8 Days, 8 Nights

A Hockey Love Story?

Actually, yes. The idea actually started about ten years ago during the book fair at Congregation Agudath Israel, when I noticed there were books about Moe Berg, Sandy Koufax, and even Shawn Green, but nothing about Jeff Halpern. Who’s Jeff Halpern? At the time, a little-known Jewish player for the NHL’s Washington Capitals; he was team captain and one of only three active NHL players in 2005 who were Jewish. When I protested the lack of Jewish hockey books, my wife suggested that I write one. She just didn’t know I’d take her seriously.

Since then, we’ve seen the NJ Devils win the Stanley cup twice, I’ve put the skates and gloves back on, my son has played hockey everywhere from Washington DC to Ottawa, Canada to the Olympic Rink in Lake Placid, NY, and I’ve spent a lot of days and nights in ice rinks. I wasn’t sure if I was writing a story about youth hockey, or about overweight, over-age and over-stressed Jewish guys who play in a beer league, or about being a Devils fan. But Mary Smaragdis, marketing genius, provacteur, and expert blogger, called the shot the right way — I’m writing a love story. About hockey. About fathers and sons. About fan loyalty. About an amazingly simple game that brings warmth on the coldest of days. About discovering where you’re from. About miracles. About the number 8 and those who wear it.

The book has had three major shots in the pants. The first was actually finishing an outline and deciding that stories about falling down during 11pm beer league games weren’t funny, even to those of us who played in them. Unfortunately, that was five years ago and things haven’t progressed much since then. Second was getting a note from Willie Stargell’s niece, who read a piece I wrote about her late, great uncle and has provided nice encouragement. WIllie Stargell is the original #8 in my book and my life. Third, and most recently, I’ve had some more time to write, and I’m hoping that maybe this summer when everyone else is busy, I’ll pick up the keyboard again and try to finish it. Or at least get past chapter three.

Current project: take the 40-50 pages of journal I kept over the course of three seasons, merge it into the working outline, and pick up some of the themes — Russian heritage, the 1980 Olympics, four years at Princeton, and what it’s like to share a practice facility with your heros.