Bailey, Sports Book Review
You may not be able to tell a book by its cover, er,
title, but you have to admit this is a great title.
Zamboni and rodeo are two words that don't normally
go together, but it works in the context of this book.
For Cohen has written a book about pro hockey in Texas,
of all places. As you may know, Texas has more professional
hockey franchises than any other state. The leagues
have resembled accordians over the years, as teams
have come and gone, but the interest is there. It's
difficult to get any information about hockey's answer
Double-A baseball, and that's the obvious appeal to
someone who isn't in
the immediate area of the Central Hockey League. What's
the game like down
there at that level?
Cohen spent portions of the 1997-98 season with the
Austin Ice Bats, and wrote a book on his experiences.
It turns out that hockey in Austin has more in common
with NHL hockey than you'd think. Cohen gets a great
deal right here. The bus rides are a legendary part
of the sport at that level, and he has the feeling
of those long rides down. Yes, the buses sometimes
don't work, and players have to eat at Dairy Queens
at times. The problems of a particular team - power
play not working, lack of an offensive defensemen
- can be found anywhere.
It's also amazing how many connections there are to
hockey of other levels. Many of these guys are fresh
out of junior hockey, where they played with someone
famous. There's also some other, more unexpected ties.
Former NHL players Blaine Stoughton and Paul Lawless
are involved with Austin's front office. Bruce Shoebottom,
who played for the Bruins in the late 1980's, pops
up with Austin at the end of his career. Brian Curran,
who bounced around a few teams in the NHL, turns up
in the Western
Professional Hockey League here. Brent Hughes, another
ex-Islander and Sabre, later
became the Ice Bats' coach. It is one big fraternity.
My biggest fear was that a book written about the
1997-98 season would be hopelessly dated, but that
wasn't really the case. It's not like I followed Austin's
season or knew many of the players, so it all came
out fresh. And the experiences of those involved are
Now here's the bad news. As profiles of seasons go,
this is a little
formless. Cohen didn't spend every waking moment with
the team that season, and I found there were gaps
in the narratives. That made it difficult to follow
the season as it went along. It wouldn't have taken
much, just some well-chosen paragraphs, to avoid a
lot of confusion. My basic question going into the
book was, "How good are the players?" After
reading this, I still don't know. There's plenty of
talk of guys not being ready to play "in the
next level," but I didn't get any perspective
on the overall quality of play. That hurt the book.
I also took the step after a while of printing out
the final stats of that team from the Internet Hockey
Database. I turned that into a reference point for
looking up players as I read, and it helped a great
deal. Plenty of players come and go here, and it would
have been much easier to follow them with a roster.
More pictures - with captions right on the page -
would have been nice too.
Still, I'm glad Cohen succeeded in getting this published.
It's a quick read that satisfied my curiosity about
a subject, and you can tell Cohen cares about the
team and his players. And if you order it directly
from his Web site he'll send you an autographed copy.