Cup and Kate's hockey greatness
Posted April 01, 2019

Writing and illustrating about hockey for developing readers
Posted March 17, 2019

Johnston and Walter re-team with more Plays and Strategies
Posted March 03, 2019

More Orr and Rangers via self-published books
Posted February 18, 2019

The overachieving 1978-79 Rangers get their due
Posted February 06, 2019

Commito delivers a year's worth of hockey stories
Posted January 16, 2019

Ending the year with the bestselling Kirstie McLellan Day
Posted December 30, 2018

Feel Good Book of the Year
Posted December 16, 2018

New Oilers book will have fans gushing
Posted December 05, 2018

Legend of Johnny Bower lives on
Posted November 20, 2018

Baruchel puts his love of hockey onto the page
Posted November 06, 2018

Going Back to 1993 Again
Posted October 24, 2018

Down Goes Brown found time for a book
Posted October 09, 2018

Getting to know Bob Chrystal
Posted September 25, 2018

Five S's: Steven Sandor's Sports Stories showcased
Posted September 12, 2018

Let's hear from the moms
Posted August 29, 2018

Good as Goldham
Posted July 19, 2018

Keeping the WHA memory alive
Posted July 03, 2018

The Price is right
Posted June 19, 2018

Take off with the Flying Fathers
Posted June 06, 2018

Considering those general managers
Posted May 24, 2018

The Russian Five come alive in print and film
Posted May 11, 2018

The 'number' of Rangers books grows
Posted April 25, 2018

MacGregors deliver hockey magic
Posted April 13, 2018

When it's not just a hockey book
Posted March 20, 2018

Textbook Goaltending
Posted March 08, 2018

Denis Gibbons, international man of hockey
Posted February 21, 2018

The ever-compelling tale of the 1948 RCAF Flyers
Posted February 07, 2018

From Manitoba to Latvia
Posted January 23, 2018

Listen up, it's a Hull of a story
Posted January 10, 2018

What a century/year it's been
Posted December 27, 2017

Won't Somebody Think of the Children
Posted December 12, 2017

A Hat Trick of Self-Published Gems
Posted November 30, 2017

Resurrecting the California Golden Seals
Posted November 13, 2017

Dryden Returns to Action
Posted November 01, 2017

Maruk's Highs and Lows
Posted October 19, 2017

Father Knows Best(seller?)
Posted October 03, 2017

Deep in the Heart of Texas
Posted September 21, 2017

The Cat and his Rangers
Posted September 04, 2017

Bien sûr, c'est bien plus que les Canadiens
Posted August 22, 2017

The Sound and the Fury in Hockey Audiobooks
Posted August 09, 2017

Zweig Busy, Marshall almost Ready and Denault on the Mend
Posted July 20, 2017

Stocking the Shelf
Posted July 09, 2017


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