One on One with Alan Hahn of Newsday

 

I recently got the chance to sit down and talk with Alan Hahn, sportswriter for Newsday and author of the new EBook, Bruin Redemption, which, amazingly, came out just under two days after the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup.

I spoke to Alan about the issues with getting a book out so quickly, about the Boston Bruins championship season, and about the future of hockey in Boston. Our candid conversation follows:

For a review of Bruin Redemption, please head here.

Bob Mand of The Hockey Writers: This book came out on Amazon less than two days after the Cup was won – what is it like to produce a book under those sorts of extreme circumstances?

Alan Hahn: It was crazy! It’s one of those things that we thought was going to be a bit of a challenge before the finals began. [They asked me]… do you think we can do this. I said, well, we can prepare and it’s definitely a risky situation…If the Bruins didn’t win I would have had a lot of notes [that I would be unable to use]… writers are supposed to be unbiased and not root for a team: I was rooting like hell for the Bruins! It was ridiculous…. When they went down 0-2, I was thinking, well maybe we’re not going to have a book here, and they came back and it was crazy!

When that game ended, I started writing (I already had a large chunk of it on paper)… once they had raised the Cup I really had to get into it… seventeen hours after the cup was raised, the book came out … that’s actually disappointing to me, because I was really hoping to get it out sooner than that, but logistically that’s just not possible.

THW: {Laughing} Hot off the presses, huh?

AH: I had to sleep, and that got in the way.

THW: You seem to have already answered my second question – do you feel that it’s too quick to have produced something like this or do you think that immediate EBooks like this are the future of post-championship journalism?

AH: What I do for a living is I’m a beat writer. When I cover a game, I write about it immediately. So in my mind I don’t see why it would be too soon. To me, you want to strike while the iron is hot. This is something where the interest is high right now. Now is this an in-depth, behind-the-scenes kind of book? No, of course it’s not. We didn’t have the time to put together that kind of thing… it was sort of like being a beat-writer on steroids. To me it just felt normal … writing about the games that I covered, and writing it in a way that it all came together. As a newspaper writer, it was a dream because I didn’t have any limits on my length.

The only fear is that because of the quick turnover you want to make sure that the editing is done right. You want to make sure of your research. You want to make sure the copy editing… that the proofing is all done right, because that can destroy the credibility of a book… Adams Media did a great job, there’s a lot of stuff in there, there’s a lot to do in a short period of time, and it was a great team effort.

THW: When I read Bruin Redemption, knowing that it had come out so soon after the Championship, I was worried (and expecting) that there would be many glaring mistakes, but to my relief, there weren’t.

AH: There were a few things I said to myself, [after it went to “press”] “I probably should’ve done this, or gone a little more into that,” or I can remember saying, “I need to come back to this [subject]” and I didn’t… [But] I wanted to make it readable, not just a sequence [of events]. I wanted to give a little backstory… a little entertainment, and there’s a lot to it. Again, it was like being a beat-writer on steroids, but instead of writing one game story, I wrote sixteen of ‘em.

THW: Regarding the title, Bruin Redemption, do you feel it’s more reflective on the team, or the fan base which suffered so visibly for almost 40 years?

AH: {Laughing} I’m going to say, “yes”.

…That’s really what I was looking for, because of the feelings of the fans through the long wait [for a Cup Championship] and everything they’ve been through, the heartache and coming up short, and [B’s owner] Jeremy Jacobs… and seeing the Red Sox, the Patriots, and the Celtics all win and the whole city looking towards the Bruins, saying “Where are you?”

I also look at the way last season ended versus the Flyers, blowing a 3-0 lead, just an epic defeat thinking ‘what else can go wrong’ and you look back at things like Ulf Samuelsson’s hit on Cam [Neely], trading Bobby Orr, there’s so many little things that happened [to this franchise and fanbase]… and then for the team to use [that heartbreak] and all of the [negative] things that happened throughout the season, including the hit on Nathan Horton in the Final.

I look at Tim Thomas being told he’s never going to be good enough [to play in the NHL], Claude Julien being told “You’re not the right kind of coach,”… so many things, I answer your question “Yes” because it really does cover so much…

THW: You spoke of Aaron Rome’s hit on Nathan Horton as one of the turning points of the Final and of the season in Bruin Redemption. You also spoke of several other ‘turning points’ in your book, which do you think was the most important in achieving the Stanley Cup?

AH: It’s funny because it was the first road game, with the Canucks up 2-0 in the series, and Rome is trying to deliver a big hit to get his team fired up, and the end result was in fact firing up the opponent … Andrew Ference said back when they had that incredible fight-filled game with the Dallas Stars: “When we’re emotionally and physically involved in the game” (or along those lines) “we’re a really good team”.

They needed things like that to get going… whether it’s Roberto Luongo talking smack about Tim Thomas, or going down 0-2 to the Canadiens in the first round … it was always something that woke them up, shook them out of whatever they were going through … the Horton hit was, in my opinion, the final moment which unified them as a group… I also go back to that game versus Dallas … Gregory Campbell had a score to settle [With Dallas agitator Steve Ott] and guys kind of rallied around him … and then the brawl-filled game versus Montreal really solidified that identity.

THW: Do you think the B’s win the Cup without Rome’s hit on Horton?

AH: {Laughing} That’s pretty good… I do, because in those first two losses… they’d played very well … in game one we saw that 1-0 epic in game one with eighteen seconds left… They’re right there in those games even though they lost, and I think they were pretty confident coming home.

THW: How do you think the League handled the issue of supplementary discipline in the Cup Finals: Should Burrows have been suspended? Boychuk? And do you think the Bruins ‘crossed the line’ with some of their antics in the series?

AH: Well, the finger-stuff was silly when they were taunting each other … but it certainly made it entertaining … the league probably doesn’t want to overstep or make too much of it [regarding the Burrows biting incident], [but] you can see Burrows biting down and Bergeron showing the official the bit finger… and it made for a funny little sideshow, but I think it was handled right…

Nathan Horton, after the hit that cost him the remainder of the Finals. (Icon SMI)

Now, with Boychuk there wasn’t any intent in that one … that was an unfortunate, scary incident… awkward, with his head-down… I think Boychuk even let up a bit though you can see he still finished the check… that’s a tough call, but the League was right.

THW: The Media Circus that followed Roberto Luongo’s comments on Thomas: Overblown or appropriate?

AH: Appropriate! It’s the goalie fraternity, how are you going to question [the skill or style of] another goaltender? For Luongo to candidly critique his opponent he must have been feeling pretty good about himself with a handle on the series at that point following another shutout, maybe you can understand that he was feeling great … But he broke the “rules” there and he had to pay for it, and he did.

THW: Do you believe the Canadian media’s labeling of the Vancouver Canucks as “Canada’s Team” was faulty?

AH: There were more Canadians on Boston! {Chuckling}…I guess people try to do that. It happened when the Oilers were in the finals, when the Flames were in there… it’s been a long time since the Cup was won by a Canadian franchise, but does it really matter? No… If you’re in Toronto, do you think that there are a significant number of people really cheering for the Canucks? No.

THW: Early in Bruin Redemption, you say: “Make no mistake –Boston is a hockey town.” Do you feel that this Stanley Cup victory (and the 1.5 million who turned up for the parade) is clear evidence of a hockey Renaissance in Boston?

AH: I think the evidence of the Renaissance was two years ago in the playoffs when they got out of the first round after sweeping the Canadiens…after trading three straight Captains: Bourque, Allison and Thornton, it gets a bit tiresome for fans… rebuilding after the lockout, getting Chara, and Tim Thomas … even the tough loss to the Flyers last year, kind of made you think that this team was coming back.

You could see that that people were into the Bruins again… all it takes is for a team to be good and that city rallies around it. And the roots of the region… let’s be honest, hockey is New England, it’s part of the culture…think of how many great hockey programs in the region at the collegiate level, you don’t find that anywhere else around the country… It’s always been part of the fabric of New England’s history, of Boston’s history, and, hey, it’s the birthplace of [USA Hockey hero] Mike Eruizione.

THW: OK, switching things up a bit here, tell me, do you think that the Boston Bruins are the team to beat in 2011-12?

AH: I think that the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to be the team to beat … they have a really, really, good team and imagine if Brad Richards ends up going back there … they do have to address goaltending – Dwayne Roloson is going to be 42, and I’m not sure you want a 42-year old as your number-one…

Alan Hahn thinks Brad Richards to the Lightning would make for a scary team. (Icon SMI)

Fortunately for the Bruins, what happened to the Chicago Blackhawks last season is not going to happen to them [getting somewhat dismantled due to salary cap constraints]…they are going to lose a veteran guy like Mark Recchi to retirement… but they’re such a good young talented team… they’re going to be back for sure, but can you replicate a run like this?

THW: They were certainly very fortunate with injuries [excluding Savard and Horton]…

AH: Well yes, but aside from the injury aspect, will they still have that kind of drive… their desire for redemption? Now that they’ve accomplished [winning a Cup] are they talented enough now to just be good without that added motivation to overcome their demons from their past?

THW: Now you quote analyst and former Isles’ GM Mike Milbury several times throughout the book. As a former NY Islanders beat writer, does seeing him on-air make you cringe a bit?

AH: Well it doesn’t make me cringe. I actually had a good relationship with Mike, I’d call it a love-hate relationship when I was covering him…I loved covering him and he hated me! {Laughing} But I really enjoyed him because he was so candid and insightful, and I tell you what – draft night was always interesting when he was in charge … but [nothing] stops him from shooting his mouth off on-air, and I like that about the guy.

THW: Did you come up with the chapter title: “The Wrath of Grapes”? When I saw it I nearly destroyed my laptop with a mouthful of coffee!

AH: It makes more sense, you know, since [Don Cherry, a.k.a., Grapes’] wrath is so well-known {laughing}… it’s just one of those things at 2 AM… one of the challenges of making a book like this is that quick turnover time … trying to make it readable. I was hopefully retelling these stories in a way that’s enjoyable and getting you to say “oh, that’s right I remember that”… While it was still fresh, two days later you got to sit down and kind of relive it while you were still buzzing, while you were still riding high off of the win, and that’s what it was geared towards in my mind.

THW: Did you approach the publishing company, or did they approach you about writing this?

AH: Adams Media approached me with an idea they wanted to try … and I just said we could certainly give it a shot, why not. I felt comfortable enough with the team … If the Bruins had lost, there’d be no book, ‘because I certainly wasn’t writing a Canucks book… and it got down a couple of times to the wire… both at 0-2 and 2-3!

THW: That’s certainly a lot of work to put in for potentially no successful end-result!

AH: It was the first time I ever placed a “bet” on a team in my life.

THW: We really appreciate your time, Alan. Thank you!

Alan Hahn is Newsday’s New York Knicks’ beat writer. He also penned the hockey book, Fish Sticks, which chronicled the rise and fall of the New York Islanders. Bruin Redemption can be purchased at ITunes or Amazon.com.