Thursday, February 18, 2010

Literati Glitterati

This is a new series on celebrity authors.

It's every hockey fan's dream to lace up the skates and join some hockey legends on the ice. It gets even better if you could actually hang with those hockey players off the ice. Author Gary Mason accomplished this dream, detailing it in his book Oldtimers:On the Road with the
Legendary Heroes of Hockey.
Mason is an award-winning sports columnist who took a tour with the NHL Oldtimers, a group of ex-NHL players who travel around playing hockey and raising money for charity. Mason
takes us on the ice and in the dressing room (and also on the buses, in the bars and in the training room). It is a rare look, written with an appreciation and admiration for the subject.
That is the main reason why the players were so accepting of Mason. According to Cathy
Sproule, Director of Media for the Oldtimers, "Gary Mason earned the trust of the players. They were confident he would portray the honest and real way they are and did not disappoint."
Similar to George Plimpton, Mason actually logged in some ice time, even scoring a goal. His anxiousness over the game and his exuberance in scoring is exactly how any fan would feel. His ability to express those moments is one of the highlights in the book.
Mason discusses the tour with the NHL legends, while dropping in anecdotes from most of the players. The stories range from heroic to funny to fascinating.
Mason tells the story of the Stastny brothers, Peter, Anton and Marian. The
Stastnys defected from Czechoslovakia in 1980 to play in the NHL. Peter became a Hall of Famer.
Another story involved Gary Nylund's father, a member of the R
CMP. Nylund's father was at the scene the night Roy Spencer (father of Brian) died in a shootout outside a tv studio which Spencer had been threatening over not televising his son's first game.
There are also less-serious stories, like Mark Napier playing with Dave Hanson of Slapshot
fame. Napier would go on to have a solid career, while Hanson would become a movie icon of sorts.
Mason also talks about the interactions on the current tour. I often felt like an old friend was updating me on his life. I grew up while most of these "oldtimers" were playing. Mason gives such an intimate look at the men in and out of uniform.
Mason shared more than just his stories however. On one occasion, Mason loaned his gear to Peter Ettinger, a Canadian musician (and hockey fan) the group befriended one night so that Ettinger could participate in one of the games. Although Ettinger didn't score, he got the thrill of his life playing alongside his heroes. Stories like this, stories about the pur
e joy of playing, make Oldtimers fun.
Mason's book was well received by the legends, according to Sproule. "
Gary told the stories the way they were. Gary became one of the 'boys' on the road in a very respectful way," Sproule stated. People often speak of the camaraderie of hockey players. Retired hockey players often say the camaraderie is what they miss the most. Mason delivered a unique and outstanding look at that camaraderie through his writing in Oldtimers. Thanks to Mason and a great group of NHL legends, we have a chance to join in on the fun.
As for the Oldtimers, there is currently a project in the works which will be a 10 part series on TSN. Last year,
a 1 hour special aired on The NHL Network with producers Rod Black (TSN), Sproule Productions and Triple Threat Entertainment. The players continue to skate, have fun and raise money for charity, while giving fans another look at their NHL heroes.
I would like to thank Gary Mason and Cathy Sproule for giving their input for this piece. I'd also like to thank Dave "Tiger" Williams and the rest of the NHL legends (past and present) for their play on the ice and their stories off the ice.
Author Gary Mason (inset) and NHL Legend Dave "Tiger" Williams-late 2000's.
The NHL legends team photo-2009.
(photo courtesy of


Mike Gonzalez said...

I have never had a bad experience with any hockey players. I love the older guys, too! I grew up with Bobby Clarke, Reg Lech, Bernie Parent and the rest of the Flyers.

Bobby said...

I read that book a while ago. I love reading the stories of the NHL greats.