Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to review several books for publication. The majority of those were technical: histories in areas where I had a modicum of expertise. Quite a few had an intended audience of less than 1000, many less than 100. The authors were usually modifying a graduate thesis, hoping to grasp the first rung of the ladder that leads to an academic career.
Both are my friends, in the modern sense of the term. I’ve only met Stephen over the Stargazing Podcast and Sean just briefly, pre-game, last fall during the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. But over the years, I’ve gotten to know them through their words; through things that they’ve written or said on a number of platforms: 100 Degree Hockey, The Athletic and Elite Prospects Rinkside to just name a few.
If you’re already a Texas Stars fan, this is as good as its going to get. Through a series of 12 essays, Meserve and Shapiro deliver a decade long stroll down the Texas Hockey memory lane. They also deliver an insightful symposium on the larger world of the AHL – the second best professional hockey league on earth.
If you’ve lived through recent history as a Stars fan, you’ll find your share of feel good nostalgia: Ben Bishop’s retirement game, Maxime Fortunus/Travis Morin and jerseys that deserve to be hanging from the rafters, plus a potpourri of unique “Emplying the Notebook” vignettes.
There is also a good deal of Stars organizational intrigue. Sean attempts to put the #HonkaWars to bed – it may not be the last word on the subject, but it’s hopefully the last time it needs to be seriously addressed. The piece on how the Jack Campbell organizational failures led to Jake Oettinger’s success is likewise insightful.
Finally, several pieces touch on the impact that Texas hockey has had on how the AHL does business (which, ironically, has left Texas with no natural rivals). One of the things that I’ve always loved about Sean is his willingness to deep dive into the business of hockey, and he has several pieces in this vein here, including “Does the Calder Cup Matter?”.
A few quibbles. For readers who haven’t lived and died with the Texas Stars over the last decade, a timeline of major events, coaches and important players would be useful. Likewise, the inclusion of best players by numbers/nationalities didn’t fit with the rest of the book (although, the fact that Stephen has a list of all Texas Stars players by number on 100 Degree Hockey remains amazing to me).
Each essay is easily digestible and stands on its own. This is the kind of book that you can pick up when you have a few minutes. Store it next to your Christopher Nilstorp Calder Cup memorabilia.
“We Win Here” is on the wall in the team room in Cedar Park. For a development league, that’s a differentiator. Hockey players at any level want to win – it’s one of the reasons that it’s hard to properly tank for draft position. The Texas Stars haven’t been around that long in the overall scheme of things, but in that time, the organization has distinguished itself by winning. Not every year, but enough to think that development and winning can be dual priorities.
This team is special, and Sean and Stephen bring that out. Having two writers of this caliber pull together a book about a tiny portion of the hockey universe is equally special.
The book is available at www.wewinhere.com.