Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: My Toughest Faceoff (2013)

By Brent Peterson with Jim Diamond

Allow me to start with a story about the author of "My Toughest Faceoff," Brent Peterson.

Way back in 1981, the Red Wings and Sabres completed a massive, stunning trade. Veterans Danny Gare, Jim Schoenfeld, Derek Smith and Bob Sauve were sent to Detroit. As a radio reporter at the time, I was sad to see those guys go, because they were all friendly and chatty to the media. Who would replace them?

Dale McCourt was a big part of the package coming to Buffalo, and he was cooperative. Mike Foligno never saw a microphone he didn't like, so that was good. But the unknown quantity in the deal was the not-so-well-known Brent Peterson. No one had much of a chance to talk to him before.

Peterson worked out fine. He fit right in on the checking line, and teamed up with Craig Ramsay on penalty-killing. You could say he was a replacement for the departed Don Luce, with some of the offensive skills. I'm not sure the Sabres had a better faceoff man after that, possibly until Paul Gaustad arrived.

In the meantime, Peterson turned out to be a fine interview, always ready to speak to the media. He was a good analyst of the team and the game, to the point where we could have guessed he'd be a coach someday.

That turned out to be the case. He eventually became an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators. Anyone who dealt with Peterson professionally or personally was upset to hear a while ago that he had contracted Parkinson's disease. It forced him to switch jobs with the Predators.

But don't feel sorry for Peterson, because he doesn't feel sorry for himself. He's doing the best he can to kick away gloom and excuses, and his spirit and good nature come across nicely in this autobiography.

The book probably can be split into two parts. The first half, more or less, is about his playing and coaching days. There are the usual good stories told about teammates and personalities, lightly told and fun to read. In fact, a few more tales probably would have been a nice addition.

But then Peterson notices that he's just not feeling right, that his muscles are acting in an unpredictable way. Doctors confirmed that Parkinson's diagnosis. Peterson knew that the disease would only get worse over time, and did not have a cure.

We read a book like this to find out, "What's it like?" In Parkinson's case, it's difficult. Peterson fully explains what he was feeling as the months went by. There are highs and lows, of course, even to someone this upbeat. He's particularly good at describing a series of operations designed to improve his motor skills, even if it involves drilling holes in his head and running wires to a control device on his chest, That sounds gruesome, but it has improved his quality of life quite a bit since he was done. Some credit certainly goes to co-author Jim Diamond for helping out on this project.

Peterson was always good in community relations, and he decided to set up his own foundation to raise money to fight Parkinson's. That involves a golf tournament and other events. In fact, this book's proceeds go in their entirety to that fund.

"My Toughest Faceoff" obviously has an appeal to the good hockey fans of Nashville as well as other locations where Peterson is remembered. It should cross over to others, too. The book is short and to the point, plus professionally done. Looks like Peterson won this draw pretty easily.

Four stars

Learn more about this book.

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