This is not a book review. I am no scholar or master of the english language. Who am I to judge? I am instead going to give my thoughts on Will Brodie’s book about the AIHL called, Reality Check. Reality Check is the story of the journey he took with the Melbourne Ice and the Goodall Cup Champions, the Melbourne Mustangs over the 2014 season.
Mr Brodie was kind enough to send me a copy in advance which has given me ample time to read and ponder. To be honest, I was expecting this to be puffy, with a lot of positive stories about the sport of Ice Hockey played on this Southern Continent. Something in which Australian Ice Hockey could go, “hell yeah” and fist pump the air believing that everything is awesome.
This book is not the puffy publication I was expecting. Will’s love for ice hockey is obvious and I feel quite apologetic for not giving him enough credit in his ability to peel off the layers and expose the extremely raw and tender inside of the sport underneath.
In my capacity as a member of the Melbourne Mustangs’ committee over the past few years, I have gained ample insight into what is happening around the sport. Reality Check for an administrator of the sport, hits many emotions.
Reality Check is not just about the sport, it is also about the players, the characters and the issues in the sport today. The book is candid and will be brutal in it’s raw truth for some.
On my way to the Icehouse I run into Robert Bannerman. The commissioner is, and he’s angry. The promotional material for placement at the rink has not arrived, for the second day in a row….
If the material arrives, he will, for the second year in a row, spend his finals-eve sticking banners on the boards in the middle of the night.
Reality Check’s story of the 2014 season is fantastically well documented and covers off and on the ice well. As someone who volunteered to work the AIHL Finals, I found Will’s portrayal of the finals exciting and dramatic. He captures the atmosphere and the behind the scenes well. I was there for one of his paragraphs and the situation conveyed was exactly how I remember it.
Will does this, while combining insights from coaches and team managers that give a level of context that is nigh on impossible to convey to a fan in the stands. For example, he covers Melbourne Mustangs major sponsor, Bryan Jeffery from MOAT: Mental Health services talk about “being in the cortex” or in laymans terms, using but not losing your head. As someone inside the Mustangs, Bryan’s ‘Cortex Speech’ was pivotal that weekend. What matters though is that Will captured it’s effect. Jamie Bourke was completely unresponsive to the Sydney Ice Dogs taunts, because he was ‘In the Cortex’. It was a defining moment in the Mustangs finals weekend.
What Will also covers are the feeling of players. These feelings are sometimes quite well known, especially to club administrators. To the fans of the league, not at all.
Mustangs import Jeff Grant has a bit to get off his chest, and maybe it could only be said to an outsider. He says the AIHL is undergoing an “identity crisis” and must decide what it wants to be. “There’s so much they could do to improve that doesn’t cost much money” he said
The book is quite confronting in the feedback the local players and the imports have given under the guise of an interview. Will’s interviewing style has bought a lot out of those who play this sport. A lot that, in my opinion, should be taken seriously and used to progress the sport. You will not get this level of data from a player/league summit. It’s a gift.
The book has come at a time where the relationship between the AIHL and IHA seems as fractured as it’s ever been, and at a time when many around ice hockey in this country are feeling and noticing the fragmentation problem Ice Hockey in Australia has.
Reality Check goes some way as to revealing why. Too many opinions and egos all pulling the sport in the direction they think it should be going. It is obvious that a lot of those opinions are at odds with each other, but it is also obvious that we all want the same thing, for Ice Hockey to prosper in Australia.
Reality Check is exactly that, a reality check. The book throws a lot out there, reveals hopes and intentions while combining everything under the love of the sport.
Reality Check is a great read for the fan. It’s inspiring and juicy. Enough to keep you entertained and thinking for a long time. For the administrators in the sport, it serves as a manual. A manual to take notes from to open the eyes in the future. A manual on what some outside the executive committees are seeing and feeling. Something as administrators of the sport we can lose touch with.
Reality Check in my opinion should be a line in the sand for Ice Hockey in Australia. A comprehensive record of 12 months in our sport that we have never had and may possibly never get again.
It is the perfect gift from a man who has given a lot to Ice Hockey in Australia. I just hope the sport treats it as such.
Will Brodie’s Reality Check Book is available for online order at: http://www.realitycheckhockeybook.com/
Will Brodie’s Website: http://www.willbrodie.com/