It’s always nice to work with the best. Whether you’re at work or at play, dealing with talented people nearly always seems to make productions easier, more harmonious, and of a better quality. When I do my editorial work with Shane Frederick—hockey writer extraordinaire—that’s what happens.
Many may recognize Frederick’s name from seeing it in the bylines of the journalistic stories he writes for the Mankato Free Press or from the work-related hockey blog he maintains called PucKato. In 2014 he won two AP sportswriting awards for his hockey coverage, and he recently covered—with aplomb—the Minnesota State University, Mankato, Mavericks hockey team that spent a good deal of the 2014–15 season atop the national rankings.
Lately Frederick’s been making a name for himself as the go-to hockey writer for Capstone Press. This fall Capstone will publish Who’s Who of Pro Hockey, Frederick’s eleventh hockey book for children. In 2014 he authored Six Degrees of Sidney Crosby, one of four books in the Sports Illustrated for Kids Six Degrees of Sports set. These books connected, in a unique way, the history and social significance of the US’s four major sports. And the Six Degrees writing talent and expertise was golden—from Frederick to Mike Lohre (author of Six Degrees of LeBron James), a gifted journalist, fiction writer, and poet with publications in The Atlantic and The Kenyon Review to Tyler Omoth (author of Six Degrees of David Ortiz), an accomplished children’s book writer with an upcoming picture book from Minnesota Historical Society Press to Hans Hetrick (author of Six Degrees of Peyton Manning), an entertaining Chicago-based raconteur, musician, writer, and aesthete who just started an artistic lit journal called The Wax Paper.
Though Frederick is a busy man, he responded graciously to five questions that I recently threw at him. The following is a transcript of that Q & A:
Nate LeBoutillier: When writing Capstone titles about hockey for children, what do you do differently as opposed to when you’re writing articles and columns about hockey for the news?
Shane Frederick: In many ways, my writing doesn't differ all that much. When I write about sports for a newspaper, I try to write short, descriptive sentences with an active voice, just as I do with the books. In fact, when I write passages about players, teams, or moments for Capstone, I start off writing just as I would when I write a game story during and after an event. The big difference comes in the revision process. With a newspaper, I often have to send the story minutes after I finish the first draft. With the books, I can go back, tighten things up, choose words that may be more appropriate for children, shorten sentences/paragraphs, etc. I think each style has helped the other.
NL: What kinds of books did you read growing up? Also, what did you read—when you were growing up—when you wanted to read about hockey?
SF: I read all kinds of things when I was growing up: fiction, nonfiction, sports books, fantasy/adventure. I loved books full of facts and trivia, the World Almanac, for example. I read the illustrated condensed kids versions of classic novels (my favorite was Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court), and I was hooked on the Choose Your Own Adventure series as well as the Three Investigators series (first published as Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators). I wasn't much of a hockey fan as a kid, but I was a sports fan and read the sports section of the newspaper daily and started subscribing to Sports Illustrated when I was 12 or 13.
NL: If you could explain why you’re into hockey using just three big reasons, what would these three reasons be?
SF: 1. As I said above, I wasn't much of a hockey fan as a kid. I never played organized hockey. I just kind of fell into covering it. My first job was at the Mesabi Daily News in Virginia, Minnesota, up on the Iron Range—hockey country. I got sent to cover a high school hockey game and really had to learn on the fly. I had been to only a few hockey games before that—maybe watched a little on TV—and I didn't even know all the rules. But I really fell in love with watching it in person. It's such a fast sport with constant action. It can be both gritty and pretty, equally rewarding skill, hard work and toughness.
2. My second job was as editor of a hockey publication called Let's Play Hockey, based in Minneapolis. I covered all levels of hockey in the state: youth, high school, junior, college, pro. Besides learning more about the sport itself, I started to delve into its history: the Stanley Cup, Olympic hockey, the Minnesota state high school tournament, etc. It's a sport full of colorful characters, passionate fans, and interesting stories.
3. Lately, I've enjoyed the sport as a parent. My 14-year-old son, Jack, is a hockey player and loves the sport more than any other he plays. Besides going to his games and tournaments and watching him play, which I love to do, I like watching the sport as a fan—the Minnesota Wild and NHL hockey, Minnesota State University and college hockey—with him and through his eyes.
NL: What were some of your favorite parts of the SIX DEGREES OF SIDNEY CROSBY title that you wrote in 2014?
SF: For me, the challenge of writing this book was moving backwards through time and tying in the 100-year history of the NHL. To take a category, whether it was goal scorers or goalies or captains, and finding a thread that runs between similar players of different eras was so much fun and so rewarding, almost like doing a puzzle. There were surprises along the way, such as being able to tie Boom Boom Geoffrion (inventor of the slap shot) to Willie O'Ree (the NHL's first black player) by discovering that they played against each other in the first game of O'Ree's brief career.
NL: What were some of your favorite parts of the WHOS WHO OF PRO HOCKEY title that you wrote—and that will be coming out in Fall 2015?
SF: I've written a lot of hockey books for Capstone, and it's easy to cover the same ground, such as Wayne Gretzky's records or the success of the Montreal Canadiens. Some of those things have to be in many books because they're so essential to the history of the game. However, with the Who's Who book, I tried hard to unearth some records I hadn't covered before. Examples: budding superstar Nathan McKinnon breaking a Gretzky record during last year's playoffs, finding the youngest player to play in the NHL, Mario Lemieux's five-way, five-goal trick (even strength, power play, short-handed, penalty shot, empty net). Cool stuff.
by Nate LeBoutillier