What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. Despite giving you a monstrous “double-blog” earlier today, with my final thoughts on the 2016-2017 NY Rangers season, I’m back here with my second entry, this time reviewing “Thin Ice: A Season In Hell With The New York Rangers.”
As I said in the earlier blog I did today, I didn’t want this book review to be lost in the archives of the site. Several people recently have asked me for my prior book reviews. I know I have had done some good in-depth book reviews on this site. However, many of these reviews are buried in a random Rangers game recap, so they are tough to find. As noted, the best way to find a book review on this site is to google “DOINOW + <insert book title here.>”
“Thin Ice” by a now famous Larry “Ratso” Sloman, is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I’m not just talking hockey. I don’t know if I would call it the be-all best hockey book I’ve ever read, but it’s up there. The only reason I don’t say it’s the best hockey book I’ve ever read is because I just read it, so everything is still fresh on my mind. I gotta let it settle with me for a bit!
When I think of the greatest hockey books I’ve ever read, Theo Fleury’s autobiography is up there. Conn Smythe’s autobiography is up there. Ditto Frank Boucher, Gordie Howe and Bob Probert’s autobiographies. The new Wayne Gretzky “99” book is a great read. “Deceptions and Doublecross” chronicling the NHL’s rise out of the NHA roots was another favorite of mine. There is so much great reading material out there, should you choose to seek it.
While some of you guys solely harp on the fact that I do not Lundqvist’s contract and that I think he’s overrated, you guys ignore my passion for history. While I’m not a historian by any means, 99% of the books I read are about history, whether it’s hockey history, American history or other time period pieces. I just like to learn about the past and how others lived. Understanding history makes you appreciate the present times.
“Thin Ice” was published in 1982 and is essentially a year of journal entries chronicling the 1979-1980 season for the New York Rangers. When I finished the book, I wish there was some sort of Q&A panel with Sloman, because I had so many questions about this book. For starters – who gave Sloman the green light to write this book?
Put this in perspective. Sloman’s book begins with the Rangers losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1979, to the Montreal Canadiens. It’s not like the Rangers were dying for free publicity or anything. Another big thing that took place during this time was the WHA/NHL merger, which hurt the Rangers badly, when they lost Nick Fotiu. If that’s not enough, you also had the Milbury going into the stands game, plus that little thing called “The Miracle on Ice”! Sloman was fortunate to benefit from a lot of on-goings in the hockey world at that time.
The book then takes you through the off-season after the Cup loss and goes full-steam ahead into the 1979-1980 regular season. The book concludes with the playoff loss to the Flyers and talks about the comings and goings after the season. When I think about it, I can’t think of any other book that recaps the season of a professional sports team like “Thin Ice.”
After reading this book and then going back to re-read certain sections again, because I couldn’t believe what I read, I really don’t know where to begin! I guess I should start at the beginning!
If you know me, you know I’m into the history of hockey and the New York Rangers. It’s the reason why I shove Frank Boucher’s name down your throat with every blog. If you haven’t read my piece on Boucher yet, and how could you miss it if you’re a regular reader here, check out:
Don’t Let History Be Forgotten! Time for The Rangers to Finally Honor The Greatest Ranger Ever, Frank Boucher
While talking with Ranger fans, older than I, at the bar one day, the topic of the 1979 Rangers came up. I have researched, watched clips and read up on that team before, but outside of clips, I’d be lying if I told you I watched their games in full. To give you insight of where I’m coming from, I’m as old as this book, as I was published myself in 1982!
Personally, I have sometimes felt that I was born in the wrong era. I would’ve loved to live through the 60’s and 70’s. While the threat of war was always looming, is that really any different than today? I lived through the biggest terror attack in American history (Please don’t debate me about Pearl Harbor, 9/11/01 changed the world we live in forever. We also were able to get back on friendly terms with Japan fairly quickly, where 16 years later, we are no better or worse with our relations with the Middle East) & I lived 15 miles away from the attack.
I just feel the times were more simpler and easier then. I think the way of life was better. I can still remember a world without computers and cell phones and while I’m guilty as anyone for overusing my time on both devices, I wouldn’t mind going back to living in an era without them. However, that’s a bell that can’t be unrung. That said, I wish I had a Doc Brown time machine to visit this era of New York.
As a sports fan, sports were better then. Don’t get me wrong, HDTV and being able to watch any game in the world, at any time you want, from the comfort of your own home is aces, but back then it was about the sport, not the commercialization it has since become. You could smoke a cigarette and drink a cheap beer at the game. You could afford to take your family to the game. The players truly cared. Sure guaranteed contracts existed, but the rivalries were more intense. The Rangers truly hated the Islanders and vice-versa. Where hockey has somewhat held some passion of a true rivalry, in other sports, you got players hugging, tongue kissing and trading jerseys after games.
I also feel, and maybe this is because I didn’t live through it and going by what I read, that the players held themselves more accountable then. Now it’s all about endorsements, commercials and making a buck any way possible. I’m not knocking it, but players of previous generations had more fan interaction. They wanted to win. They knew the regular season ticket holders. They knew the crazy fanatical fans. They knew if a big game was on the schedule, they’d have to be up for it.
It’s tough to say that a Rangers/Islander game is as crazy as it used to be. Now, it’s just another game on the schedule. That’s also because the rules of the NHL have changed with the times too. With what we know about concussions, the rules had to change a bit. I really can’t attest to this, but I think the nightlife culture has changed too. I’m sure guys indulge with a few pops and shots now & then, but with nutrition being a major part of today’s athlete, you don’t have guys partying til 4AM after games. In this TMZ era, where everyone has a camera in their pocket, you don’t have the players running around like Ric Flair chasing booty all night either. Can you imagine a guy like Joe Namath or Mickey Mantle playing in today’s world? The press is already castrating Matt Harvey for a night out.
When “Thin Ice” was written, it was a way for sports fans to learn about a hockey team. For Ranger fans, it was a book that presented never before seen inside access. What made the book was Larry “Ratso” Sloman having close relationships with these guys. I would later be told, after reading this book (I kinda made the assumption when reading) that Ratso was very close friends with Ron Greschner. That relationship helped the book. You really couldn’t have some nerd, making Corsi charts in his mother’s basement, handling this book project.
Sloman was one of “the boys.” As someone involved with wrestling for ten years and as someone who has seen similar stories play out on the road during my wrestling days, I truly connected with Sloman’s words & could vividly picture the scenes that Sloman was describing.
I said at the top of this review, I had so many questions about this book when I was done, the biggest being who allowed Sloman to write this book? Sloman traveled and partied with the team throughout the entire season. Can you imagine a team owner today, allowing a book to be published where loose women, crazy drinking and turmoil between teammates is strongly promoted? James Dolan doesn’t even want his broadcasters saying a negative word about the teams he owns! You think he is going to want a book out there, which describes players using “anal insertion” techniques (there’s that one more time before I explain that story) on each other? The only acceptable “anal insertion” in today’s NHL are commercials promoting these:
This books covers EVERYTHING from that season. Every player, every coach, every member of the media, every crazy fan, every celebrity interaction, every bar; EVERYTHING. With Sloman going in and out of using nicknames throughout the book, the first two pages of the book were useful. Here’s everyone that makes an appearance in this book:
I talked about different eras already, but this is what I love about this book. Here I am, 35 years later, at the age of 35, reviewing this book. This book was intended for fans of the Rangers at that period of time. Now, fast forward to 2017, this book is a time capsule of a different period in not only Rangers history, but in American history.
On twitter, people get mad and hot with me about my non PC humor. Even Larry Brooks took issue with me for making a silly Jewish joke, which was basically lifted from an episode of “Family Guy.” Again, I just don’t know how stand-up comedians make out in today’s world, when everyone is always looking to put on their cape, and pounce like a social justice warrior.
In this book, there is no such thing as political correctness. Hallelujah! I’ve done my PC rants on this blog before, I hate how everyone looks to be offended by everything these days. Today, Sloman & the Rangers would be raked under the coals for the language used in this book. For instance the word “fag” or “faggot” shows up a lot on these pages. Keep in mind, this was written 35 years ago. The world was different.
On the word “fag”, let me reprint something I wrote in February of this year:
The NHL is currently in the middle of their #HockeyIsForEveryone campaign. I would link you to their story, but every time I go to the NHL site, my computer crashes, my phone crashes or I can’t find what I’m looking for. Seriously, the NHL website is TERRIBLE.
Instead, you can read up about the campaign here:
For the Rangers, Mats Zuccarello has been named the Rangers Ambassador for “You Can Play”. You Can Play is a charity that supports the LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ (seriously, this whole LGBT (now Q) lumped together thing has to go. Being gay doesn’t mean you had a sex change) movement and fighting homophobia in sports. The Rangers held their #HockeyIsForEveryone night tonight, while other teams in the league are doing it on different nights and the NHL setting aside two national games to promote the movement.
This all kind of ties in with what I’ve been saying a lot in these blogs – the political correctness of America. So for one night, the gay community is treated like royalty. Then what, should people ignore them after tonight? What happens when MSG turns off the rainbow colors that illuminated from the building tonight? Where does the rainbow stick tape go? Sure, it’s nice to bring attention to one section of the hockey fanbase (There are a ton of lesbians who love hockey, more so than gay men, from what I see and know) but what about everyone else?
Listen, I’m all for gay rights, gay marriage, the whole 9 yards. Some religions are anti-gay, which I think hurts acceptance for some people. However, to me, how does someone’s sex life affect you? Furthermore, gay people are great for the economy. More marriages (and divorces) is great for businesses!
As far as I can remember, outside of calling things “gay” when I was younger, I really never had an issue with people’s sex lives. On an aside here, in my teenage years (I’m nearly 35 now) I’ve called things gay. I don’t know how going to school is “gay”, but I know I ignorantly said that 20 years ago. I’m glad I’ve been educated enough to know that describing inanimate objects or events as “gay” is stupid. I understand the point of tonight is to educate others that calling things “gay” is silly, but I felt tonight sort of made the gay fanbase seem like a charity case. Gay people aren’t charity, they are just like me, but probably denied less in the bedroom!
That said, I still don’t think the word “faggot” is always a gay slur. It can be used as one, but if you’re joking around with your friends, saying “Ah, you’re such a fag”, it’s akin to calling your friend a “dick” or a “pussy”. I think “South Park” did an episode on this too and I agree with their take.
While I’ve heard people use the word “faggot” as a gay slur, I understand that the word isn’t always a slur. That said, I’ve actively tried to eliminate that word from my vocabulary. I understand how some people take it wrongly. I guess it’s just easier and more politically correct to call someone a dickhead than call them a fag! Trust me, I’m the last one to be PC, but there really is no reason to use that word anyway, when there are plenty of great viable adjective options to use, especially when discussing my friends! The words “douchebag”, “hemorrhoid”, “anal wart” or “cockbag” all convey the desired effect!
Why call someone a “fag” if it’s not necessary, especially when pecker pimple works just as well! I don’t think I’ll be visiting London in the year 1800 anytime soon, so I doubt I will be using the word “faggot” to describe a cigarette either! While I’ve eliminated the word “faggot” from my every day vocabulary, I do understand when people use it as a non-slur. Basically what I’m saying here, is that I don’t think everyone that uses the word “faggot” is a bigot or homophobic.
Living in NY and having a college education, perhaps I’m fortunate to understand people have the right to choose what they want to do. We see different races, creeds, colors, sexual preferences and surgeries on our TV and on the subway, on a daily basis. I don’t think much can phase the average New Yorker. A man dressed up as a woman in 12 inch stilettos petting her black midget girlfriend? Who cares, but if they are gonna take up three seats on the train, we are gonna have an issue!
I do believe you are born gay, just like how people are born straight. Conversion therapy is a farce. While I think some choose to act “gay” or perhaps go overboard a bit (No one is born with a limp wrist, skinny jeans, leather boots and having a sing-song voice) if that’s what you want to do, so be it. More than 50% of my wardrobe is sports related, whether it be Ranger jerseys, Yankee sweatshirts or Giants hats. Who am I to question what other people wear? I frankly do not care, you do you and I do me!
What bothers me about these types of movements or rallies, is what happens after the day it ends? Do we just forget? I think most people, at least the ones I know, don’t give two shits what you do in the bedroom, as long as you don’t do it to them. Having a gay night, a black night, a latino night, etc, when does it end? I think it just villainizes the straight white male, as if every straight white male in 2017 is some 1820’s southern slave owner running around and calling everyone “boy”. I’m all for everyone embracing from where they are from and doing whatever, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of others at the same time. I won’t be holding my breath for the “Straight White Male Taxpayer” parade any time soon.
Maybe this part of the blog comes off what the media would make you believe to be as “Trumpesque”, but I’m not here looking for the Rangers to salute me for being a straight white male who loves hockey. I also don’t think the Rangers should make a special case out of gays, blacks, latinos, aborigines, midgets, or Caitlyn Jenner either. I think the Rangers should focus on providing a great service and time for all their fans, no matter what walk of life they are from. The only exceptions to this are little kids battling life-threatening diseases and our military. I have no problem with a “Salute the Troops” night or the Garden of Dreams night. Those are people that should be saluted.
Plus when you think about it – when has the NHL ever been “anti-gay?” Sean Avery was one of the first athletes to speak up and defend gay rights. This is also the same league that has aired the Sidney Crosby and Pierre McGuire homoerotica love story for a decade! This story has led to the spinoff of “Micheletti & Lundqvist”, where you get a 50% off Papa John’s pizza every time Joe shoots three or more loads! (I’m sure I offended Larry Brooks again here, but please try to understand my warped sense of humor!)
Gay is normal. Straight is normal. Many gays aren’t looking to be made a martyr or looking for special treatment. They just want the American dream too. To make them look like a charity case, as I know I thought, seems wrong. Gay New York Ranger fans are just like straight Ranger fans – they just want the fucking Cup!
That’s the great thing about sports as a uniter. Gay, white, black, asian, straight, latino, midget, eskimo, poor, rich, whatever; if the Rangers score a goal, you don’t give a fuck who is sitting next to you, if they are wearing Rangers blue, you’re giving them a high five.
Oh while on PC America here, I did do a double-take when Sam Rosen referred to Willie O’Ree as the first ever black hockey player. In America, we are so conditioned to hearing “African-American.” O’Ree, a native of New Brunswick, Canada, is not an “African-Canadian.” He’s just black. I liked that. After all, how many black people do you know, that are generally from Africa or ever been to Africa? Listen, I’m Irish, but I don’t consider myself an “Irish-American.” I’ve never been to Ireland my whole life. I’m a fucking American. Willie O’Ree is a Canadian, that happens to be black.
The previous rant was brought to you by Peter Griffin and the “WHAT GRINDS MY GEARS” news segment!
That all said, the word “fag” was used as a gay slur in this book. I know that word strikes a chord with people, so just a heads up. However, that word was in the lexicon of America at that time, and if you’re an optimist, it shows you how much we’ve grown as a country, that even someone like me, that doesn’t find anything offensive, gave you a mini-spiel on this word.
Throughout the book, Sloman introduces you to the team, the coaches, the fans and everything else surrounding the team. You can kinda see who his boys are, because they get the most ink. For example, Nilsson and Hedberg, the two Swedes of the team, don’t get the same praise, time of day & defense from Sloman, that Greschner, Beck, Duguay and JD get. That’s also another part of this book now being a period piece. Swedish players weren’t as accepted then as they are today. I kinda wish that was the case today though! Fuck Lundqvist’s contract!
While the bulk of the book are stories about hanging out with Gresch, Beck, Duguay, Murdoch and JD, there is a little content on the best player on the whole team – Phil Esposito. At this point in time, Espo was near retirement. With Sloman being one of the boys, he gravitated to the younger guys & their partying. A married guy like Espo, who was nearly 40 years old, wasn’t living life in the fast line like his younger teammates. Even with the book a little light on Espo stories, Sloman does a great job of painting a picture of how valuable Espo was for the NHL at that time.
My words can not do this book justice, so let me share with you some key excerpts that really popped out to me, with my thoughts on those excerpts.
Away from the players, a lot of attention is focused on Coach Shero and his drinking problem. Sloman didn’t want to buy into it, but by the end of the book, he leaves his thoughts ambiguous on the manner. Drinking was a big part of the hockey culture back then. While we know that alcoholism is a disease today, back then, you were a pussy if you couldn’t handle your booze. The book would conclude with Shero’s firing and new management taking over.
I have read plenty of hockey books that were tell-alls, but never one that was authorized by a team. Sloman doesn’t get too deep about this assignment, but he does mention that Rangers management kinda got nervous as the season was ending. I would’ve loved to know everyone’s reaction about this book at that time. Since the internet didn’t exist back then, and I’m not going to the library to look up old newspapers, I can’t find any reaction about this book from the players or management.
It’s a shame we will never get a book like this today. Again, this was a product of the time, but I’m glad this book was suggested to me and that I read it. When it was all over, I felt like Don Murdoch – my balls were blown off!
A cool thing about this book was looking up what happened to these guys afterwards. For many of us, we know where many of these guys wound up, as this team produced a lot of great hockey men. I thought the most interesting story was Sloman himself, who ghost-wrote Howard Stern’s two books, the Red Hot Chili Peppers book, the Harry Houdini spy book and other interesting works.
The one name that interested me the most was Don Murdoch, who became a bust after the Rangers. I couldn’t find much about him, but I was glad to see he was alive at least.
All in all, if you’re a Rangers fan, you would be doing yourself a great service by reading this book. 35 years later, this book still lives up to the hype. You can find it on Amazon, where I got it for $9.00. Money definitely well spent!
Going into this blog and after writing a 8000 word monster earlier today, I thought I would just review this book and that would be it. However, I just want to touch on two quick things before going home.
First off, congratulations to USA Hockey on winning first place in the IIHF World Championship. The playoffs start Thursday. As I said before, this tournament is a great distraction from the Rangers being eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Of course, Kevin Hayes scored two goals in the “Trump Cup”, as Team USA beat Russia, 5-3. Hayes even got a PPG, Team USA fought off a 6 vs 5 and then scored an empty netter. Just daggers to the hearts of Ranger fans. Then again, as someone said on twitter, I guess Hayes was well-rested, since he slept-walked through the Stanley Cup playoffs. I gotta say, Johnny Gaudreau for Derek Stepan would be a trade I would love to see happen! (I’m joking, I know it won’t happen.)
Team USA isn’t as deep as the other teams and every game for them is basically a road game since American fans don’t travel to this tournament like fans of the other countries. That’s probably why Team USA has never won one of these tournaments. It would be great if that changed this year, but Canada is still the favorite.
While I’m rooting for Team USA to win the whole thing, I’m hoping they knock out Team Sweden in the process! Lundqvist gave up a terrible goal today in Sweden’s win over Slovakia. He gave up a huge rebound and Slovakia scored off a 50′ foot shot from the high slot. However, I’m happy to report that Lundqvist protected a two goal lead in this game. If you’re not gonna do it for the Rangers, I guess it’s nice to see him do it when his team dominated the puck possession for 97% of this game. For the record, the other goal allowed? A breakaway.
As I was putting the finishing touches on this blog, the Rangers announced this today:
New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton announced today that Ken Gernander has been relieved of his coaching duties with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL). A replacement will be announced by the team at a later date.
“We want to thank Ken for his service and all of his contributions to the Wolf Pack and the Rangers organization,” Gorton said. “We wish him and his family all the best in his future endeavors.”
In addition, Rangers Senior Vice President and Assistant General Manager Jim Schoenfeld has relinquished his duties as General Manager of the Wolf Pack and will focus solely on his duties in New York. Rangers Assistant General Manager Chris Drury will assume the role of General Manager of the Wolf Pack.
“I want to thank Ken for his tireless work and dedication to the Wolf Pack and the Rangers organization,” Schoenfeld said. “He represented the organization the right way, both on and off the ice. I have had the good fortune working closely with Kenny as a player, assistant coach, and head coach over the last 12 years and wish him all the best going forward.”
Drury completed his first season as Assistant General Manager in 2016-17 after being promoted to the post on September 2, 2016. He served as Director of Player Development for one season after rejoining the Rangers organization on September 4, 2015.
Gernander served as the Wolf Pack’s Head Coach for the past 10 seasons, posting a 388-304-84 record in 776 games. He guided Hartford to the playoffs in five of his 10 seasons as the team’s Head Coach and helped the Wolf Pack advance to the Eastern Conference Final in 2014-15.
My quick take on this is that it’s shame that Gernander gets the ax. It’s not his fault that the Rangers had terrible goaltending on the Wolfpack all season. I think most of this story is about Chris Drury though.
If you recall, the Rangers blocked Drury from interviewing with the Sabres for their GM job. I think the Rangers are keeping “Drury on ice” by giving him this job with the Wolfpack. Many new GM’s like to pick their own coaches (this cycle has been avoided by the NY Jets for years and it’s no wonder why that franchise has sucked forever.) Both Drury & Gernander are beloved guys in Connecticut.
It’s really a shame that Gernander takes the heat, but I guess the Rangers are blaming Gernander for not having talent showing up in the playoffs. It’s embrassing too – the two guys who spent the most time with the Wolpack over the last two seasons were Skjei & Glass, and they weren’t the issue with the Rangers failure against the Senators. Again, just look at the Wolfpack scores this season. The goaltending was among the worst in the AHL. How’s that Gernander’s fault?
That said, the first heads are rolling and the changes are already being made for the 2017-2018 season. While I won’t be breaking any news on this blog, if something else happens, I’ll throw up a quick blog with my thoughts.
Make sure to check out the other blog I posted today, as I put verbal flowers at the grave of the 2016-2017 New York Rangers season.
I got a couple of projects/ideas for blogs as we approach the summer. As far as the next blog, depending on my work schedule, maybe I’ll recap the next USA Hockey game. If not, I will definitely have something up before the draft and drop in as news items take place.
Go buy “Thin Ice” if you don’t have it!
Let’s Go Rangers
@NYCTHEMIC on the twitter