Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Book review - Roger's World: The Life and Unusual Times of Roger Neilson 

Stepping aside from my mad novel dash for an evening, I just couldn't resist immediately diving into the shiny new copy of Citizen columnist Wayne Scanlan's new book about Roger Neilson - Roger's World: The Life and Unusual Times of Roger Neilson.

It was a detour well worth taking.

At a fairly svelte 212 pages, Roger's World is a quick read, but it's a good one. Packed with funny anecdotes - the short section with Roger golf stories is worth the price of the book in itself - as well as a few sad and poignant ones. The description of Neilson watching the Senators' game 7 loss to the Devils in 2003 is positively heartbreaking.

While the ending is ultimately sad, the journey is exhilarating. If one thing is clear, it's that Roger lived life to the fullest. From his coaching, to his multiple hockey camps, from traveling around the globe, to throwing parties, Roger's World brings to life the events, and more importantly the people that Roger touched.

While many of the book's anecdotes will be familiar to Senators fans used to hearing about Roger during his time here, there are lots of new stories (at least to me) as well.

While the book rightly focuses on Roger Neilson as a person, it does note the way in which he revolutionized the game of hockey. In addition to his fame as Captain Video, he was also a pioneer in introducing dry-land training, and was one of the first coaches to track and make use of now-commonplace stats like scoring chances, faceoffs and hits. If hockey were to develop a discipline like baseball's sabermetrics, it could be called rogermetrics.

If it were called rogermetrics, he would be proud, as his first love was baseball. Some of Roger's World's best stories come from Neilson's days as a minor baseball coach.

All in all, Roger's World is a must-read for any Senators fan, and a good read for any hockey fan. I'd name it the coach for my Silver Seven of hockey books.

Finally, but importantly, a portion of the book's sales goes to Roger's House.