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Cornered Coach: Reading the Play


At 10 and 12, my two lads are entering that next phase of independence, but there are still a few childhood traditions they're not quite ready to give up.

For instance, the two still insist on a bedtime story before they turn in for the night. But as long as I have some say in the literary department, I'm perfectly fine with it.

Currently, our own personal book of the month club is focused on "Scrubs on Skates." It's a 1952 classic written by the late, great Scott Young, who passed away in 2005. Young happens to be the father of iconic Canadian singing star Neil Young, who returned to his tiny hometown of Omemee, Ontario just a few weeks ago to perform a much-publicized concert that was live-streamed around the world.

But before Neil hit it big, Scott Young was the family's foremost star. A talented newspaper and magazine writer, Young covered the Toronto Maple Leafs beat during the Punch Imlach years and is in the media wing of the Hockey Hall of Fame. However, if you ask me, Young's biggest claim to fame is penning a trilogy of hockey fiction books for young people – "Scrubs on Skates", "Boy on Defense" and "Boy at the Leafs Camp." I own all three of these jewels, purchasing my copies as a puck-loving 12 year old over 40 years ago. The books are a little tattered and torn around the edges, as I've read them a thousand times. And now it's a thrill getting a chance to share them with my two boys.

We've tried to read more modern hockey tales, as there are a number of puck novels written for a young audience. But most of the time, we get halfway through them and lose interest. A lot of them tend to be centered around angles that include mysteries, crime solving or ghost stories, with the hockey theme often shoved to the sidelines. 

"Scrubs on Skates", on the other hand, is a perfect mix of exciting hockey action coupled with universal themes that, even though they were penned in the 50's, still resonate with kids today. In a nutshell, "Scrubs on Skates" tells the tale of Pete Gordon, a young high school hockey player from Winnipeg who, because of boundary issues, is forced to attend a brand new school. Leaving behind his teammates at his former school, Pete is heartbroken and apprehensive about the major change. At first, he struggles big-time with the move. But through perseverance and teamwork, he soon adjusts to his new hockey life and helps take his team to places they never expected to go. Meanwhile, with a nod to the anthem-kneeling controversy that has impacted all of sports this year, it's fascinating that "Scrubs on Skates" also deals with the stupidity of racism and how, by working together, different cultures can come together to accomplish great things.

Does it sound like the kind of book your hockey-loving kids might enjoy?

If so, you can hop on to Amazon and order a copy of all three books from the Scott Young trifecta, just in time to slap a fantastic Christmas present under the tree. Unlike my dusty old copies, the books have even been updated to give them a more modern feel to connect with today's youth. However, as mentioned earlier, you don't have to worry about getting bogged down by some goofy mystery or ghost plot.

Just straight ahead hockey, with some important life messages as the icing on the cake.

Let's face it.

Kids grow up really quickly.

So, if they still want a bedtime story, what the heck?

And if you can find a beauty like "Scrubs on Skates" that holds your attention too, that's a true win-win situation.

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