I was recently given a review copy of Dr. John Finley's new book 'Hockeytown Doc: A Half-Century of Red Wings Stories from Howe to Yzerman', which hit bookstores on Monday and is available for sale at any retailer worth its salt, or directly from the publisher, IPGBook.com. Also, if you're so inclined and in the area, you can purchase it at Dr. Finley's book signing at Hockeytown Authentics on Saturday, October 6th.
Dr. Finley served the Red Wings for 50 years, a time in which he saw incredible changes to the sport of hockey, the players who were paid to play, and to the city of Detroit. He was around in the glory days of the early 50s and he was there for the darkest days of the Dead Wings era. He was there when Mike and Marian Ilitch bought the franchise with a promise to turn the team around, and he was there when they ultimately delivered on that promise.
Hockeytown Doc is various parts Dr. Finley's life story, Red Wings history, entertaining lore, medical memoir, coverage of the game's evolution, and essay on the current state of the game.
Beginning with a foreword from Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe, the book grabs the reader early with a couple of fascinating stories of difficult player injuries. It's here that you first get a feel for the ultimate care and preeminent consideration Dr. Finley took with the players' injuries, all while doing it quickly. As fans, we tend to think that a player who needs to be stitched simply gets his mug sewn up and gets back out there. The difficulty in completing these tasks themselves, not to mention the general expectation of doing so quickly is an incredible feat.
From the beginning stories of some rather harrowing player injuries, Dr. Finley transitions to the natural follow-up in several chapters' worth of a real insider's (and more importantly, medical professional's) study on the safety considerations surrounding the game. In these chapters, Dr. Finley occasionally falls into a physician's habit of favoring definition to description in his writing, but the message remains on-point: hockey is as safe as the players allow it to be, and that it could definitely be safer. Dr. Finley doesn't hesitate to name those he feels have tried to prevent that.
From the tales of his profession (including the terrifying condition which ended Jiri Fischer's career), the Doc transitions to telling 50 years of Red Wings history from his view. The stories are colored from the perspective of a man who admits to being a fan of the players and the challenges of balancing his care for them with his charge as their team physician. If Dr. Finley ever met a Red Wings player he didn't like, he certainly doesn't share it in these pages.
While many of the stories Dr. Finley tells in the book are re-tellings of generally-known hockey stories (such as the creation of the Russian Five), the perspective he adds enriches the stories greatly without leaving those less-knowledgeable in the subject matter behind. Where the book really shines is in how well it describes not only his closeness to the organization, but also how tightly-knit the Red Wings community has been. When it comes time to leave medical definitions behind, Dr. Finley is an excellent storyteller.
To a Red Wings fan, this book is a great addition to a literary collection. The prose isn't colorful, but it's honest. The Strength of 'Hockeytown Doc' is in that Dr. Finley is a hockey fan with a richness of experience and an appreciation for the game of hockey and the people he's met and whose lives he's improved.
You can buy 'Hockeytown Doc' at IPGBook.com or various other retail outlets like Amazon. You can also meet the doctor at Hockeytown Authentics on Saturday, October 6th starting at noon.