There aren't too many books that are specifically about the New Jersey Devils. Sure, there are books that mention the Devils; have sections about the Devils; and so forth. Yet, there isn't any definitive written account of our favorite hockey team that all fans need to go out to the store or Amazon and purchase. Sure, there's Brodeur: Beyond the Crease; but that's really all about Martin Brodeur more than the New Jersey Devils organization. There are a few other tomes that are more or less summaries of some seasons and some books targeted for younger readers as opposed to definitive and detailed accounts. Therefore, Tales from the New Jersey Devils Locker Room by Glenn "Chico" Resch and Mike Kerwick hits on a kind of a niche.
I will be frank and say that this is not a definitive tell-all of the Devils' history. After all, Glenn Resch, the color commentator for the Devils on MSG broadcasts for the last 15 years or so, is involved in this book. I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover; however, the moment I saw that Chico had a hand in this book, I figured was not going to get The Game: Devils Edition or anything like that. That's not a criticism of the book, mind you. It's just that if you're looking for a behind-the-scenes, no-thoughts-barred, take-no-prisoners book about the Devils, this isn't that book.
Fortunately, the cover immediately tells you what is this book supposed to do. The tagline reads "A Collection of the Greatest Devils Stories Ever Told." Chico provides the stories, and Mike Kerwick of the Bergen Record recorded and edited them in an organized fashion. If any of that interests you, then you won't be disappointed because that's exactly what you'll get.
My review of Tales from the New Jersey Devils Locker Room continues on after the jump. In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to thank the fine people at Skyhorse Publishing for making me aware of the book's release and sending me a review copy for free. Of course, they have had no say in this review - they have not even seen this review prior to publishing it on this very site.
The book doesn't begin with the New Jersey Devils, but in the last days of the Colorado Rockies. The book continues from there onward to just this past season. While there are no specific dates called out, the stories come in a somewhat chronological order with their own headings to break it up. I did notice there were a few tales that skipped ahead of other events covered in later stories. For example, in one of the stories about that infamous Blizzard Game of 1987 (334 people attended the game, players came in and left late, etc.) called out Lou Lamoriello in one chapter, with a story about Lou was hired came out a few pages later. That's a minor point of contention, though. It didn't hinder me from following along in the book.
Most of the stories in of themselves are either light or somewhat obvious. In the former category, you have anecdotes of pranks and other offbeat situations. For example, like the time Mike Rupp forgot to go out for a shift and when he did get on the ice, managed to score a goal. In the latter, you have plenty of words surrounding the big moments of the franchise: the first trip to the playoffs and the three Stanley Cup victories. This is main strength of the book. Just by the diction, the use of nicknames, and just the nature of the story, I actually felt like I was hearing Chico tell me this story. I could hear Chico bringing up some of these tales during a broadcast. At the same time, I don't think Chico has brought up many of these stories on the broadcast, so the reader - likely a Devils fan - isn't going to just get a transcript of what Chico has said. If you enjoy that sort of tale and Chico's conversational style, then you'll really enjoy this book.
However, either by due to the length or by editorial decision, there are some noticeable gaps. There was nothing from 2008 through 2010. The playoffs from 1988 through 1994 were just summed up in one short section. This expanded edition includes events of that infamous 2010-11 season; as recent as the Devils drafting Adam Larsson and Chico wishing Doc Emrick well as he moved to solely NBC/VERSUS duty. Very little was written about Claude Julien's firing, which is in stark contrast to the detailed story behind Tom McVie's initial departure (though, McVie's story was possibly more interesting and more publishable). Even less was written about Brent Sutter, who isn't mentioned at all in the book. The book has a short tale about McMullen selling the team, but nothing about the team being sold by Puck Holdings to Jeff Vanderbeek and his group. Again, I understand that not everything can be there; but such gaps struck me a little odd as to what got in and what did not.
Some players are more represented in the book than others for various reasons. It's not guaranteed as to whether your fondly remembered former or current Devils get enough As with any kind of collection, not every anecdote will get into the book and I understand that. After all, it's only 208 pages long - everyone can't be in it. Plus, for some guys, they just don't have any good stories to go with them. Still, from reading Tales from the New Jersey Devils Locker Room, I got a sense of who in the organization Chico was friendly enough to publicly share these stories. This is no problem if you don't mind or if the players you want to read about are in the book. Should you expect someone who's only briefly mentioned or not mentioned at all in the book, this may be a sticking point.
Another point of criticism was in that some of the stories tended to end awkwardly. Some of them just end with facts about the player that didn't really tie in with the story or the flow of the chapter. For example, Chico tells a short tale about Brian Gionta's being subject to his first big hit in the NHL. It then ends noting that he went on to tie a franchise record in goals in 2006. While true, it doesn't really follow from being hit. Perhaps it's in there to briefly remind the reader who Gionta is, in case they were unsure as to what he done with the Devils. Even if I didn't know who the player was, that kind of ending still sticks out like a sore thumb in a few spots.
Still, it's a collection of stories about the team and it's a not a bad book at all. At 208 pages, it's a fairly quick read what with most of the stories being quite short. I even learned a few things about the Devils I didn't know before, and I didn't feel like I was wasting my time reading through events I already known about in more detail. Basically, I enjoyed the time I spent with the book. Though, I will admit that it has also fueled my desire for a more definitive, detailed behind-the-scenes account of the Devils. Your mileage may vary after reading this book.
If you're more interested in a more detailed account of the team with a less subjective viewpoint and something more serious, then you may not like this book. In fact, that book has yet to be written. If you don't like Chico's way of telling anecdotes and stories, then you'll really won't like this book. If you like Chico's style of storytelling and these kinds of stories about the Devils interests you in a relatively short fashion, then I'd recommend spending a little time with Tales from the New Jersey Devils Locker Room. It's available for sale now (here's a link at Amazon), and it could make a good gift for that Devils fan with a short bookshelf for Devils-based books.