[Editor’s Note - the following book review was written in regards to the Swedish-language version of Håkan Andersson’s book by our good Swedish friend Patrik. You can find more of his work at Habs Eyes on the Prize or on Twitter @Zeb_Habs]
There is no need to introduce mr Håkan Andersson to the average Red Wings fan, everyone knows the impact the European scout has had on the Detroit franchise the last 27 years. The book was a smart release just before Christmas in Sweden and it gives the average armchair scout a rare glimpse into the professional scout’s life and experience. While I had expected a more biographical approach, a telling a life story, how it is to be a scout maybe even what to look for in players that you are scouting, it is a set of small stories centred around different players and people connected with the Red Wings team and mr Håkan Andersson through his career.
It is a a book spanning a little over 200 pages; it is an easy to read book; it will be finished in a day with no excessive reading required. It is a book that is catered more to the main public than the hockey nerds or hard core hockey fans, with the pros and cons that this approach brings. Personally I would have preferred a more rigorous life story approach more than the compilation of short stories and anecdotes; but on the other hand it feels like you are at a dinner party and mr Andersson is telling us his personal stories, which is a nice approach. The stories are often interesting and adds another layer to moments that you probably already knew about. There are plenty of times where I start to chuckle but still, it does seem to lack a little bit of depth. When Mr Anderssson has finished the story you are left wondering about the inner works and emotions in many ways. The book is also clearly aimed at the Swedish market with a little bit more of a focus on the Swedes in the Detroit Red Wings organisation through mr Andersson’s time. In a way its also undoubtedly Swedish as mr Andersson speaks quietly about his own accomplishments, but lifts up everyone else’s. It is through other chapters where former players and colleagues tells us about the human and character that mr Andersson is that we get to know the person that has written the book.
There are gems; the break into a Russian military facility to speak with Vjatjeslav Kozlov, the near trade of Nicklas Lidström to New York Rangers and Scotty Bowmans tie collection to mention a few.
I get the feeling that mr Andersson’s best writing comes to pass when leadership and team building is mentioned. This is where his own thoughts usually comes to life, and where he points out qualities that has kept the Red Wings organisation in the mix for as long as it has. It certainly help that he references two of my favourite books in passing, ‘Legacy’ by James Kerr and ‘the Jungle book’ by Rudyard Kipling, in order to facilitate what drives the organisation forward.
Another interesting part in the book is about the draft process and the amount of time and work that goes into a teams draft process. It is also a part where mr Andersson’s own feelings show up; he is nervous, he can’t sleep and he is excited. He becomes more personal and this is a great thing from my point of view.
I find that the book “Scouten” is a great read, it is lighthearted, broken up in easy to read chapters with anecdotes that are great. It is perfect for a fan to read on Christmas morning, or in a hammock during a summer’s day. It will also draw causal fans in with the mention of quite a famous players, staff and an obvious legendary team.
Personally I am left with a lingering question, do I know mr Håkan Andersson better than before after reading the book? And the answer is “No, I don’t” and this bothers me a bit. I don’t really know what drives him, what the success has cost him somewhere else in life, or if he has any regrets in his choice of his career. Maybe it is me being old and having worked in the sport industry myself, I know the sacrifice that comes with the weird, often daunting hours. I would have loved to get the feel for mr Andersson’s life outside hockey. How a life like this complicates family life with regards to long hours on the road, missed birthdays and holidays, and keeping in touch over phone, with texts and emails, to loved ones. This was not the intention of the book, and it is clear in the way the book is written, and therefore maybe my expectations were wrong. It is however not the first sports biography that has felt like this. I don’t know if the editors think they need to make it simpler for the “average Joe” but for me it leaves questions unanswered. Questions I would have liked to have answered. I will still recommend the book for any hockey fan, especially a Red Wings fan, just know that its not a complete biography, it is more a collection of good short stories.
Speaking with mr Andreas Slätt from Lava publishing he has confirmed that there will be an English version of the book coming out late 2018. The final details are still in the works but mr Slätt says there will be a few changes compared to the Swedish book; “It will be a little bit more catered to the hard core hockey fans”.