When Rick Heinz was an Eagle rookie and second-year player in 1979-81, I sat on airplanes and buses during road trips, watching him poring over financial manuals and reading the "Wall Street Journal" while other players played cards or slept.
Heinz knew how to have his fun after games, but he had a serious side, too. He was obviously interested in doing something other than just spending his money, and that impressed me. Combined with the goaltending skill that eventually got him into the National Hockey League with the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks and his ability to do personable interviews, I assumed Heinz had things in control.But in his recently released book, Heinz writes at length about the things in professional hockey for which he was unprepared.
That's right, Heinz, the three-year NHL backup and the winningest goalie in Eagle history, has written a book. It's a little ironic because he wasn't an NHL star, but he'll be in the Salt Palace to sell and autograph copies of "Many Are Called . . . Few Are Signed - The Hard Realities of Professional Hockey" during Eagle games Wednesday, Saturday and probably Jan. 3 and 4, as well.
Heinz's book is a manual for would-be pro hockey players, telling in a very conversational style all the things he wishes he'd known when he first broke in - and there were plenty. He's an advocate of taking college scholarships over getting to the pros through the Canadian junior system, of having personal agents handle contracts, of getting everything in writing and of always being positive and promoting a good self-image to management and public.
Since there aren't a lot of potential pros growing up in Salt Lake City, the book's value here is more in the reminiscences Heinz uses to explain how he and others made their mistakes or triumphed over the system.
Eagle fans will certainly get a kick out of seeing so many former Eagles and Blues mentioned and out of some of the stories Heinz has to tell.
The best include Heinz' brush with the law in Cincinnati; the way his brother talked him into playing goal for the first time, then stood behind him telling him when to flop to stop shots; his introduction to the brutal shaving ritual and the tale of how he burned his bridges with St. Louis following his trade to Vancouver. He found out later that a clause of the trade allowed St. Louis to take him back the next season. He got the silent treatment from Blues' players for months and came out of the shower one day to find his clothes and cowboy boots shredded.
As an Eagle rookie, Heinz had been careful to keep quiet and follow proper etiquette around veteran players, but one day, he didn't make sure roommate Paul Skidmore made it to practice on time. It's a sin to not take care of your roomie, and the veterans made sure Heinz never forgot it. Body shaving complete with razor burns is a vicious initiation rite, and many teams don't allow it any more.
Readers of Heinz's book will gain some appreciation for the trials of a professional athlete's life. Especially in the minors, it's tougher than it looks, but even at the big-money level, it's an existence of constant scrutiny from every angle, including from within.
*** Deborah Francis, wife of Eagle assistant coach Bob, gave birth to an 8-pound, 3-ounce daughter at 9:10 a.m. Thursday. It is the couple's second girl.
*** Randy Bucyk notes that the Eagles didn't really miss him while he was gone for a week to play for Team Canada in the Izvestia Tournament in Moscow. The Eagles won three straight and scored 26 goals without him. "That's great," said Bucyk. "I hope they saved some goals for after Christmas."
The Eagles play five games in six nights next week. Muskegon is in the Salt Palace Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, the Eagles are at Denver Friday and home against Denver Saturday.
While in Moscow playing in the same rink where Team Canada beat the Soviets in 1972, Bucyk said he gained a real respect for that accomplishment. "It's such a change in diet, a drastic change in time (11 hours), and that ice surface is so much bigger it's a different game."
The rink in Moscow is larger than Olympic size, which is 15 feet wider than the Salt Palace ice. "It took at least two games to get used to it," Bucyk said.
Team Canada was 1-3 in this tournament, falling to the Soviets 7-1, the Swedes 4-1 and the Czechs 4-2 while beating Finland 7-1. "It's an excellent showing," Bucyk said. "You've got to realize, the teams playing there are the best players the whole country has to offer."
Bucyk was reunited in one game on a line with former Eagle Jeff Wenaas. Bucyk reports Wenaas, a regular member of Team Canada on loan from the Calgary Flames for the season, has an injured hand and plays in a cast. Bucyk says Wenaas enjoys playing for Team Canada.
*** Eagle trainer Brian Patafie received a letter from Denver assistant coach/assistant general manager Doug Soetaert thanking Patafie and the Eagle medical team for the quick and professional care that was given to Denver's Mark Janssens when he suffered a head injury on Salt Palace ice two weeks ago. Soetaert said he would send a letter of commendation along to the Calgary Flames, Patafie's employer.