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This is Jerry Hack, and this is his book
Jerry Hack, a goaltender by trade, is banking on the fact that you have absolutely no idea who he is or where he played. His memoir is a lot like that too, taking the reader to really out-of-the-way towns for games, with plenty of teammates that you need more than a program to identify.
If you can get past the whole unknown, then Memoir of a Hockey Nobody: They said I couldn't make the NHL, so I went out and proved them right! will bring you some laughs and insight into a level of the game that we rarely hear about, let alone read about.
It's a self-published work, with an assist from Tellwell Talent, and therefore appropriate for his off-the-radar “career” in hockey, from beer leagues to senior circuits. It's a career that the British Columbia native writes was “mostly good, a little bit great, and a whole lot of fun while it lasted.”
“I'm not a writer, I'm a forklift driver! I'm Blue-Collar Guy, I'm Joe Everyman,” Hack chuckled on the phone from B.C., where he works for a lumber company, still working through the COVID-19 lockdown, as it's an essential service.
The pandemic played into the book's release too. “We actually jumped the gun. We weren't going to release the book until October,” Hack said.
The reaction so far has been “amazing,” he said. “I'm actually quite stunned about it. Way more than I ever expected. I didn't think it would have any real mass appeal to anybody who didn't really know me. It's taken me by surprise. I couldn't be more pleased. I'm glad people like it.” (A movie deal next? He won't settle for less than $10-million!)
Though Hack said he has never read them, the book is in the same vein as Grant Lawrence's The Lonely End of the Rink: Confessions of a Reluctant Goalie and Jamie McLennan's The Best Seat In The House: Stories from the NHL--Inside the Room, on the Ice…and on the Bench (written with Ian Mendes), as it is partly about the psyche of a goalie and the role on a team.
Memoir of a Hockey Nobody is all over the map, both in the stories and physically, as he travels from Alaska to California for a chance to tend goal. Hack was a late bloomer in B.C., never playing hockey on any serious scale until he was an adult. He manages to balance summer work, unemployment insurance and low-paying goalie gigs to make it all work.
“The one thing that I thought I had going for me is my story is one that's never really been told before,” said Hack. “If you look at the top seller lists on Amazon, all the books are by NHLers who basically struggled to achieve their dream and they are rags to riches stories, but mine is more of a rags to rags story. It's achieving modest dreams, and being happy with that, and just enjoying the ride.”
There are plenty of laughs—the story of his (non-sexual) nickname “Teabag” might be the funniest thing in the book—but not a lot of dirt. “I sugarcoated a lot of stuff, especially the times where I got treated badly,” he admitted. “I didn't want to rip anybody to shreds, I didn't want to embarrass anybody. It was my story, it really wasn't about the other people, it was about me, and my experience.
“I could have gotten a lot dirtier, stuff that happened on the road trips, I wouldn't want to get into anything private about people.”
Hack debated whether to include details of being molested as a teen, followed not long after by the death of his best friend, Randy, at age 14 from cancer.
“I wrestled with it greatly. It really came down to, I asked my wife what she thought about putting it in the book, and basically she just had one point, 'Did Randy help you with this?'” recalled Hack. Yes, Randy was there as his emotional support when he needed him the most, so it had to be included.
Both horrible incidents helped shape who Hack grew into. “I always go back to that—I'm not going to let anything affect my happiness, nothing. I'm going to be a little bit selfish, which drives my wife batty sometimes ... if I'm not happy, then I can't make anybody else happy, so I'm going to keep it that way.”
“Happy” describes the rest of the book. It's a fun read, bouncing from brutal honesty to wacky stories, as Hack shows off a pretty amazing recollection for games and events.
“I have a pretty good memory,” said Hack. “I pretty much wrote it all off the top of my head, the bulk of it anyway. For about a month and a half, I was driving my wife batty because we'd be asleep in bed and I'd bolt up in the middle of the night, running for the computer, because I had to write a story that I just remembered.”
He checked some facts, like full names on rosters, and an old coach in Saskatchewan had a scrapbook that helped with with details, but the rest came relatively easy. “It almost wrote itself, really. I feel guilty, because I didn't do much research. I mean, I got the help of a few guys that I played with, and a coach that I had, but other than that, it was just kind of was organic and wrote itself.”
Memoir of a Hockey Nobody ends like many hockey books, with the abrupt conclusion of a career. Hack tried refereeing but rheumatoid arthritis was the new challenging competition.
“When the time came, I knew it was the end of the road. The last season that I played, there were just too many days where I was on my way to the rink and I really didn't feel like playing and wished that I didn't have to,” Hack concluded. “And at that point, I just knew that I had to give it up because it just wasn't a good attitude to have. When I got to the rink and got my stuff on, and got out on the ice, I was fine. But having that little doubt in your mind whether you should be there or not, it was just time.”
Instead, Hack's “different priorities”—a wife and daughter—took him away from hockey ... until now, with a memoir that has him right back in the game.
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