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The “with” on a book’s cover can mean all kinds of things. In the case of Belfry Hockey: Strategies to Teach the World’s Best Athletes, the “with” is Scott Powers, who was tasked with explaining the coaching theories and techniques of hockey player-whisperer Darryl Belfry.
However, this is not an X’s and O’s book, but rather Belfry’s unique systems and wisdom.
Powers covers the NHL for The Athletic in Chicago, and knew Belfry a little as a source, in particular to one of most famous patrons of Belfry Hockey, Patrick Kane—who also wrote the foreword for the book, published by Triumph Books in late 2020.
Belfry and Powers first talked about working together in 2015. The idea percolated. Triumph reached out to Powers about a different project, which Powers passed on, but he pitched the Belfry idea.
“Within a few months, we had a contract,” recalled Powers on the phone on NHL Trade Deadline day (the Blackhawks didn’t end up doing much). “From there, I think we had about a year to write it. It was a weird process where we talked about it, but neither one of us has done a lot of legwork on it.”
This is one of those times where it’s a little difficult to describe a book, so here is the info straight from belfryhockey.com:
Belfry Hockey details this powerful curriculum, developed over years of studying relentlessly to identify strategic advantages others were missing. It’s a system that emphasizes discovering authentic identity, pinpointing translatable skill, building a personal performance matrix, and more. Packed with fascinating stories and valuable insight, this is an unmissable look at how even hockey’s best find ways to get even better.
Powers said to think of it as Belfry’s “philosophies” rather than just lessons. “He’s seen a lot of his work borrowed,” said Powers. “He just wanted to put something out—‘This is how I went about doing this, this is where I came from, this is how I think.’ He wanted to be more of a larger narrative about his life, and how he works with people, and how he thinks.”
They did consider X’s and O’s. “We thought the diagrams bogged down in the book a little bit and steered away from what he wanted it to be,” said Powers.
Belfry Hockey is therefore a mix of personal stories from Belfry, testimonials from big names (Auston Matthews, Hayley Wickenheiser, John Tavares) and unknowns, and lots about how to make players better. It’s well beyond the simplicity of having a left-handed shot playing the opposite wing.
Heck, there’s a glossary just to explain Belfry’s unique terminologies (Spider Hockey! Ice Geography!).
A random couple of lines from Chapter 10, Triple Helix: Awareness: “One of the things we know for sure is the seconds-per-possession rate for the players. In other words, how many seconds is the player on the ice on average before he gets a possession? We want to influence that.”
During a full-day session in person in Florida, Powers realized that his role wasn’t so much about writing the book but more about polishing Belfry’s dictations into something that flowed. That continued after, and Belfry would record himself talking and submit it to Powers to make it work, along with some emails.
The culmination was like a tree, explained Powers; all the twigs and branches were submitted to make the trunk and a whole product, and the tree seeds the hockey coaching world.
Powers tried to deal with the repetitiveness and stressed clarity. “He explained things pretty thoroughly. And then if I had questions, or if I thought something was too wordy, or wasn’t clear, I’d be able to clean it up. The process wasn’t too bad. Darryl obviously did a lot of the heavy lifting with this one.”
A key, said Powers, was that Triumph “saw that this was going to be something that was really going to be directed to the hockey community and coaches and parents and employers. So there was never anything ever expressed over a fear to dumb it down at all. They just gave us free rein with it.”
Powers is working on a more traditional interview-based book now, but isn’t at liberty to say much yet. He is appreciative of The Athletic supporting the outside work. “I need to clear things with them and make sure they know how much my time is being devoted,” admitted Powers. But the day job of covering the Hawks is simpler than the second child arriving shortly, which will throw the household into a bit more chaos.
Down the road, there’s a paperback version of Belfry Hockey: Strategies to Teach the World’s Best Athletes coming out in the fall. Powers is open to working more with Belfry. “Darryl and I are even talking about more ideas, and hockey training and development evolve.”
WALDMAN GETS PERSONAL
Off the hockey book beat comes the book, Swimming Aimlessly: One Man’s Journey through Infertility and What We Can All Learn from It, written by Jon Waldman. Of course, hockey fans will recognize Waldman from his books on the Winnipeg Jets and collecting.
In Swimming Aimlessly, published by Simon & Schuster Canada, Waldman shares his family’s infertility story, a years-long, crazy expensive, physically and emotionally exhausting ride. He also speaks with other couples, doctors, and fertility experts, providing not only the latest science, but more intimate advice about the ups and downs of trying to conceive, keeping the partnership healthy, and dealing with the inevitable losses that come—even when the journey ends in a baby.
There’s no hockey in it, but a few sporting figures come into the narrative, where they may have shared their own issues.
One is Robert Mathis, the now-retired Indianapolis Colts linebacker, who was suspended from NFL play due to banned substances in his bloodstream. It turned out that the issue was Clomid, a drug to address Mathis’s low sperm count.
For more on the book, visit the publisher website.
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