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TWO BOOKS OFFER UNIQUE LOOK AT PENGUINS

Tuesday, 12.19.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
Pittsburgh Penguins

Looking to read about Penguins past and present?

You’re in luck.

Recently, two books have been published chronicling the team’s history and Sidney Crosby’s rookie season – Tales From the Pittsburgh Penguins, written by Joe Starkey, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and The Rookie, written by Shawna Richer, a reporter for the Toronto Globe and Mail.

The two unique books give hockey fans an inside look at the Penguins.

Starkey’s book is a compilation of short stories in Penguins history. Though it’s not designed to be an historical record of the team, it actually encompasses every era of the franchise.

“The book is basically a lot of anecdotes and short stories – a lot of them funny – from Penguins history, literally from Day One through Sidney Crosby’s rookie year last year,” he said. “It’s filled with entertaining photos, also, like Jaromir Jagr in a dress. There’s a little bit of everything.”

Tales From the Pittsburgh Penguins retails for $19.95. It is available in bookstores and on through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. Also, it is available for purchase directly from the publisher at sportspublishingllc.com or by calling 877-424-2665.

“Sports Publishing LLC likes to put out books like this. The format of most of their books is short, unrelated anecdotes. What that means is you can pick up the book on any page and there’s a story that’s unrelated to the last one,” he said. “It’s not the type of book you have to actually sit down and read from start to finish. You can pick it up anywhere.”

Starkey, who has covered the Penguins since 1997 as a reporter and columnist, spent more than a year researching photos and information as well as contacting former players and coaches for the book. While it may have been exhausting work, he really enjoyed it.

“It was incredible, especially looking through all the photos,” Starkey said. “The research and talking to guys was fun. There’s some real good stuff from the Stanley Cup years. It was real fun to talk to those guys. I learned a lot and was thoroughly entertained.”

Of all the anecdotes Starkey uncovered, two immediately stick out to him.

“It’s hard to say what my favorite story was, but you can’t beat the one about Brian Watson stealing the team bus. Apparently, they arrived in Los Angeles and he got on the bus and didn’t like something the bus driver did, so he said, ‘I think I’ll drive the bus now.’ He took over and they went on a joyride – not only the team, but there were apparently regular citizens on it, too, that are probably still scared to this day,” he said. “There’s another good story about the night former Penguins GM Baz Bastien took out his glass right eye and put it on the table during a card game and one of the players look at him and said, ‘Baz, quit looking at the cards.’

“There are funny stories like that all through this book.”

Meanwhile, Richer’s book focuses solely on chronicling Crosby’s rookie season from start to finish. In an unprecedented event, Richer moved to Pittsburgh last year to follow Crosby and the Penguins all season.

“I don’t think I could have been luckier in a lot of ways. When we committed to doing the assignment, we committed to doing it for the entire year,” she said. “Nothing could have happened. He could have scored 60 points; he could have been injured early in the season; the team could have had no drama or they could have won the Stanley Cup. We just didn’t know. So, the way it turned out with him being terrific and the team struggling, there was so much drama. When you add in Mario [Lemieux] getting sick and retiring and the team’s future in Pittsburgh being in doubt, every day there was something – there was almost too much happening.

“I think his personal success made a great story because it’s really nice to just write a good, happy story,” she continued. “With the way he ended his season, especially since he was able to finish so strongly despite an injury, it’s a really inspirational thing.”

Richer covered Crosby and the team daily for The Globe & Mail. In addition to regular stories, she kept an online blog. The book was an end result of her season-long assignment.

“I was writing during the season, but I was also doing the series for the paper. It was funny because all I thought about the whole year was the Penguins and him. Going through the season, it was hard because it was an emotionally tough season at times. I had to turn [the book] around pretty fast,” she said. “I had a couple chapters turned in to let the editors see what sort of direction I was going. They just left me alone to assemble it.

“One of the things I was really keen on was that I didn’t want to write the beginning until the end had happened. I knew that the beginning would set up the story and you had to see how it was going to end. Knowing how he finished with his points total, it made it easier to write the beginning and sort of set this up as a dramatic story.”

The rigors of covering Crosby the Penguins took its toll physically and emotionally. However, Richer had no time to waste when the season ended so she could have the book to her publisher, Triumph Books, in time to be on the shelves for this season.

“I had quite a bit of it written,” she said. “I’d say it was three-quarters either mostly done or in a roughed-out stage. I certainly knew where I was going. I went immediately back to Toronto for a month and kind of hid out at a friend’s house and wrote every day from 7 in the morning until 7 at night. When I handed the manuscript in, I had a couple weeks and I went back to Halifax and basically went to bed for a week because I was so exhausted. The manuscript came back and I had a few weeks to do some re-writes. It was fairly minor. It was an interesting process. I learned a lot about myself. It was painful in a lot of ways, but it was really rewarding and I’d do it again.”

The Rookie retails for $24.95 and may be found at various bookstores as well as online through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

 

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