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It's not often that a radio series ends up as a book, but that's what happened with Jeremy Allingham's new tome, Major Misconduct: The Human Cost of Fighting in Hockey.
Allingham, an award-winning journalist at CBC Radio in Vancouver, BC, worked on an audio series called Major Misconduct: Why We Let Kids Fight on Ice. It was primarily a look at junior hockey and the strangeness of allowing teenagers to fight for the enjoyment of others. Ex-NHL tough guy James McEwan was a part of that piece.
“The documentary did very well, and aired in B.C., and then it aired nationally and the story struck a chord online,” explained Allingham over the phone. A colleague swung by to praise the documentary, and off-handedly mentioned, “You've got enough stuff there probably for a book.”
“I kind of just took it as a compliment, and said, 'That's nice, thank you.' Then I started thinking, 'Well, maybe I do,'” recalled Allingham.
Shortly after the Major Misconduct radio doc aired, Allingham did a piece on a former NHL enforcer, Stephen Peat, which struck a different chord. Focusing on Peat's messed-up post-hockey career, living on the street and battling addiction issues, Allingham found himself drawn in. “I have a lot of compassion for the guy. He played hockey in my home town, so I just felt a connection to him.”
“As I went, and these stories continued to emerge,” he said. The kicker was Dale Purinton getting in touch with Allingham, hoping to reconnect with Peat, who was an old teammate/foe, and a fellow rehab patient Peat.
It clicked for Allingham. “I just realized this was a pretty good book with these three stories of these guys with really interesting backgrounds, and post-playing careers, the struggles and challenges they faced. I pitched it to a couple of publishers and Arsenal picked it up.”
In simple terms, the book, Major Misconduct, details the life and times of three fighters, James McEwan, Stephen Peat, and Dale Purinton, but it's far more than that. It's an exploration of fighting in 2019 terms. The promotional material lays it out: “The debate surrounding fighting in hockey is hotly contested on both sides. This daring and revelatory book explores the lives of those who bare-knuckle boxed on ice for a living and investigates the human cost we're willing to tolerate in the name of hockey fighting.” Daniel Carcillo, who was the enforcer on two Chicago Black Hawks Stanley Cup teams, penned the foreword.
Allingham recognizes that his is hardly the first book to delve into the world of fighting, and noted recent important books on two dead tough guys, Derek Boogaard and Steve Montador. “That ended up being my book's raison d'etre, was to be a book about the guys who are still here,” he said.
Unlike writing about someone who is gone, Allingham found himself having to keep his subjects on the same page. It was a challenge “to not only find these guys, but then keep them on board and to get them to share some of this really raw, difficult stuff that they're going through. These are tough guys with a lot of pride. They used to skate and fight and shoot and score in front 20,000 people, however many nights a year, and now they're not left with much. That part of it was really challenging.”
Going from an audio format to written word—roughly 70,000 in its 320 pages—was also a challenge. “I look at storytelling as one skill, or as one endeavour, and I think the only differences are really only the finite detail, the logistical details of, one is going to be done using a certain set of equipment and ... when it comes to a book, there's such a broader depth of detail that you need,” he said. A great quote can make a radio piece, but it's only a small part of a book. “You need to really, really string a story out and get a lot more detail, a lot more background, a lot more history. You use way more quotes.”
“It's like building out a more detailed, broader narrative when it comes to writing a book, as where a long CBC Radio documentary would be 10, 15 minutes, and that's really not that long, when you think about it, as compared to writing.”
With a supportive family at home and a publisher helping out a first-time author, Allingham (who is also a successful musician) jumped in with both feet. “It just required such a great, overarching amount of focus, from myself to complete the amount of work,” he said. “I'm used to working on day-of stories, maybe I work on it toward next week, but, writing this book over 14 months was definitely different for me. So that was a bit of a learning process.”
There's no question where Allingham stands on the debate about fighting in hockey. He wants it gone. His thoughts are right there on the page, and he begins the book with a Twitter flame-session that began over a Don Cherry post.
“Leading off with the Don Cherry tweets was important because, not only did it insert myself as someone who is going to navigate and explore this world, but it also really, nicely set the table for the issue as a whole, and it exposes myself as someone who did believe in hockey fighting and all those things before, and then kind of reveals a moment where I go, 'Wait a minute, what am I doing here?'” said Allingham, providing context. “The story about being at the Vancouver Giants game, and watching the two kids fight before the puck even drops, and watching everyone rise around me and scream for it. Then the tweets outline the opposing faction or the opposing side of the equation when it comes to hockey fighting in Canada and across North America. That was a leaping off point that worked for me.”
Allingham is proud of Major Misconduct: The Human Cost of Fighting in Hockey and is more than prepared to back up his views. “It's been very cool to enter this world with not too much knowledge of it, and then doing what I do best, which is tell stories and have other people support that. Hopefully we'll see some results, with not only some good sales, but just some good conversations about this issue.”
Jeremy Allingham - Photo: Rebecca Blissett
RUSS CONWAY AND HOCKEY'S MOST IMPORTANT BOOK
Sad news to report with the passing of Russ Conway at the age of 70 in mid-August. Conway was, of course, the man who was primarily responsible for bringing down Alan Eagleson while working at the Eagle-Tribune newspaper in North Andover, MA. A beat reporter for the Boston Bruins, beginning in 1967, his work uncovering all the corruption got him nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in beat reporting, and later, he was honoured with the Elmer Ferguson Award by the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.
While much of the work appeared in the newspaper, his book, Game Misconduct: Alan Eagleson and the Corruption of Hockey, deserves an essential spot on every fan's bookshelf, and, perhaps more importantly, should be required reading for every rookie entering the NHL—along with Carl Brewer's book, Power Of Two: Carl Brewer's Battle With Hockey's Power Brokers—to understand the path that was laid by predecessors allowing them to make millions and millions playing hockey.
For more on Conway, here's a link to the obituary in the Eagle-Tribune newspaper.
There's a good amount of hockey in Baseball America's Atlanta Braves: Before They Were Stars, but it's all in the entry on Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine. For those who don't know, after much success in high school in Billerica, Massachusetts, Glavine was actually drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round of the 1984 NHL Entry draft. Ah, for the path not taken.
If you read Swedish or are a die-hard hockey book completionist, there's a just-released book on Leksand IF, the Swedish Hockey League club that is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a club, with the hockey club starting in 1937. Leksand IF has won four national championships: 1969, 1973, 1974, and 1975, and, it was noted, that 87 players have played both in Leksand and in the NHL. Check it out here: https://idrottsforlaget.se/produkt/leksands-if-100-ar/
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