By Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
February 6, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Prince Rupert native and Tsawwassen, BC resident Matt McCoy sat down with Island Sports News last week to talk about his new book, “The Kid Who Missed the Bus,” a true-to-life account of life behind the scenes as an aspiring junior and European pro hockey player looking to make it to the big time.
Anyone who has played hockey at a serious level, or has kids that play hockey at a serious level, are no doubt familiar with the phrase that has inspired the title of Matt McCoy’s first book.
The title stems from both the figurative aspect of missing the big opportunity to play hockey at the pro level, but also the literal aspect of not physically being on the bus you wanted, or needed to be on.
“I never made the NHL, so in some respects the title relates to that” noted McCoy, “but it really stems from my days back in Atom hockey in Prince Rupert. I didn’t make the Atom rep team my first year and as I lived across street from rink, I would always see that bus leaving town when they went to play. Of course if you were not on that bus, you were not on that team. And it does not matter if you are in junior, the minors or the NHL, if you are not on the bus, you’ve missed that opportunity.”
McCoy’s hockey journey and desire to play pro is the kind of story that does not make the headlines, but is no doubt typical of the majority of kids who play minor hockey and junior and dream one day of making the NHL, especially for those who are not the Wayne Gretzky’s or Sidney Crosby’s of their generation.
Matt McCoy, author of “The Kid Who Missed the Bus” (Photo Courtesy Matt McCoy)
It is a journey that inspired him to write the book, noting that he really wanted to give a true-to-life account of what goes on behind the scenes in that journey and to open up the eyes of both parents and players alike that the road to stardom can include a great deal of fun and elation and include some interesting escapades, but that it can also be fraught with heartbreak and despair.
McCoy played his minor hockey in Prince Rupert and at age 15, left home to begin his junior hockey career in the WHL with the then Victoria Cougars. As he did not want to risk losing his NCAA eligibility, McCoy opted to play for the Cougar’s “farm” team at the time in Nanaimo.
His experience in Nanaimo was interesting to say the least and he was billeted with a family that ran a grow-op from their house. Sensing that a situation like that was not perhaps the best for him, he requested that the team move him to another billet family. After weeks of inaction by Nanaimo, McCoy finally went to the parent club Cougars with his request and he was moved the next day.
That apparently did not sit well with the Nanaimo club, who felt that McCoy inappropriately went over their heads, and a week later, he was unceremoniously cut from the team, arriving at the rink to find his bags packed.
Not knowing what to do, he hooked up with now NHL head coach Tom Rennie, who had coached him in the BC Best Ever program and went to play Junior B hockey with the Columbia Valley Rockies. After a year there, he left to play for the Kelowna Spartans, but returned shortly thereafter to the Rockies where the team won the Cyclone Taylor Cup and the Western Canadians.
He then left the Rockies to head to Penticton and played for the Knights, but the team folded at Christmas and he soon found himself in Saskatchewan playing for the Weyburn Red Wings.
In his second year in Saskatchewan, McCoy received a half-ride offer to Colorado College, but this did not pan out, so he packed in his hockey career and went to school in Vancouver to focus on securing his business degree.
“I basically quit cold turkey to focus on school,” says McCoy. “I didn’t put skates on for three years. I totally just packed it in. I wanted to focus on school and get it done because I was the one paying the bills.”
After school, McCoy worked in sports store where he ran into the legendary Tiger Williams. Williams, who played for same coach McCoy did back in Saskatchewan, suggested that McCoy get back in shape and come and play some roller hockey.
“So that’s what I did,” said McCoy. “I ended up losing 50 pounds, played for 6 games or so with some other guys that came in from east coast and in that time, an agent from Ontario saw me play and asked if I’d be interested in going to Europe to play ice hockey again. I thought that would be great and that it would be a great way to see the world and pay off my student loans, so off I went.”
McCoy played for a year each in Denmark, England and Germany and then headed back to North America where he played for a Texas based team in the Western Professional League.
It was there that he blew out his knee, and after a messy court case involving the team, he realized that his hockey career was done and that he needed to get on with the next aspect of his life.
“It was certainly hard to digest,” notes McCoy, “as one day I’m in a hockey rink, playing in front of 5,000 fans, signing autographs, and then three-months later, as a business salesman, I’m getting kicked out of corporate offices!”
“It was a great experience though,” adds McCoy, “and over the course of that time, there were lots of funny stories and people always said I should put them into a book. So that’s what I did and now it’s come to fruition.”
“The Kid Who Missed the Bus” is a little bit of fact and a little bit of fiction. It is based predominantly on what McCoy saw and experienced on his hockey journey, but sprinkled with some editorial license and fiction, mainly to protect the innocent.
“When I sent the first draft to my publisher, she said we would need to change some things up, otherwise I was going to be sued every other page,” notes McCoy. “The people I was writing about are now well established businessmen or community members, with families and such, and she was pretty sure they would not want to be so blatantly identified in the story!”
“The book includes some true stories, and some that are not, or that were toned down or embellished,” adds McCoy, “but they are all based on my experiences and encounters along the way.”
McCoy cautions that the book is not intended to be a read for the younger hockey crowd, which one might be able to interpret from the front cover photo that features a pair of lacy women’s underwear draped over a pair of hockey skates.
“It is definitely an adult read” notes McCoy. “You’re going to read about nightlife and things that happened in the locker room and outside the rinks, and while I’d love to sell it to some of the hockey schools and academies that have requested it, I won’t, as some of the content is just not appropriate for them.”
“It is, however a good read and exposure for older kids and for parents, if only to understand that it’s not like what you see on TV, where pro-players seem to have this simple, glamorous life. There are some real hard knocks along the way and it can be a real grind on a daily basis.”
The book will be released March 5th, 2013, but has already garnered some rave reviews in preview readings:
“In life as in hockey, not everybody gets on the bus. For every father who has a son, this book is a must read.”
Talk show host, CKNW AM 980
“I grew up in Cranbrook B.C., a vibrant Hockey community just like Matt’s home town, and to be able to read first hand his experiences made me reflect on many situations in my own career that I had nearly forgotten about. I think that no matter where you grew up in Canada and how far you made it in the game of Hockey, there is a common bond that all competitive Hockey players share, on and off the ice. This book brings to light why we played the game and the passion we all have for it. My career took me from Cranbrook Minor Hockey to Tier 2 Junior (where I played with Matt), and from U.S. College Hockey to the AHL, NHL and eventually to Europe where I finished my career. I always wondered what form a book would take if I ever decided to write one so I was excited to have the chance to read about Matt’s journey and see how closely related the Hockey World really is.”
Owner, Cranbrook Honda
“First time author Matt McCoy’s insightful new novel, “The Kid Who Missed the Bus”, describes all of the challenges and experiences that these hopeful young hockey players must face with a keen eye, rollicking humor, empathetic pathos, and unabashed honesty from the knowing point of view of having been one of these “kids” himself in the late 1980s. While neither author McCoy nor his novel’s central character, Danny “The Real McCoy” Doyle, made it to the NHL, many of those who skate in that league today for millions of Dollars (as well the those who do so in many other pro circuits in North America or as “imports” in European leagues) came up the same way by traveling equally colorful career paths through Canadian junior hockey. Hockey fan or not, won’t be able to put this book down. After reading this book you will never look at hockey in the same way again – and you will also gain a eye opening new understanding and appreciation of what it takes for the men who play it for us as pros to get there.
Bruce “Scoop” Cooper
Hockey author, filmmaker, and NHL broadcast historian
The book will be available for purchase on the web at www.thekidwhomissedthebus.com or via the Central Avenue Publishing web site HERE.
The book will sell in hardcopy for $13.95 and $5 for digital. McCoy will also provide signed copies for $21 shipping included upon request via the website.
Matt lives in Tsawwassen, BC with his wife and two kids. He still plays hockey on a weekly basis with a group of buddies.
Visit the web site for the book at www.thekidwhomissedthebus.com