Friday November 28, 2014

Book highlights local hockey great

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Metro Prystai, a former NHL player has had his career chronicled by local author Frank Block

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”Metro (Prystai) was not only a great hockey player, but also a caring human being. He was full of humour and great fun. Frank Block captures his essence intimately in this book. We will miss Metro, but his memories will be with us forever.”

- Red Kelly

One of the Yorkton’s best known hockey players; Metro Prystai has been remembered through a new biography.

Melville author Frank Block is the man behind the book; ‘The Metro Prystai Story’, and an interesting story it is.

“This extremely talented Yorkton Saskatchewan boy left his humble beginnings to play junior hockey with the Moose Jaw Canucks in 1943,” details the book’s promotional website. “He became a sports icon in the community where they named him “Marvelous Metro”. In his final season with Moose Jaw he got 32 goals and 39 assists in 22 games. In 1947 he began his NHL career with the Chicago Black Hawks. He had an incredible NHL career that included three NHL All-Star appearances and two Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings including the famous 1952 Stanley Cup series.

“Metro scored the game-winning goal in the 1952 Stanley Cup series between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Canadians. He also got an assist on the second goal and finished things off with the third and final goal on the amazing ride which saw the Red Wings sweep the Montreal Canadians and the defending champion Toronto Maple Leafs. Not only did they sweep both teams but goaltender Terry Sawchuk didn’t allow a goal on home ice. Metro says that the 1952 Detroit Red Wings was probably the best team that ever played. It’s hard to argue with him.”

Block said the story had a natural place to start in telling of Prystai’s life.

“The story starts with his big moment getting the winning goal in the 1952 Stanley Cup Finals in Detroit,” he said.

“The book then goes chronologically through his life starting with his childhood days in Yorkton, junior with the Moose Jaw Canucks, the Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit and his two Stanley Cups there, back to Chicago and back again to Detroit, marriage and life after hockey.

“To me the compelling part of the story is that Metro was one of the greatest unsung heroes in the NHL. He never bragged about his hockey endeavours but his old teammates have declared him the greatest junior player of that era. There’s a number of stories in the book that his own children had never heard.”

So how did Block, a recent Saskatchewan resident who was born in Daysland, Alberta where he said “I got to watch my dad coach senior hockey for many, many years,” decide to write the Prystai story?

“The spark began after I MC’d the Olympic Torch Run in Melville where Jim Abel showed me his father’s gold medal from the 1952 Olympics in Oslo, Norway,” he said. “That’s when I thought that ‘Someone has to record the stories of all this hockey history’. I decided to start work on collecting Melville Millionaire history (I live in Melville). My journey led me to Metro who coached the Mil’s for a couple of years in the ‘60’s. With a coffee table book of his good friend and Yorkton native Clare Drake sitting on his coffee table (where else would it be), Metro mentioned that he would like to have a book done.”

Block took to the challenge.

“It was a big help with Metro being local however, with technology what it is today distance didn’t make it any more difficult to get the rest of the interviews completed,” he said.

In terms of background, Block said writing is in his, so the book was simply a new challenge in a familiar field.

“I’ve been involved in media for a few years now but usually doing P.A. announcing for many years including Mac’s Midget Hockey Tournament, and several special events at the Scotiabank Saddledome on behalf of the Calgary Flames/Hitmen. I’ve also done colour commentary in both the AJHL & SJHL.  I’ve worked radio for a few seven years as well (weekends on GX94 news).

“I’ve also been President of a Junior ‘B’ hockey club in High River, Alberta.

“The Metro Prystai Story is my first ever attempt at writing -- my editor is making me look much better than I really am.”

Even with a keen interest in hockey and experience in media ‘The Metro Prystai Story’ took time to come together.

“I took a break from writing it for a while but it took the better part of three years,” said Block. “Metro was very cooperative in the project and gave me the phone numbers for all of his old hockey buddies. I recorded all of the conversations.

“Recording the conversations was the best part.

“Transcribing all of those conversations was the worst.”

The result of the all the transcribing is one which has left the author happy.

“I’m very satisfied with the book, in particular the audiobook,” said Block. “This audiobook is very unique in that it’s not straight narration, you actually hear the voice of Metro, Red Kelly, Emile Francis and many, many others.

“It really makes the book come alive.”

The book is currently available as an ebook and audiobook on my website

“I provide CD copies of the audio version for those that aren’t tech savvy (my number is 508-0134). I’m working on a deal with Coles to have the CD version available there,” said Block.

“I’m also signing a deal with a publisher this week to get a print version available. I self-published the ebook and audiobook.”

And Block will continue to explore hockey and its stories.

“The next thing for me is a five-day a week podcast featuring memorable hockey stories,” he said. “So far I have interviews with a few guys who participated in the book like Red Kelly, Emile Francis and Marty Pavelich; now have interviews with Dick Irvin, Theo Fleury, Luke Boechler and many more.”

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