Friday, December 14, 2018
BOOK REVIEW: HEART & SOUL OF THE SJHL
Rod Pedersen may perhaps be best known by the people of Saskatchewan as the voice of the province’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, a position the Milestone, Sask., native has held for two decades, but Rod also spent 17 years on the chillier side of life, as a play-by-play man in the Western Hockey League.
“Hockey is what we are in Saskatchewan,” Pedersen said. And it’s that mindset and passion for the game, along with a conversation with an old friend, that lead to the sports broadcaster’s most recent book, Heart & Soul of the SJHL – A 50 year Anniversary, released earlier this week.
Pedersen said the idea for the book came directly from SJHL league President Bill Chow about two years ago. With a relationship between the pair going back 25 years, and Pedersen’s prior experience as an author with a best-seller about the Riders already on his resume, Chow pitched the idea to the sports enthusiast. Pedersen's already busy schedule resulted in one of the truly unique aspects of the book.
“It quickly dawned on me I really didn’t have the time to write the entire book,” Pedersen said. “So I found writers from all across the province, a literal team of writers that wrote the chapters on each club. It turned out even better than I thought; it’s like a quilt with different patches from all over the province woven together. We’re so thrilled with the way it’s come together and turned out.”
With the local authors’ perspectives evident throughout the book’s pages, the personal details brought forth by each contributing writer about their community is something Pedersen believes the fans will thoroughly enjoy as well.
“I think the fans in each city are very happy with the fact it was a guy in their local market that wrote the chapter,” he said. “I knew bits and pieces of every club, but I didn’t know everything there was to know about every club, so going this route with the local writers was the best way to go. They dug in the corners to get the best stories.”
In addition to the 12 current franchises in the league, Heart and Soul also includes segments dedicated to former SJHL teams of years passed as well.
“One of the proudest parts of this book for me was the stories of the defunct and relocated franchises, like Lebret, Minot, Moose Jaw, and so-forth. I mean that’s what really gave the book some flavour; some depth and texture. I really don’t think we left anything out, and I’m proud of that.”
While no doubt providing a source of great pride and joy for both the author and readers alike, the SJHL’s 50th Anniversary account is also not without its share of emotion.
About a year into its construction, the project’s fate was suddenly thrown into question April 6, 2018, when news broke of the Humboldt Broncos’ bus crash on their way to Nipawin for a playoff game.
“I didn’t know that there’d be a book project after that,” Pedersen said, before then giving credit to Bill Chow for the idea to include a commemorative section on the Broncos, with the blessing of the families, including colour photos and bios of the 29 people on the bus.
The Broncos tribute is no doubt an emotional read, but one which all involved knew was imperative to include within the league's account, and one that Pedersen knew was done right when he received a note from former Broncos President Kevin Garinger.
“He said it was well done and thank you. That was the best approval, and the only approval that I wanted," Pedersen said. “It will stir emotion in you when you read it, but it’s the way that we wanted to honour the Broncos and I know that it will strike people. One way or another, you’re going to feel something.”
Despite all that he has learned about hockey in the province, in addition to that which he already knew, Pedersen still couldn’t help but shake his head with a bit of a smirk when asked why hockey holds such a special place in Saskatchewan; that is until, after a moment of thought, he found the right words.
“Hockey is what we are in Saskatchewan,” he said, “The SJHL is what we are.” Tying it all together, the author then continued, ‘If you love Saskatchewan and you love hockey, than you’ll love this book, because it tells the whole story.”