Book Review – Guest Blogger Dennis Kane
Oh, those wild and wacky pro hockey general managers. Maker of dreams, slayer of dreams. Bigger than life, often crusty, sometimes Ivy League, these are hockey men in suits walking a fine line between owners and players, trying to build the elusive winner, and make huge profits while doing so.
In Jason Farris’ fine book Behind The Moves these men behind the scenes are examined like never before. Up until now, they’ve remained in the shadows while the stars of the game, and others, took front and centre stage. So finally we have a book about general managers, and what a book it is.
Farris sat down with the GM’s from every National Hockey League city, recorded more than 120 hours of material from these fellows, and instead of using his own words to take us behind the scene, simply let the men in power do the talking. The result is so ultimately fascinating, so eye-opening, so in-depth, and so unlike any book I‘ve ever seen in dealing with these movers and shakers.
We’ve read in the past about the shady methods of Jack Adams in Detroit and the genius of Sam Pollock, but never before have I seen a completely up-front view up of not just those from before, but now, the ones behind the wheel in today’s game.
Behind The Moves takes us from owners hiring these fellows (“You have to stick with them, like the Islanders and Red Wings stuck with their people, no matter what the early results are.” Jim Devellano), to the GM community itself, (“It’s a den of thieves. The business is such that you don’t necessarily care about the ethics if it’s going to help your hockey team.” Jay Feaster).
It’s a book that explains how many have no idea in the beginning how to be a GM – “For me becoming a GM was the first time in fucking 20 years that I had a pen in my hand, really, other than signing autographs.” Bobby Clarke.
I couldn’t turn away from this book. We see “off the record” snide and shocking revelations of underhanded methods, of the way some back stab and find fault with peers and how it feels to uproot families by dealing a player away. And how do they deal with agents and salary caps and media? It’s all explained here.
It’s a book of GM lingo and GM history and quotes galore from those in the business past and present. We see how they draft, and pull strings, and live their lives trying to capture the glory of the Stanley Cup, and in doing so, hopefully hold on to their jobs for as long as possible.
Why didn’t someone think of writing a book like this before? Such a subject, such a incredible mix of personalities and brain and ego, with lots of luck thrown in for good measure. (“If we hadn’t got Gretzky out of the WHA when we did, you wouldn’t be wasting your day sitting here bullshitting with me.” – Glen Sather)
As legendary Islanders GM Bill Torrey remarked, “So you’re writing a book on NHL general managers. You’ve picked a fertile topic.”
Dennis Kane, former newspaper columnist on BC’s west coast, with articles published in the New York Times, Calgary Herald, and numerous hockey publications, and also creator and sole writer of http://dennis-kane.com/
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