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SHOTS ON NET

The NHL from a fan's perspective.

by Lyle Richardson 

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THE REVIEWS!

"Lyle Richardson, mastermind of Spector's Hockey,one of the brightest
spots in the on-line hockey community, is on the cutting edge of publishing
technology with his maiden voyage into novel-length prose, Shots on Net.
Straightforwardly subtitled The National Hockey League from a fan's
perspective, it's one of the first hockey books, if not the very first,
available in a CD-ROM format.

A sort of diary of Richardson's view of NHL events over the end of the '98-99 season and all through 1999-2000, Shots on Net incorporates much of the often reliably incisive editorial material on his website. The book's divided into three main sections -- "Pre-season," covering the spring of '99, "Regular Season," spanning all of last year's NHL fixtures, and "The Playoffs," examining the 2000 Cup match-ups -- but it feels a little more like three periods of a game.

A rookie at writing of this length, Richardson plays it a little too safe in the opening stanza, overly mindful of his mechanics and hesitating to assert himself. There are minute, meticulous dissections of nearly every personnel move made by an NHL club, many of them less than compelling. So things move rather slowly at first, although it's actually kind of nice to have several months' worth of hockey news put into the telescoped perspective of a digest motif. For us, the action was also slowed by reading a beta version of the text from which a few hundred typos hadn't yet been removed; there's every reason to expect a cleaner, smoother read when the e-book's actually on the market.

The author recovers nicely in the middle period, though, and comes out firing on hockey's hot-button issues, showing the same confidence in his intelligent opinions that makes his website so absorbing. Richardson is one of the Web's leading proponents of Correct Thought, and this is where he hits his stride and his Shots on Net find the mark.

He nails the NHL for its repulsive overexpansion and for its refusal to drastically improve its revenue-sharing arrangements, accurately divines most of the reasons behind the late-'90s scoring drought, demands the game be called by the book and rips the escalation in dangerously dirty play, smartly assesses Canada's standing on the international hockey stage, stands up on the NoGoal disgrace, and slags Bettman, the owners, and the NHLPA in correct measure for their respective parts in making today's NHL a mess. And Richardson doesn't fire blindly; he reasons his positions at length, and well. We're not always in complete agreement with how he arrives at his conclusions, but the differences we have are few and small, and his conclusions are right.

He plays a more conservative third period in dissecting the 2000 playoffs series by series, but the digest form is even handier and more welcome here. A sort of post-game star awards ceremony, chapters four and five offer Richardson's personal take on hockey's best, or at least his own favourites, from the last thirty years -- he again shows his good taste and hockey smarts here -- and an eloquent encomium to the Rocket. We'd expect nothing less from so staunch a defender of the game's history and tradition as Richardson." - Jeff Z. Klein and Karl-Eric Reif, authors, "The Death of Hockey".

"The thing I like most about Lyle's e-book is that he writes like a regular guy, not some pontificating windbag. That does not mean that he doesn't know what he is talking about, it just means that he isn't hitting you over the head with how smart he thinks he is.... For me it is a great book for new fans and old fans because it takes a look at some of the big stories and explains them in a way that is very readable to the new fan, but thought provoking enough to keep the interest of the fan that remembers these events first hand.... Another good thing about Shots On Net is it is a collection of self-contained stories. So if you aren't interested in Alexei Yashin holding out, skip to the section about Ray Bourque bailing on the Bruins or the section on Marty McSorley wigging out. Of course there is so much more, but go get the book yourself" - Ron Jones. Publisher, HockeyRage.com E-zine.

"Shots on Net is an excellent snapshot of the NHL in the late 90s. It is
informative, engaging and a pleasure to read. This is worthy of first
star selection." - Jim Boone. President-National Hockey League Fan Association (NHLFA.com)

THE FOREWARD TO "SHOTS ON NET" 

The 1999-2000 season, and the months leading up to it, was one of the most tumultuous
in league history. This book begins late in the 1998-99 season, following the league through the 1999 playoffs, the off-season and throughout the 1999-2000 season. It finishes with the 2000 Stanley Cup finals.

Some of the more notable events included a superstar player holding out for an entire season, rather than return to his team and honoring the final year of his contract. This situation had the potential to create far-reaching effects on the state of future contracttalks for all players.

One hockey legend would retire, and another would pass away. The number of serious
injuries would rise noticeably, possibly costing two fine players their careers. The calls for cracking down on violent play, which had been growing in previous seasons, would reach a crescendo.

The league, and in particular its Canadian franchises, would pressure the federal
government of Canada into offering some form of financial aid. Neither side expected the backlash this would create in the country labeled “the cradle of hockey”.

Player salaries would continue to rise, as would ticket prices, amid warnings of financial
losses by nearly twenty teams. There would be the free-spending folly of the largest of the NHL’s big market teams. It would also see, for the first time, hints that team ownership may finally be attempting to draw the line regarding the payment of free agents.

It would be a season that, despite the league’s efforts to better market the game, would
hear the continued rise in complaints over how the sport’s most entertaining asset - it’s offense - was being snuffed out by dull defensive play and a diluted talent pool.

There would be the emergence of a new powerhouse in the Western Conference, and the beginning of the decline of a former one. Teams expected to fulfill lofty ambitions came up short, while other clubs that anticipated failure instead succeeded beyond expectations. Finally, there would be a thrilling playoff between a defending champion and a club most had written off as a serious Cup contender.

I’ve been a devoted fan of NHL hockey since 1970. Over the years, like most fans, I’ve come to form strong opinions about the league, its players and the game itself. I have shared those opinions with other fans, who themselves had strong views about the game, some which sharply contrasted from mine. Thanks to the Internet and on-line services, I found a venue to exchange and debate opinions with hockey fans across North America and around the world. I’ve found that, regardless of where one stands on issues pertaining to hockey, all of the fans share the same passion for the sport.

In 1998, I decided the time was right to set up my own hockey web page, where I could
further share my views on the game with a broader audience of hockey fans. On
September 20th, 1998, Spector’s Hockey was born. This book is a compilation of articles that have appeared in the “Soapbox” section of my web page. The soapbox analogy comes from when I used to “rant” about a certain topic, someone in one of the AOL message boards replied: “There you go, climbing on your soapbox again!”. Thus, it seemed an appropriate title for my commentary page.

It is my opinion the views of hockey fans have been largely ignored by the league, its players and the media covering the game. This is particularly true of hockey books. Every year, we are bombarded with books ghost-written for former players, or commentary on the state of the game by professional hockey writers. However, we see very little, if anything at all, from those who have no professional ties to the sport, but love the game and have passionate viewpoints. I don’t profess to speak for all hockey fans with this book, but merely to offer the opinion of one fan. I leave it up to you, the reader, to determine if we share the same views.

All material copyright 2000 Spector's Hockey and Booklocker.com.