In 2018, Mike Commito penned his first book, “Hockey 365: Daily Stories from the ice.”
It was kind of like a word-a-day calendar, but with a different hockey story for each day of the year, chronicling the sport’s history as far back as 1875.
Three years later, Commito is putting out a second volume of hockey history stories.
“Hockey 365, The Second Period: More Daily Stories from the Ice” is being released by his publisher, Dundurn Press, on Sept. 28.
Commito explains that when he was a kid, he always loved hockey, although he never played it at an organized level. He was an avid hockey card collector, and especially enjoyed the cards that depicted hockey trophies and the history behind them.
He eventually went on to earn his PhD in history, and as an adult started playing organized hockey.
“Everything just kind of converged probably in 2014,” said Commito, who, for his day job, is Cambrian College’s director of applied research and innovation.
“I started writing about hockey for a more popular audience, still kind of drawing from my historical background.”
That writing included a Sudbury.com column called History n’ Hockey, although he also avidly shared hockey history stories on social media. He has also written for media including The Athletic, VICE Sports and Sportsnet.
“And then it just gave me the idea to maybe take what I was doing on social media and expand it a little bit to make a book,” Commito said.
With the second book, Commito said he tried to focus on some of the more obscure and quirky stories from the history of hockey and the NHL.
“I like to find the stories that people aren’t as familiar with and kind of try to explore those a little bit,” he said. “It was a lot of fun doing that.”
Commito said the quirkiest story in the book is probably the offering for Nov. 25.
It focuses on when New England Whalers coach Harry Neale swung a hockey stick at fans near the end of a game between the Whalers and the Birmingham Bulls on Nov. 25, 1976.
Both teams were in the World Hockey Association and they had a pretty good rivalry going, although Neale took things too far. One of the fans who was struck pressed charges a few days later and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
When Neale returned to Alabama in 1977 for another game against the Bulls, he appeared in court and the charges were dropped. Funny enough it wasn't Neale's last altercation with the fans. In 1982, as coach of the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL, he got into another dustup with some in Quebec and was later suspended by the league for 10 games.
Also included in the second volume are some of the unusual circumstances that have arisen in the hockey world over the past year due to COVID-19, although he tried not to focus too heavily on these stories.
But the NHL resuming play in August 2020 and awarding the Stanley Cup in September 2020 was so unusual that it merited inclusion, Commito said.
The second book has received rave reviews from hockey insiders including Ron MacLean, Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Scotty Bowman, who calls the book “a must-read for hockey history fans.”
But he said the greatest responses he got were from the young readers who told him how much they enjoyed it, although that wasn’t necessarily his target audience. The book lends itself well to young readers because it’s so accessible.
Commito said readers are always cautious about telling him it’s the “perfect bathroom book,” but essentially it is, as each story is just one page long.
“You want it to be that kind of book that people can pick it up at their leisure and put it down, read a bunch, or read just one per day,” he said.
“Hockey 365, The Second Period: More Daily Stories from the Ice” is currently available for pre-order in both paperback and Kindle format. It will be released Sept. 28.