Good hockey romance writing takes a lot of research. And I don’t mean stalking players, but rather learning about the sport in depth. I know a lot about hockey from a fan’s perspective. But writing the Vancouver Vice series means learning about coaching and managing teams. I've been expanding my horizons beyond local hockey coverage.
One painless way to research is listening to hockey podcasts. It’s something I can do while commuting to work—finally a way to make Vancouver’s infamous traffic jams fun. Here are some of my favourite hockey podcasts:
1. The Hockey PDOcast
I’ve been struggling to understand hockey analytics for years. Last Christmas I even received an analytics book, but it’s so confusing and poorly written that I'm no further ahead. So I have no clue what PDO is, but this analytics podcast is my number one listen.
Dimitri Filopovic is a smart and likeable host, and his guests are knowledgeable and opinionated. He covers the whole league, with the occasional deep dive into one team. Some episodes are concepts like rating the television play-by-play teams for every team in the league, or redoing the drafts with 20:20 hindsight.
Listening to the PDOcast made me realize that my hometown Canucks are such a bad team that “changing up the power play” or any of the other tweaks that the local sports media guys suggest are like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. And I find that oddly comforting because now my expectations are realistic.
The PDOcast offers everything I enjoy in hockey analysis: intelligent discussion, respectful debate, occasional laughs, and fact-based analysis.
2. The Pulp Hockey Show
Now let’s go to the other end of scale, a podcast featuring an ex-player who excels at the "eye-test." I first heard Ray Ferraro on the local sports radio station where he was interviewed daily by a couple of idiots. You know the kind I mean, they have a list of questions and they go from one to another without listening to the answers or each other. A good host would be smart enough to segue neatly or even challenge an answer. But however inane the questions, Ray’s answers were always expert and honest and I became a big fan.
This podcast is hosted by Steve Matthes, a motocross analyst who freely admits he’s not a hockey expert. He and Ray are friends, but Steve is smart enough to start Ray off and not interrupt. (Although I could do with less of Matthes' Maple Leaf fandom.) Ferraro brings his expertise as both a veteran player and a television colour man to his analysis of current hockey issues. I really enjoy his forthright opinions, self-deprecating humour, and insights into player life. His honesty is refreshing—I believe any criticism he makes he would also make to the face of the player or coach. Sometimes his point of view will be the opposite of the PDOcast, but to me that reflects the two sides of the league. One bonus: Ferraro is married to Cami Granato and freely admits that she has the best hockey hardware in their home. No sexism here.
3. Biscuits: A Hockey Podcast
I just found this podcast during the playoffs, but so far I’ve enjoyed the few episodes I’ve listened to. Hosts Dave Lozo and Sean McIndoe (Down Goes Brown) both write for Vice Sports. McIndoe is a Leafs fan, but not an obnoxious one, and they’re both pretty funny. They riff on details that only extreme hockey fans would remember, and that’s hilarious. The podcasts deal with what's happened in hockey the preceding week.
A related podcast is Puck Soup, hosted by Dave Lozo (again) and Greg Wyshynski from Puck Daddy. I’m not as keen on this podcast because there’s a lot of entertainment talk (mainly about movies and television shows that I don't watch.) And Wyshynski giggles incessantly. But the hockey parts are interesting and often funny. They explore the personal side of hockey too. They discussed the identity of Amy Schumer’s mystery hockey player—but according to a similar discussion in my knowledgeable Facebook reader group, they were wrong! And they did an interview with a puck bunny! Unfortunately, they tried so hard to be politically correct that episode was almost boring. A woman host would have rocked that interview!
Where are the women hockey podcast hosts, by the way? I’ve only listened to one female hockey podcast, and it was in dire need of editing. The sign of great podcast is editing out the filler.
4. Keeping Karlsson
Okay, my final podcast is an acquired taste and you’re probably going to hate it. I can’t even explain my interest in a podcast that’s aimed at people in hockey pools. I know even less about hockey pools than analytics.
I found this podcast in the spring when I was following the Ottawa Senators’ playoff success and was trying to find a team podcast. (I still haven’t found one!) But it has zero to do with the Sens. All this podcast does is forecast player performance. But since money is on the line, the predictions have to be good. It’s an interesting companion to analytics podcasts. They look at a player’s stats, but they go beyond: relationships with coaches, player mindset, linemate chemistry, etc. And injuries. They think a lot about injury history.
The host of the podcast are adorably nerdy. Brian Kom and Elan Dubrofsky talk faster (and higher) than Loralei Gilmore and argue a lot. It’s like a glimpse into a whole other hockey world.
And that’s what’s currently on my podcast playlist for now. If you know a good hockey podcast, let me know, and I’ll take it out for a spin.