FLINT JOURNAL COLUMN
January 15, 2002
PERHAPS the most interesting aspect of life as a minor-league
hockey player is what happens off the ice instead
of on it.
Everybody can see the on-ice happenings simply by
purchasing a ticket. But few get to see what happens
behind the scenes, in the dressing room and on the
bus as the players and coaches spend six months together
trying to win a championship while making a few bucks.
Writer Jason Cohen paints a dead-on picture about
what minor-league life is like in his new book, "Zamboni
Rodeo." It follows the Austin Ice Bats of the now-defunct
Western Professional Hockey League during the 1997-98
Cohen, a writer for Austin American-Statesman, was
given unlimited access to the Ice Bats. He was the
in dressing room before games and rode the bus with
the club to all of its road games.
Although the book follows a WPHL team, it could just
as well be the Flint Generals he's talking about.
Take it from someone who's been on a couple of lengthy
bus trips with the Flint Bulldogs and the Generals:
Cohen tells you exactly what life is really like in
hockey's lower minor leagues.
He tells you who's feuding with whom; he describes
the trials and tribulations of rookie coach Jim Burton,
who was fired before the season ended; and he details
typical problems such as broken-down buses, inadequate
accommodations and what motivates someone to sacrifice
his body every night for a sometimes-meager paycheck.
The fast-paced story is an easy read that will be
of interest to all hockey fans, especially those of
the Generals and the United Hockey League.
The Ice Bats of '96-97 had two players with ties to
the Generals - former defenseman Ken Ruddick and current
forward Tim Findlay - as well as several others with
Cohen talks to players about themselves, their aspirations
and how their view their teammates. His description
of Ruddick is exactly the same way several of his
former teammates saw Ruddick when he was in Flint
- a player with unlimited skills but little heart
who was soft and selfish.
Findlay is a big part of the story since he was among
the Ice Bats' top players during his rookie year,
which actually was supposed to be played in Flint.
But after one day in the Generals' training camp,
Findlay changed his mind and went home to Windsor,
where he repacked his bags and headed for Austin.
Other Ice Bats' players that UHL fans will recognize
include Muskegon alums Kyle Haviland, Brett Seguin
and Jason Rose as well as and current UHL players
Ryan Pawluk of Port Huron and Christian Soucy of Elmira.
Former Generals' goalies Chris Gordon, Bryan McMullen
and Rob Laurie played against Austin and are also
The book, published last October by GreyStone Books,
won't be available in the United States until spring.
But it can be purchased in Canada or online (www.zambonirodeo.com).
The cost is $21.95 in the United States and $32.95
It's a must for minor-league hockey fans.