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Wasn't that a great Frozen Four this year? The best American college hockey players congregating in Detroit at Little Caesars Arena, battling it out for supremacy, April 9-11, 2020. Wait, right, that didn't happen. Damn virus.
But what did happen was a book release tied into the Frozen Four, which celebrates the student/athletes that don skates.
It's titled Sticks and Stones: How College Hockey Prepares You for Life, and the authors are Russ Cohen and Adam Wodon.
The idea was Cohen's, and it survived a publishing house being sold, and picked up by the new owner, Authors Place Press. Since Cohen had worked with other people on most of his eight previous books on hockey and baseball, he knew who he wanted to work with on this project.
Cohen teamed with Wodon, who runs College Hockey News (https://www.collegehockeynews.com), which Cohen calls “the best college resource on the internet.”
“He is the real college hockey expert. I'm a prospect guy, so I watch a fair amount of college games, and know prospects and go see games and see them and write about them, but I don't know the inner-workings of the leagues that well,” admitted Cohen.
It's been 16 years since Wodon last had a book out—Cornell University Hockey, written with Arthur Mintz. He's thankful to Cohen for the push he needed. “He motivated me to get involved,” said Wodon. “I usually need somebody else to kick me in the rear-end, and that's why it's good to have Russ.”
Set aside the main title, Sticks and Stones, and you get the real gist of the book, How College Hockey Prepares You for Life.
They interview a wide variety of college hockey players through the years, though it's heavily weighted to more current players, talking about their days representing their schools. It's refreshing, for example, to read Mike Richter talking about something other than the New York Rangers 1994 Stanley Cup win. “We only really talk about their college career and maybe what the player is up to now, so, for someone like Richter, not a lot of people have asked him about the University of Wisconsin after his great NHL career,” explained Cohen. “It's been so many years, so he really had to think about that.”
The actual names of who is in the book was fluid, said Wodon. “We worked off a list, but then the list kept growing, but you would narrow it down. Then some guys would, over a couple of year span, would no longer be that relevant. But then other guys were also harder to track down. It worked itself out.”
Adam Wodon interviews Shayne Gostisbehere of Union College at the 2014 National Championship.
Both Wodon and Cohen used their own archives, like a lengthy question and answer session Wodon did with Hockey Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis a few years back. The conversation reads well because, as Wodon noted, “I covered his career since the day he stepped on campus at Vermont.”
They were also both of the same page that women play hockey in college too. To that end, there are profiles on two more members of the HHOF, Angela Ruggiero and Cammi Granato. The criteria, said Wodon, was straightforward: “This is an interesting person to talk to—that was always the focus.”
For every established current star, like James Van Riemsdyk, there are retired role players or up-and-comers. The “prospect guy” Cohen noted goalie Cayden Primeau, who played at Northeastern University. While he might be the son of former NHL star Keith Primeau, “he's really carved out a big name for himself, he's on the Canadiens, maybe he's going to replace Carey Price one year. To me, there's an interesting story there. That's one where it's not just a second-generation player, there's a little more than that.”
It is not meant to be a historical book, by any means, more of a snapshot of players with college experience from recent memory. (Wodon has dreams of one day doing that history book.) Even the oldest entry in the book, Princeton legend Hobey Baker, has a current tie-in. “It's challenging to come up with something for Hobey Baker these days, because there have been books on him, he was a big star athlete, a war hero, all those things,” said Cohen. Again, using his experience as someone who covers the up-and-comers, he reached out to Tim Burke, the assistant manager of the San Jose Sharks who was the team's director of scouting, and Burke wrote up a fictional scouting report on Baker. It's definitely unique.
Also different is the foreword, which is a fun talk between Marty Turco and Brendan Morrison discussing their days together at the University of Michigan. “I thought, ?Hey, if I interview them both together, let's see what we get out of it,'” explained Cohen.
Then there is the one interview that didn't happen, but is still a part of Sticks and Stones. It's an entry on TV and movie star Steve Carell, who was a goalie at Denison University, in Granville, Ohio. “He hasn't done a lot of interviews where he says, ?Yes, I played college hockey, and this is what I did, and this is how I did it,'” said Cohen. “I struck out trying to get Steve.” The interview with Carell's coach and the accompanying photo is gold, though, whether you are a fan of The Office or not.
Like everyone else, both Cohen and Wodon find their lives upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, but have been staying busy covering hockey without there actually being games. Prospects are still prospects, so Cohen is in demand, and Wodon just finished a simulated Frozen Four on his website, where Boston College beat Denver for the national championship.
Nathan Lajoie on the Facebook Hockey Books page—which just passed over 2,000 members—noted some upcoming mainstream releases in fall of 2020:
- The Whalers: The Rise, Fall, and Enduring Mystique of New England’s (Second) Greatest NHL Franchise (Pat Pickens)
- Finding Murph: From First Overall To Living Homeless In The Bush – The Tragic True Story of Joe Murphy (Rick Westhead)
- Fabric of The Game: The Stories Behind The NHL’s Names, Logos, and Uniforms (Chris Creamer & Todd Radom)
- Undrafted: Hockey, Family, and What It Takes To Be A Pro (Nick Kypreos & Perry Lefko)
- Call Me Lanny (Lanny McDonald & Kirstie McLellan Day)
- Catch 22 (Rick Vaive & Scott Morrison)
- Hot Stove: The Untold Stories of The Original Hockey Insiders (Al Strachan)
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