Reprinted from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Jason Cohen has seen it all in the sport of hockey.
And he never had to leave the Austin Ice Bats organization.
The Austin-based freelance writer spent the 1997-98
season behind the scenes with the Ice Bats and watched,
among other things: A rookie goaltender work under
the hood of the stalled team bus; A game be called
by fog; A team go through two coaches and two captains.
"I think probably more teams than not have a circus
atmosphere," Cohen said. "It was extraordinary for
an ownership group to have six coaches in three years
(as the Ice Bats did). It seems weird stuff happens
no matter what."
Cohen's chronicle became a book called _Zamboni Rodeo;
a season in the life of a minor professional hockey
team_. However, don't try looking for this work in
your local book store; it's only being published in
Canada by Greystone.
Because of that, Cohen has been barnstorming through
the league with the Ice Bats selling his book. Cohen
and the Ice Bats visit Municipal Coliseum today for
a 7:05 p.m. faceoff.
The book has been well-received, Cohen said, in spite
of slow sales numbers. Those numbers are no doubt
affected by the lack of availability in the U.S. though
Cohen said he has more promotional plans in store.
"I haven't really been pushing it because it's not
available in the States," he said. "I've got some
things planned with the Ice Bats' organization; we'll
have a Zamboni Rodeo Night in December."
Cohen grew up in Philadelphia cheering for the Flyers
(he was born the same year the Flyers started play
— 1967). However, he didn't know about the low-level
minor leagues like the Western Professional and Central
Hockey Leagues until he moved to Austin in the early
1990s. An article he wrote for Texas Monthly in 1997
about the Ice Bats and the Western Professional Hockey
League made him realize there was more to professional
hockey in Texas than what he could express in a single
magazine article. Plus, the idea of spending a season
with a team with the goal of writing a book is tried
and true - witness John Feinstein's "A Season on the
Brink," a chronicle of Bob Knight's 1985-86 Indiana
The concept of a year in the life of a team is not
original," Cohen said. "There's a lot of books out
"I grew up in a hockey town but I was pretty ignorant
about minor league hockey. So when I went to Texas
... hearing these guys talk about their lives, I didn't
know (such leagues) existed. I didn't know that when
you played college or juniors and finished up, there
was someplace else to go. I thought (since) I didn't
know about it, no one else does."
He was granted complete access to the Ice Bats, including
team meetings, bus trips and a night in the penalty
box. In fact, Cohen said ownership and players alike
welcomed the scrutiny, a departure from the scant
coverage the sport receives in the States. "They were
comfortable," he said. "Nobody's tried to beat me
up since the book came out. They're accustomed to
scraping for coverage, as opposed to having it lavished
Unlike a novel, however, this story doesn't have a
happy ending. The Ice Bats didn't win the league championship;
rather, they were bounced from the WPHL playoffs in
the first round by the Fort Worth Brahmas —
under the direction of current Cotton Kings boss Bill
McDonald. Coach Jim Burton started the season, but
Paul Lawless finished the season. As with any journey
however, getting there was more than half the fun.
"You read the opening chapter (with goalie Brian Fairfield
trying to fix the bus), it's a dream come true for
an author," Cohen said. "The (general manager) said
to me, 'You're probably the only person happy about
this.' I was literally introducing myself to them
at 4:30 in the morning.
"I figured it wouldn't matter how the season ended,"
Cohen added. "It was still a good story."