An Email Interview with Hockey Author Curt Solomon

It’s amazing the kind of hockey people you can be put in touch with via the Internet.

I have the perfect example of this. Back in early February, I was searching for something on Patrick Roy and I came across a book called My Road Hockey Obsession by Curt Solomon. After reading a sample of it via Google Books, I came across to appreciate it and how much Curt loves the game of hockey.

As such, I decided to conduct an email interview with him. Curt was kind enough to take some time to tell us about how he got into hockey, when he decided to write a book about his road hockey playing days, how he stays involved with the game now, and much more.

I hope you enjoy reading this!

PH: Growing up, how did you get into hockey?
CS: In the fifth grade, I sat behind a kid named Brandon (whom I later nicknamed “Beezer” and I continue to call him that to this day). In short order, we became friends and he introduced me to hockey. 

Before Beezer, I played a little baseball and soccer, but I enjoyed Transformers and Ninja Turtles more than sports.  However, when hockey came into my life, it was almost like an overnight conversion and hockey became my world.

PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team and player? How about now?
CS: “Beezer” introduced me to hockey during the 1988-89 season and in my naivety, I hooked my infant hockey wagon to the best team at the time, which was the Calgary Flames.

Calgary had a league best 117 point regular season in 1988-89 then went on to win the Stanley Cup. My favorite player was Al MacInnis. 

The Flames’ big defenseman was impressive to me simply because I could not believe someone could shoot the puck so hard!  I had a lot of fun watching him blast pucks while goalies stood there in disbelief.  MacInnis won the Conn Smythe in ’89 with 31 points in 22 games.

I was a Flames fan all through high school. When I graduated, I moved to Seattle, Washington in the late 90s and things changed. 

People would naturally ask me where I was from and at first I would tell them Brantford, Ontario. It quickly became clear no one knew where that was, so I started telling people I was from Toronto and that streamlined the conversation.

Now that people knew where I was from, the topic of sports often came up.  Sometimes it was Mariners vs Blue Jays but since I was Canadian, the good people of Seattle wanted to know if I was a stereotypical Canadian and in love with hockey (which I was). 

Once that was established, along came the Maple Leaf bashers. At first I found myself not standing up for the Leafs, but protecting Canada. As the months and months went by and the Leaf bashing continued, I started developing a real soft spot for the Maple Leafs, which I had never done before.  In a year I went from what I felt was just defending my “home town” to a true blue, through and through Leafs fan and I have been a crazy Leafs fan for more than two decades now.

While MacInnis was my favorite player growing up, as I researched, watched, played and understood more about hockey, I found a new favorite player.  By my mid 20s, I had come to the absolute conclusion that Robert Gordon Orr is the greatest hockey player who ever lived and who ever will live. 

No one has ever excelled in all three zones and in all situations like he has. If it were possible to put five Bobby Orr’s on ice at the same time against five Wayne Gretzky’s or five Mario Lemieux’s or five Sidney Crosby’s or five whoever’s, the Orr’s would skate the five into the ground!

I find it a real shame and frankly quite ignorant that so many hockey fans automatically call Gretzky the best hockey player of all time. There is no question Wayne’s point total will never be broken as most of his records are safe and sound, but those are offensive records. 

Being a talented offensive player ignores half the game. Even if you are the best one ever, it is still just one side of the ice. I am not saying Gretzky was a defensive player, but no one remembers him for that. When people remember Bobby Orr, they remember how great he was equally both offensively and defensively.

As far as active players, Sidney Crosby has been my favorite player for a long time. I remember first reading a tiny little blurb about him in Sports Illustrated in 2002 when he was at Shattuck-St. Mary’s.  I have followed his career closely ever since and I have him on my NHL Mount Rushmore along with Orr, Gretzky & Lemieux (it pains me to leave Gordie Howe off. It really, really does because no athlete has ever combined longevity and productivity like he has).

PH: What inspired you to write the book called My Road Hockey Obsession?
CS: I would not say there was any inspiration. One day I decided to start writing down my memories from all the years my friends and I spent playing road hockey. 

There was no end goal or purpose to it.  If anything, it was just an activity. 

I enjoy writing and this was a constructive way to spend my free time. Every so often I would sit down and write down these memories and stories and this sporadic writing took place for years.

PH: How did you go about compiling all the stories for this book? 
CS: Early in 2010 I had my fifth knee surgery. While I recovered from that, I considered turning my collection of random road hockey memories into a book, so I asked my friends for their stories and I began to organize what I had.

This process repeated for a few more years. I would write down what I would remember, ask the guys what they could remember, and just chip away bit by bit.  

I was badly injured in a car accident in early 2014. Being unable to do much of anything, I asked my wife and then my parents to read my draft. 

It was the first time anyone had read my work. I found it very interesting to receive criticism as it is difficult because one wants to hear they do not like your writing or all of the errors you made.

A year later I had recovered enough and I decided to finish this project off. I put a ton of work into the book over the next six months as I tightened up the writing, made some edits, and learned how to get published.

PH: What was your goal when it came to publishing this book? What were you looking to convey to readers?
CS: My only goal was to have my book published. I wanted to become an author and that was it.

People are drawn to the exceptional. We read about Bobby Orr because he was so fantastic but we also read about Brian Lawton because he was such a big first overall flop. I am not exceptional as I am like most of us and I am just an ordinary dude. 

However, ordinary dudes have unique stories, just like the exceptional people do. I wanted my readers to find their unique story in their ordinary life. 

I hoped my readers would have a bit of what many of us felt while we watched the movie “The Sandlot”.  In that movie, the kids played baseball everyday and they loved it as they played together every day because they were all best friends and they all loved baseball. 

My Road Hockey Obsession replaces baseball for road hockey and southern California for southern Ontario.

PH: At one point, you had your own YouTube Channel called Top Corner Hockey. What made you decide to start this channel?
CS: In 2016, I was driving a truck and I had a steady and reliable schedule. Knowing my time off each week and each month, I wanted to be constructive with my time and decided to fill some of that free space with hockey (what else?).

My brother-in-law co-owns miniwargaming.com. I asked him if he could help teach me how to make YouTube videos. 

He went a step further and offered me a job as a content producer. Although hockey has nothing to do with Warhammer 40K, he was curious about branching out.

PH: When you were running the channel, what were you trying to bring viewers on a consistent basis?
CS: I said this all the time on my channel that I want to show content I would like to watch if I was a viewer. I dislike talking heads! 

To me nothing is more boring than just watching someone else talk into a camera for several minutes. I want to see hockey on a hockey channel so I am going to give my viewers lots and lots of hockey videos!

Using relevant video was a must even though YouTube frequently gave copyright strikes. Making a video with lots of hockey highlights on topics of endless debate were my favorite kind to create.

I have a large library of old videos and I enjoy hockey history so I made a Defunct Team series. I love 90s hockey the most (particularly 90-94), so I tried making videos with that in mind. 

Listening to my audience was very important to me. I read and responded to every comment. I wrote down the ideas I liked from the audience and made videos from as many as I could, while always giving the credit where credit was due.

PH: In what ways are you currently involved with the game right now?
CS: The 2023-24 was the inaugural season for the Niagara Falls Canucks in the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL). I was thrilled that the team’s ownership asked me to provide play-by-play for the club. 

I had not called a game in 15 years, but it came back to me like old hat. I will be returning to do the play-by-play for the Canucks next season. All the OJHL and Niagara Falls Canucks games are on flohockey.tv.

Other than that, I am still a big fan of the NHL and the WHL. Since moving to Ontario, I have begun following the OHL more and I have been to some OHL games. With that said, I still prefer the WHL.

Now that I am involved in the OJHL, I follow this league very closely. One of our clubs – the Oakville Blades – is hosting the CJHL’s top prize, the Centennial Cup this May. I will certainly be there as a fan to watch some of it.

PH: Why do you think Canadians are so passionate about hockey 24/7?
CS: For two reasons:

1) Tradition: I am a person who deeply values tradition. I admire history and I enjoy reading/learning about history. 

Millions of Canadians must feel the same because the imagery of rosy cheeked children clad in homemade toques, scarfs, and mittens while holding old brown hockey sticks skating on cold, icy ponds still resonate despite few people actually having done that in the last 30 years. Heck, I have not skated on a pond since I was a young teenager in the early 90s and pictures of that imagery looked very old to me back then!

Playing hockey and caring a lot about hockey are both Canadian traditions. Canadians defend hockey like a family member. 

I was not a Toronto fan when I moved to Seattle in 1997, but I became one while living there because I was defending them all the time! 

One of the best examples I can give you about Canadians caring about hockey comes from my time as a student when I was living in Lethbridge, AB. It was February 24, 2002 when Canada played the US for the men’s Gold Medal at the Salt Lake City Olympic Games. 

My roommates and I (all five of us) rented a house on a corner of a busy street (well, busy for Lethbridge) close to the college on the south side of the city. During a commercial break, I went outside and the streets were empty. I had lived there for two years and despite the game being played in the middle of the day, the city was silent because everyone was inside somewhere watching the game.

2) Hockey is a great game!: Hockey is so much fun! It is so much faster than other sports, both to play and to watch. 

You have to be so quick with both your body and your mind to play hockey and I really admire that about people who get to the top. You hear the phrase about goal scorers how they’re “in the right place at the right time” because they are smart (having a great shot doesn’t hurt either). 

I remember Mario Lemieux saying when he was really in a groove, the game seemed to slow down for him.  I find that fascinating as he was playing this super fast game (on 3mm of steel atop a sheet of ice) and his mind is working so clearly that while everyone else is in high gear – even scrambling – he was seeing the surrounding activity in slow motion.

Then you look at the goalies. Name a tougher position to play in all of sports?

Pitcher, maybe, but every team has like 100 of them now. You have two goalies a game and that is it. 

The athleticism between a goalie and pitcher is not even a question. Goalies are big, fast, they have to deal with big dudes falling and crashing into them and they willingly put themselves in the line of frozen rubber! 

Plus, it is just a fun position to play! I have never done it competitively, but strapping on a pair of pads and suiting up between the pipes for fun is a blast!

Take a look at the joy on hockey players’ faces when they score. They are so happy! 

Each year I love watching the Stanley Cup being presented because I enjoy the emotions the players go through. Most are so otherworldly happy, their smiles look like anime smiles. 

I think of Mark Messier’s gigantic smile. Moose was so happy that he could not stop shaking when he accepted the Cup in ’94. 

How about Rod Brind’Amour with the Hurricanes in ’06 when he practically ripped the Cup away from Gary Bettman because he was so happy to win it? 

Others like Marty McSorley in ’88 and Teemu Selanne in ’07 shed tears of joy, knowing their dreams had actually come true. Either way, the unbridled happiness or the tears of joy, I always love watching the Stanley Cup celebration no matter who wins.

Another thing I love about hockey is the hitting. It is so sad to see how hitting used to be a huge part of the game and now it is all but removed.

Finishing your check used to be mandatory, but now a fly-by is far more common and it brings a tear to my eye as I greatly miss the days when the defenseman went into the corner knowing he was going to get nailed. I yearn for guys like Rob Blake and Scott Stevens who would lay guys out with devastating, open ice hits. 

For a million years, everyone knew the rule that if you skated with your head down, you were going to get filled in. Everyone also knew that if you go into the corner and do not take a peek, you are going to get plastered. This was back when players took personal responsibility.

PH: Is there anything else you would like to share with us hockey fanatics?
CS: Somewhere hockey has bounced from one extreme to the next. In the 70s, hockey was too violent.

The Broadstreet Bullies were winning through intimidation more than skill, Mike Milbury attacked a fan with a shoe, Bruins fans at the Boston Garden reached over the glass to punch Maple Leafs players,  Wayne Maki and Ted Green swung their sticks at each other resulting in Maki breaking Green’s skull and Green missing the entire 1969-70 season, Boris Mikhailov kicked Gary Bergman so hard it broke Bergman’s shin guard and he played the rest of the game with a boot full of blood! All of that is crazy and no one is playing hockey anymore when this stuff is going on.

Now hockey is too soft. There is almost no hitting and when there is a hit, it is dissected to death to make sure it is clean. 

I believe this has greatly discouraged hitting because players know if they hit someone, that hit will be replayed a million times and there will be a vocal crowd out there who will dislike it. Nearly all of the hits I see which are labeled as controversial, are just fine. 

I think about all those famous Scott Stevens hits (on Francis, Willis, Lindros, Langkow, Kozlov, Kayria, Adams, King) and every one of them was 100 percent clean.  They were clean then and they are clean now. 

I have watched all those hits many times, both in real time and in slow motion. If someone thinks they are dirty then I guess either you do not know the rules or you just do not like hard hitting hockey. 

People get upset now if you hit too hard. Refs feel like they have to give a penalty if a player gets hurt.  Forget context, if it is a big hit, or there is an injury, there is a penalty and the offending player is likely now out of the game and suspended. I think that’s a lot of baloney! 

I also dislike the argument regarding “if the head is the main point of contact”. This is a case where good intentions were not thought all the way through and a knee jerk decision was made. 

If I’m 6’5″ and you’re 5’10”, what am I supposed to do, not hit you? That is foolish! No, I keep my elbow into my waist, my skates on the ice and I lean into you, yet due to our speed and severe high differential, my shoulder is going to hit your head pretty hard. So now I am penalized for being taller than you?

That is what has been happening for years. Other than some light bumping, players now prefer to avoid controversy and just do not hit much anymore. I will tell you, Patrick, I miss big hitting, physical hockey like I would a family member if they had moved far away.

If I could, I would go back to 1992-1994 when there was balance. Those two seasons were the absolute best as the NHL had great goaltending (i.e. Roy, Brodeur, Hasek, Joseph, Belfour and so on), high scoring (i.e. Gretzky, Lemieux, Gilmour, Yzerman, Lafontaine, Hull, Mogilny, Fedorov, Bure,  Sakic, Oates, Lindros, Selanne, Roenick, Neely, and more), and there was a ton of hard hits. It was not as fast as it is now, but still fast, the game was not as meticulously overcoached like it is now, there were not teams in cities that would not support hockey and there was no salary cap.  

I also strongly believe that Curtis Joseph should be in the HHOF. I understand he has very little in his trophy case, but when I compare him to other goalies like Rogie Vachon, Tom Barrasso, Mike Vernon, Billy Smith, and Gerry Cheevers, I cannot understand how they got in and Cujo is not in. Joseph won more games than all of them, he got peppered everywhere he went, he still stole games and stole playoff series constantly. 

Anyone who watched him play knows he is a long overdue HHOFer and twice as good as a lot of guys currently in the Hall. In a weird situation where I must pick two goalies for a Game 7 and they each have to play half the game, I am picking Patrick Roy and Curtis Joseph because Roy is the best clutch goalie of all time and Cujo a playoff thief!

Last one (I really could talk hockey all day, but I have talked enough already) – there are too many power plays nowadays. Ever since the lock-out, refs call silly little stick penalties and I really do not like it. 

Your stick touches your opponent’s glove and it is hooking. That is garbage! 

A small cross-check is now called a minor. Gimme a break!

I do not want to see 10 power plays a game, but that is what I am getting force fed by the league due to rule changes. I remember how great it was when refs used to put their whistles away in the playoffs and the only way you would get called is if you hacked another guy’s limb off! 

Just let the players play and develop a flow. If the game is really chippy, the players will sort it out themselves.  Call the obvious stuff like water skiing, the bear hugging, the big wind up cross-checks and get rid of all the chintzy penalties.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

Patrick Hoffman

Patrick covers the NHL for Inside The Rink. He has previously covered the league for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave, WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.

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