Sunday, December 01, 2002


Ok, before I start, does everyone own a copy of my book?

Yeah?... Promise?... Ok, then I can go ahead and recommend another one.

One of the most common responses to Zamboni Rodeo was from players, who would say, "y'know, my whole career, crazy stuff would happen and I'd sit there on the bus and say, I gotta write a book." Well, Doug Smith did it.

Not that he had much of a career. A teenage boxer who's now a suburban Boston cop, Smith (not to be confused with the former Central Texas player) put on hockey skates for the first time when he was 19. His book's called Goon, and that's exactly what he was.

With nothing but sheer determination, a shelf full of fight videos and enough skating ability to (barely) stay upright, Smith brawled his way from a Cape Cod summer league (where pro and college players scrimmaged) to the fledgling ECHL, still a cowboy loop in those days.

And that was pretty much it. But he made enough of an impression on various teammates and coaches that for the next eight years, Smith got in a few games here and there. He toiled in a New Brunswick semi-pro league, was a temp worker for Doug Shedden in Louisiana and even skated in the AHL.

"The true story of an unlikely journey into minor league hockey," indeed. I'll admit, I was skeptical at first. Goon is pricey for a paperback. It's published through one of those quasi-do-it-yourself Internet houses. And there was no way to know if the writing would be good (Smith penned it with his longtime friend Adam Frattasio, a sportswriter who has signed copies available). But it was 20 bucks well spent. Goon is a funny, passionate, plainspoken story that gives you a real feeling for what it's like to do the blue-collar job of hockey fighter.

It's all there -- the injuries and insecurity, the on-ice conversations, the crazy off-ice machinations. Most of all, the book reinforces what a small world U.S. minor hockey is. Fans of every league will recognize dozens of player names. I don't want to spoil the surprises (there are some truly great ones, especially for CHL fans) but among the cameos are John Torchetti and Scott Allen, teammates of Smith's back in that first season, as well as Jacques Mailhot, Ron Aubrey and NHLer Bill Huard. There are countless others.

I guess you could say Goon is the autobiography Ogie Oglethorpe never wrote.

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