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Bruce Landon, a former WHA goaltender, made a promise to his dying daughter that he would finish his memoir. Through difficult times, he persevered, and in 2019, his book, The Puck Stops Here — My (Not So) Minor League Life came out. It's a tale of love, though a story about hockey.
The 70-year-old Landon took a brief break from his still-busy life to talk about the project.
“It was inspired by my late daughter. When I retired in May of 2017, we were sitting out on my deck having a cocktail, and I got telling stories, and things she didn't know about me growing up, and things she didn't know about what goes on behind the scenes in hockey, both as a player and as management,” began Landon, who worked in management with the various American Hockey League franchises in Springfield, Mass., for decades.
“She was an English major and a writer, and she inspired me to start writing some things down. I kept saying, 'Nobody'd want to read what I have to say.' She said, 'You have to trust me. I think they will.' One thing led to another, so I told her I would try it.”
Obeying his daughter, Landon “started the project very slowly, a few minutes here, a few minutes there, trying to figure out what I wanted to say and what I wanted to talk about.”
Then Tammy Jacobson-Landon got sick, struck by a very rare form of cancer in May 2018. It was no longer a “father-daughter project,” and Landon set it aside, opting to be by her side during chemotherapy sessions.
“One day, after a very rough chemo session, she made me make a commitment to her that I would finish the book. So did,” he recalled.
The rough first draft was finished just days before Tammy Jacobson-Landon died in February 2019.
A commitment is a commitment, though, and others reached out to help “Mr. Hockey” in Springfield, and The Puck Stops Here arrived into the world, a tribute of sorts. “It was inspired by her, and it's my own way to stay connected somehow.”
The memoir takes readers from his youth in Kingston, Ontario, and then Junior A with the Peterborough Petes, coached by Roger Neilson. At the age of 19, he was tending nets for the AHL's Springfield Kings. Though he never made the NHL, though he was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, and the New England Whalers signed him, and he played in Hartford from 1972 to 1977. At that point, he moved into management, as a general manager, and president of Springfield AHL entries. For all his success, Landon is in the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Famer, the Kingston & District Sports Hall of Fame, and the AHL Hall of Fame.
Don't pick The Puck Stops Here expecting analytics or anything like that, he warned.
“My whole intention all along was to write a book that wasn't your typical statistical hockey book, it was more of behind the scenes,” he mused, “certain crazy things that players do, things behind the scenes in the management, ownership-side, a little bit more about my life growing up in Canada.”
Revisiting his nearly 50 years in hockey was a challenge.
“It's a struggle, in part because I've been in hockey my whole life that all the years at some point in time just seem to come together. I'd be questioning, 'Okay, was that coach here in 1982, or was he here in '79?' That kind of thing.”
Admitting that it “probably is not the right way to do a book,” Landon said he “didn't want to get involved in a lot of research on the book. I wanted to do it mostly from memory. If hockey purists want to challenge me on a date or something, go for it, I don't really care, because the book wasn't about that. It was just more about things behind the scenes.”
It's Landon's story after all. “I wanted all stories that I could personally relate to,” he said. Therefore, they are his experiences with former Whalers coach Jack Kelley, or the team's owner, Howard Baldwin. “They're all stories that are 100 per cent true, and all stories I can relate to, because I was a part of it.”
Though Landon's book was published locally, he's the one selling the book (www.brucelandonconsulting.com), heading to the post office a couple of times a week to mail out copies. The response keeps him going.
“Not to be pompous, the feedback has been very positive. People who have read the book have really enjoyed it.”
It's for a good cause, too.
“I'm not making a nickel on the book. All the money is going a charity I set up for my daughter,” he said, referring to the Tammy Jacobson-Landon “I Can Hear You” Scholarship Fund, which benefits the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech in Northampton, where Tammy worked for years.
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