Ted Starkey, a hockey writer and overall good dude and good dad who has worked for Newsday, The Washington Times, The Tampa Tribune, and others in addition to publishing two books, has just released his latest work, Chasing the Dream: Life in the American Hockey League (available on Amazon for $11.99).
Chasing the Dream follows players, coaches, broadcasters, and staff from all across the AHL, sharing the untold and often wonderful stories of “the best hockey players not in the NHL.” Embedding with seven different teams, and including chapters on everything from bus bathroom etiquette during road trips in January to what it’s really like to get the call that you’re going up to The Show, Chasing the Dream is an all-angles look at the men and women operating just on the periphery of your hockey awareness.
But the reason you will want this book is for the stories from and about Caps legends Barry Trotz, Bruce Boudreau, Joe Beninati, and John Walton.
Like this one from the early 1990s, when Barry Trotz, then an assistant for the Baltimore Skipjacks, played a prank on rookie broadcaster Kenny Albert (now with Fox Sports) during one trip:
“We had the local authorities when going through customs arrest him. They basically planted flour in his bag.
They said, ‘Is this your bag?’ ‘We found this in here.’ He was denying it was his, and all that. They threw him in jail for three or four hours, and I’d make my way back to the hotel, and I’d unpack and that, and slowly make my way over to the police station and make a big scene. And he’s trying to phone his lawyer and I’m saying, ‘Hang on, I’ll help you,’ and sort of kept him on edge, let him sit in the clink for three or four hours and do stuff like that.”
Or this one, where we’re invited to picture Barry Trotz, mustachioed Adonis, squeezing melons to see if they’re ripe. Dave Starman, a broadcast analyst for the Skipjacks, remembers it:
“Ownership decided to put us up in a Residence Inn instead of a hotel so guys could buy groceries instead of having to go out. So I remember Barry said, ‘Let’s go out.’ I thought, ‘Cool, we’re going out to dinner.’ He said, ‘No, we’re going out to the supermarket and going to stock up for the week.’
I’m watching this guy with a brilliant hockey mind squeezing melons to see if they’re ripe and looking at bananas. It’s like the scene out of the movie The Odd Couple....I’m going up and down with him in the aisles....and he’s price comparing. It was great. Now, every time I see Barry on a screen, behind an NHL bench or talking to Alex Ovechkin, I’m remembering him trying to see if a melon was ripe in a supermarket in New Haven.”
Or when Joe Beninati, Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, uses his powers of description to explain how best to move around a crowded team bus hurtling down the interstate:
Beninati demonstrated a bit on the blue seats at Nassau Coliseum.
“You become really, really good at — I don’t know what the verb [would] be — spidering on top of the seat and across the other seat like a low, crab-crawl spider walk to the back of the bus.”
But the best might be this one, when John Walton, radio voice of the Capitals (then the Hershey Bears), recalls having to rescue coach Bruce Boudreau from a potentially disastrous wardrobe malfunction before a game in Bridgeport:
“Doug [Yingst] came running out of the Zamboni tunnel and yelling for me to come to the locker room. It was very, very out of the ordinary on a day when everyone was so rushed. I couldn’t understand why you’d need the broadcaster in the locker room.
I got to the door of the locker room, and the first two people I see are Eric Fehr and David Steckel, and they are laughing hysterically. And I have no idea why[....]
And then I looked over at Bruce Boudreau, standing in his boxer shorts, a coat and tie and shirt, and mad as all hell. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Doug said, ‘He didn’t pack his suit pants. He doesn’t have his pants.’ And I said, ‘Why-...Oh no. Doug, why not you?’ He said, ‘Waist size, my waist is two inches bigger,’ — and he’s the general manager, he wasn’t giving them up anyways.
I said, ‘You seriously need my pants? What am I going to wear?’ The whole problem is they wear their track suits on the bus, so all that’s left is Bruce Boudreau’s track pants, which, I’ll say generously, they didn’t fit me very well. I went back to the press box holding onto the sides of track pants with my shirt and tie, and the beat writer Mike Fornabaio of the Connecticut Post is there and he looked at me and said, ‘Did you lose a bet?’
The funny part is in Bridgeport, there’s no direct bench access, so in pants that are way too tight, [Bruce] had to walk across the ice in my pants, and you haven’t seen such tiny steps taken by a human until you saw Bruce try to get across.”
Seriously, the whole book is full of gems like these. If you have one more hockey fan left on your holiday shopping list (and if you’re reading this website, it may well be yourself), go pick up Chasing the Dream on Amazon today.