As I mentioned some time ago, I was approached with an offer of a review copy of Barry Melrose's book, "Dropping the Gloves". With a website named "Barry Melrose Rocks" I'm sure Mr. Melrose's people were out looking for a favorable review. Completely honest here, but I went into the reading of this book with every intention of reading this book with a critical eye, and I did.
For what it's worth, I liked the book.
I am a voracious reader. My favorite genre is usually international espionage (Daniel Silva is presently my favorite author), but I've always enjoyed John Grisham. His best works are typically written from the perspective of characters in the book. It provides an authenticity that adds another layer to the novels he writes. I was reminded of Grisham, oddly enough, when I read through Melrose's book.
Obviously, Grisham affects this voice, whereas it is authentic with Melrose. It's important to the book that we see Melrose as the farm kid from Kelvington and not the well coifed, slick ESPN analyst. If ever we are entered into the world of professional hockey, it would likely be along a similar path, either as a parent or, if you are really young and actually reading this website, as a player.
Another characteristic of Melrose's writing is a tone that reminds one of high school report writing. This isn't necessarily a knock. Melrose didn't choose writing as a profession, and the fact that he was coherent and the book got published is endlessly laudable. The "report" feel of the book sets an appropriate tone. This is a look at hockey's organization, through all levels and not a memoir. Melrose has points to make and he wants to ensure that you understand what he is trying to say.
It's an easy read, and the book is fairly brief, but it is interesting. You get an impression of the various levels of hockey, but also a look at how one man handled those levels. He wasn't from a hockey family (though he is Wendel Clark's cousin) so he, like most of us, was an outsider. The perspective of this book, the hockey fan who eventually made his way through pretty much every level of the game with every position available, is perfect for the audience. We all understand the game, but we don't necessarily understand the business end. Instead of dallying over details of individual games or rules and strategy, we are told about the perils of dealing with Junior hockey, the importance of locker room chemistry and how important the right situation is when becoming a head coach.
I really enjoyed Dropping the Gloves. (For the record, Melrose was a fighter during his time in the NHL, and espouses his view on fighting in the NHL, and makes some good points) I thought I would simply enjoy Melrose for his anecdotes, but I mostly enjoyed the way it was written, and the perspective on the game that was provided.