In the Details

So, I was reading True Love and Other Disasters by Rachel Gibson. A friend had recommended Gibson to me, in part because this book and a couple of others have hockey themes, and she and I have written hockey stories ourselves. In fact, we’ve just released Melting the Ice, a collection of four of our hockey stories.

So my question is — why can’t people get the details right? Gibson’s book was fun; it even made me laugh out loud in places. But if you’re going to write a book about any sport, you need to get the details. If you wrote about baseball, you wouldn’t have four outs and ten innings.

Yet in Gibson’s book, I found errors that I couldn’t believe no one noticed. And I don’t mean readers, I mean an editor.

First, there were many references to “the cup,” as in Stanley Cup. To my mind, it should have been “the Cup,” and that was supported by a hockey-loving friend of mine in Canada. I admit it was likely technically correct, but it bugged me anyway.

Second, in a scene at a bar, a few of the players on the fictional Seattle Chinooks are discussing the best playoff game. One brings up the 1994 NY Rangers/NJ Devils “Eastern Cup” finals.

Deep Breath.

Okay — The Stanley Cup finals is the best-of-seven series played by the Eastern and Western Conference champions. Last year, that was the Philadelphia Flyers (East) and Chicago Blackhawks (West). There are three playoff series prior to that in each conference, all best-of-seven, but they are not CUP finals. They are the Conference quarter-, semi- and finals, respectively. But at no point is there an “Eastern Cup final.”

Third, later in the book, various player are assessed coincidental three-minute penalties.

Grrr. There is no such thing. Penalties are given out as two minutes (a minor), four minutes (double minor), five minutes (major), ten minutes (misconduct) and then there are game misconducts. Penalties can be coincidental; that is, two players from opposing teams can each receive two-minute minors at the same time, and then they both are in the penalty box.

In another Gibson book, Nothing But Trouble, there’s another hockey error. Discussing the Chinook’s record, a player says the team went 58-24. That’s the correct number of games (82) but the wrong way. Teams have wins, losses and overtime losses (OTL). Prior to that rule change, there were ties. So the Chinooks should have had a record more like 50-24-8. Although even winning 50 games is unusual.

I have to say that probably the worst offender on hockey books was Luann Rice, in her book Summer Light.

Again, this book was suggested to me because of the hockey factor, and I have to say it’s been close to a year since I read it. Most technical details, as I recall, were all right, but — Rice’s male lead veered between being a defenseman and a forward. He was awarded the Norris Trophy, I believe (which is for defenseman), yet was said to hold a scoring record for a winger.

He also had a long-running rivalry with a Swedish goalie in the Western Conference. Now, goalies can have tempers; I use that a bit in my story Nothing Gets Through. Ron Hextall was a goal tender that everyone knew wasn’t going to sit back and take anything. I’m not saying goalies are pushovers.

However, to say that a player in the East had a long-running feud with a goalie in the West, which means they’d see each other no more than twice during the regular season, is pretty implausible.

So why, especially with the internet, can these errors not be caught? Most of it is factual stuff — win/loss records, penalties, etc. — that you could easily look up on the NHL site itself, in the rule book. Why does a publisher not use a hockey-knowledgeable editor to review a book like this?

Because frankly, it drives me crazy. I’m a hockey fan and I try to get the details right. If I wrote about a baseball player, I’d try to get those details right. So why can’t Gibson and Rice?


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dawn on May 4, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    While looking at Amazon’s recommendations for me today, I found Rachel Gibson’s Chinook series (based I’m sure on my purchase of “Melting The Ice” and “Go Small or Go Home” by Heather Wardell) and remembered your post on said Gibson books. I find myself reading the worst reviews in order to get an accurate picture to balance out the 5 star raves. I appreciate the accuracy you strive for. I want the game of hockey to be a character and part of the story. I do not want to read about the greek god-like male who is perfect in every way and oh yeah, he plays hockey, but back to his god-like attributes. So, I have to ask – have you found any that you would recommend?


  2. In truth, aside from myself and Tamara Clarke, I really don’t know anyone else who writes hockey romances. I can say that both Tamara (under the name MugsyB) and myself (under the name PennLady) have more hockey romances available at I can provide the links if you’d like.


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