makes fiction splash
By Ned Bekavac
Ross Brewitt has spent loads of time around some of the biggest names the National Hockey League has ever produced.
He has also had the chance to be a fly on the wall in NHL dressing rooms.
So it’s no wonder that his first foray into fiction, a hockey novel dubbed Just Another Hat Trick, is based on a whole lot of real-life experiences.
“It’s as close as I could make it to the real thing,” says the local author, speaker and columnist. “I wanted a chance to bring people, an ordinary reader, as close as I could to what it’s like to be in a dressing room.”
Brewitt is a four-time best-selling author. Among his works is the 1997 best-seller Clear the Track, a bio on colourful hockey character Eddie Shack.
While Just Another Hat Trick is his first fiction novel – it’s also his first self-published book – fiction can certainly still have a real feeling, especially to the person with the pen.
Brewitt explains that a writer once said to him: “To you, it’s not fiction. You’re going to miss these people when you’re finished. They were like real to you.
“And you do,” says Brewitt. “They get to grow on you. I could have conversations with them.”
The plot of the book has the Toronto Maple Leafs meeting the Buffalo Sabres as their opponent in the Eastern Conference final and the cast of characters involved is supremely colourful.
That the Leafs are in the Eastern Conference final in the book makes for a great punch line when Brewitt is speaking in front of audiences.
“I’ll hold it up at, like, a Rotary Club and I’ll say: ‘This is about the Leafs and the Sabres in the Eastern Conference final,” says Brewitt.
“Then somebody will look at me and I’ll say . . . ‘It’s fiction.’
“That always gets a laugh.”
Brewitt was born in Schreiber, Ont., near Lake Superior. He and his wife, Sylvia, raised three children and moved to Toronto in the mid-’60s. A move from Mississauga to Guelph was made in the late-’90s and to say Brewitt digs it here would be quite the understatement.
“They’re gonna take me out of here in a box, I guess,” he says with a laugh. “No kidding. I love it here.”
While in Toronto, Brewitt joined Hockey Night in Canada as an advertising salesman with their marketing arm, Maple Leaf Sports Productions, and he would go on to become general manager. Those jobs, and others, saw him get the chance to work and mingle with much of the who’s who in the NHL.
Chat with him and the names, and the stories attached to them, – there is Wayne Gretzky, Harold Ballard, Punch Imlach, Eddie Shack, the list goes on – fly from his mouth at an incredible clip.
But Brewitt’s career highlight has nothing to do with any sort of NHL celebrity at all.
He explains the story. One day he boarded the Go Train in Toronto and headed to Union Station.
On the train was a guy reading Last Minute of Play, a 1993 Brewitt book that teams the author and retired players contributing neat and humorous stories about the business of hockey.
“He’s reading,” Brewitt begins. “And he started laughing. And he looked up. I was looking right at him. He didn’t say anything, he just looked down again. And then he read for about another minute and he started laughing again. And when he looked up I was looking at him again.
“The guy doesn’t know me from Adam, right. And he said ‘Really funny.’“
And I said ‘Thanks.’”
Brewitt pauses. “It was the greatest thrill I ever had in my life,” he says.
“When you can put in black and white words that will make somebody laugh, or cringe, or . . . to make somebody see these black and white words turn into pictures in their mind that are the same as the ones you intended, it’s pretty powerful.”
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Just Another Hat Trick is available at Chapters and on Kobo Digital Books, and via Brewitt’s web site http://rossbrewitt.com.