Matt McCoy, a former pro hockey player and first-time author, has packaged his experiences into the funny and sometimes uncomfortable autobiographical novel “The Kid Who Missed the Bus” ($13.95, 226 pages, Central Avenue Publishing).
McCoy’s main character is Danny Boy Doyle, “the Real McCoy,” who has conversations with an unnamed authority figure whose questions prompt Danny’s detailed stories.
The premise reads like a John R. Tunis juvenile sports novel. As a boy, Danny has the determination but not the skill to make his town’s top team, and he watches from his home located across the street from the community ice rink as his friends hop on the bus to take them to their next game. Soon, Danny’s talent catches up to his drive, putting him on a course that could land him in the NHL. He leaves home at 15 to play junior hockey, with varying levels of success. Junior hockey ends at age 20, and Danny Boy Doyle’s dream of an NHL career is over and he heads off to college.
Still, it’s hockey that makes Danny whole, and after business school he gets the urge to play competitively again. He gets into shape, turns some heads and his agent finds him jobs playing pro hockey in and Denmark, Germany, England and Texas.
But this isn’t a Tunis novel, and most of Danny’s experiences with alcohol and chasing women aren’t for young readers. Yet young players could learn valuable lessons from McCoy’s stories about the inner workings of competitive hockey, even if those stories tend to become repetitious.
McCoy can write, and he engulfs the reader in details: “I’m sitting in the first row, hair still wet from the shower, wiggling my toes and enjoying that first half-hour out of skates when your sneakers feel like they’re made of pillows.”
As the book marches toward the inevitable end of Danny’s hockey career, the payoff is profound.
Accomplished athletes say with sarcasm that they are “living the dream.” “The Kid Who Missed the Bus” provides context to that statement.
Dennis Anderson is executive editor of the Journal Star in Peoria, Ill. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.