Thursday, June 26, 2014

When Hockey Dreams Meet Reality

With the NHL Draft coming up tomorrow, there’s a ton of focus on the top picks. Teams and fans are salivating over the prospect of adding defenceman Aaron Ekblad, or centres Sam Bennet and Sam Reinhart to their roster. The sports radio station in Vancouver has been hypothesizing all the ways that the Canucks can trade to get the first pick. But I suspect that sports pundits in every NHL city but Miami are hypothesizing the same thing.

Lots of crazed fans even watch the draft—not me of course(cough, cough). Most only pay attention to the first round. What about the later rounds?

I recently flew to Montréal and one of my entertainment options was a National Film Board feature on junior hockey. Naturally, I chose that. As an aside, what could be more Canadian than flying Air Canada and watching an NFB film on hockey? Oh, it was bilingual too. The film is called Junior and it follows a Quebec junior team called Drakkar Baie Comeau for one season. The focus is mainly on a couple of players who are in their draft year and working hard to get noticed. It begins at with the first win of the season and concludes at the draft where only one of the players is selected—in the last round. If you’d like to watch this movie, which is mainly en français, you can see it online here.

While watching, I thought it was a fictional movie where they combine real footage with filmed segments—in part because there was so much emotion and the central player was quite good-looking. But it turned out to be a documentary, and all the emotion was completely real. The players, who range in age from 16 to 20, have the bodies of men, but the minds of young boys. There was a lot of crying, not only about losing games, but about getting traded, not playing enough, or even being lonely. The players are all under a ton of  pressure, and they are far from home and without family support. They have to perform for the team, their agents, and for the NHL scouts. Sometimes those goals are in conflict. But the main goal is always the same: getting drafted.

Superfans  analyze past drafts and moan about the players their team shoulda, coulda, woulda taken. But in reality not everyone in the first round even makes the NHL, and if you’re drafted in the later rounds, it’s a complete crapshoot.

This movie allowed me to see the pain of being an extremely talented player who was used to being the best, made tons of sacrifices and then had his dreams shattered in one day. If you’ve always believed youd play pro hockey, what happens when that dream is exploded? Its this human drama that always inspires me, both to watch sports and to write about sports.
Of course, you can keep hoping. As the hero of my upcoming book says, And there was one guy who went to our school, he got taken in the last round of the draft and he still made it to the NHL. You couldn’t ever give up.” He is referring to the real-life David Jones of North Vancouver, who was the last pick of the Colorado Avalanche and still made it to the NHL. He is currently playing for the Calgary Flames. But he never played Major Junior, he stayed at home and played Junior A, went on to an Ivy League college, and then made the NHL. He obviously didn't count on playing in the NHL. 

Maybe the better message is to keep those dreams, but have a backup plan. If you watch the draft, spare a thought for those lower round guys out sweating it out in the stands. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Introducing Melanie Ting, Book Reviewer

Like most writers, I love to read as well. My reading habits are pretty diverse, but when I first got my Kindle I made the mistake of getting a bunch of free romances. That was a trip to the intersection of Credulity Crescent and Predictability Place. I understand that some readers like to escape the real world, but I think you can escape without completely breaking the gravitational pull of common sense. However I may be wrong, which happened once in 2010.

So when it comes to romance, I stick to ones about hockey. At least if it’s bad, I still get to read about hockey. Sadly though, certain hockey romances seem to have been written by people who don’t know anything about hockey. This is something that mystifies me. Why on earth would you write about something you didn’t have a real enthusiasm for?

Anyway, I’m the world’s pickiest reader when it comes to hockey romances. And I can’t even vent, since reviewing hockey romances would be a conflict of interest for me. Not to mention the possible retaliation. “Oh, so Melanie Ting hated my realistic novel about an orphan from Africa who made his way up to the top line in the NHL and won the love of a beauty queen/sports reporter/trial lawyer/animal rights activist? Well, let me trash her stupid book about…cookies? What the heck?”

Meanwhile, Ali Crean offered to review my book for her fabulous book blog, All the Things Inbetween. And by offered, I mean she put a call out for indie books to review and I applied. She scheduled a review of my book for April, but then she got so sick that she completely stopped posting and reviewing. Desperate, she sent out a message asking if anyone would like to help her out by providing blog content. 

SuperMel to the rescue. I offered to write a couple of book reviews and author interviews. But because I’m lazy busy, I reviewed two books I had already loved and interviewed two authors I already knew. I figured I could kill a whole flock of birds with one stone (with that analogy, I’m clearly not an animal rights activist heroine) by helping out Ali, promoting two authors I admire, and also getting my name out there. And now maybe when Ali finally reads my book, she’ll think, “Well, that Cookie book’s okay, but Mel did me a solid by doing those reviews, so 5 stars!” I know, Machiavelli has nothing on my twisted mind.

My interviews and reviews have already started running. This week I interviewed Kate Willoughby and reviewed her book, On the Surface, is today. Next week, I interview Jaymee Jacobs, and review Play the Man. And do check out the rest of Ali's book blog. Her review style is like a literary cat on crack. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Having no experience at all in book reviewing, I went for the humour, and both Kate and Jaymee were totally hilarious in their interviews. Check them out and see for yourself.

Interview with Kate Willoughby where we play Marry, Date or Dump with members of the Los Angeles Kings. Woot!

Review of Kate Willoughby's hockey romance, On The Surface.

Review of Jaymee Jacob's hockey romance, Play The Man.

Interview with Jaymee Jacobs, where she explains how to tell if you're talking to a puck bunny or a hockey fan. In case you didn't know. Also you can play the Love Triangle Game, invented by me!