Don Reddick The Killing Frank McGee Companion


"Thing about Frank is that nobody knew. We'd all seen him play..."

Manuscript notes: Chapter begun 4/10/97 in Dulles Airport, Washington, DC, continued in Hyatt Hotel, Washington, DC, at work in Brookshore, Elk Grove Village, IL, Walpole, MA, Minneapolis, MN, and Walpole, MA. Margin notes include, "Morning session", and "No Remorse".


Some authors choose to include in their Acknowledgements other writers whose books they relied heavily upon in their research. I think doing so detracts from those who actively aid in the research so I don't do this; but having said that, if I were to credit one author who provided a tremendous amount of assistance for this novel, it would be Joan Finnigan for her work, "Old Goals, New Scores."

Finnigan's book is a treasure of early Ottawan hockey lore. In it is a store of information, name places, streets, taverns, amateur hockey teams, characters, drinking habits (everything's legal in the Regal); a realm of indispensable information for one attempting to recreate the atmosphere of a town long gone. So thanks to Joan Finnigan; heartfelt thanks.

This chapter also delves into the nuances of hockey itself. I have a background in the sport, and allow me to insert here a chapter from my current project, The Trail Less Traveled. Ostensibly a chapter revealing a coincidence I experienced on a ferry along the Inside Passage off the coast of Alaska, it also describes my early hockey experience:

"Norwood, Massachusetts is a town of thirty thousand people located fifteen miles southwest of Boston. It is an Irish enclave, many of its residents descendant from County Cork immigrants. In the old days the town's sections were distinguished by names such as Cork City - pronounced 'Cock' - , Dublin, and the Ward. Even today, in the back room of Mike Lydon's Shurfine Market you can still hear eighty-year-old Matty Folan's diatribe describing his father's cruel passage to the New World, stuck in the squalid hold of a ship with Lydon's grandfather.

Despite its proximity to The Hub of the Universe, growing up in Norwood in the late fifties and early sixties was very much a rural experience. There were no video games then, no malls to cruise, and precious little TV. Saturday morning was a structured time of The Three Stooges, Cinema Seven, and then out the door to argue endless games of baseball in the "first field" during the summers, or street hockey during the winter. These games were conducted in utmost urgency, the entire neighborhood pitching in to prepare the baseball field each spring. I can recall sweeping up the sand that remained on the sides of Crestwood Circle after the winters ice protection and carrying it in buckets out to the field to line the base paths. Crude dugouts were built one year, a leaning, chicken wire backstop another. I can still see the faces of Crestwood Circle, Dickie and Kevin Donovan, Kenny and Neil Higgins, Steve and Gary Sortevik, Danny and Brian Maloney, my big brothers Ken and Gordie Reddick and sometimes the tough Hebner brothers, Richie and Dennis, from around the corner on Nahatan Street.

Vivid memories: street hockey on October 1st, 1967 up on Bobby Dempsey's tennis court the day the Red Sox won their Impossible Dream pennant; street hockey on the Higgins's driveway the day Mr. Higgins came home and everyone dragged the nets out of his way, and my brother Ken pulled up the garage door for Mr. Higgins as he drove in, except too hard and it came down and Mr. Higgins drove right through it, scattering all the players pell-mell. I remember a baseball game in the Hebner's backyard, which they had fashioned into a small diamond. Mr. Hebner was inadvertently hit in the head with a thrown baseball, and, unable to catch any of his scattering kids, raced around the bases enraged, picking them up and throwing them all into the woods.

In 1960 I remember seeing all the older kids excited with a visitor to my next door neighbor, Mrs. Terrangio. Her cousin was in town, and I followed them and stood in line in Mrs. Terrangio's kitchen as we all got his autograph. When I received mine I looked down and read, 'Jim Kaat.' I recall following these same kids one evening to the Higgins's home, where we crowded around a basement window and peeked in at Mr. Higgins working at something in his workshop. His youngest son Neil was a goalie, and he had become distressed at the high cost and low quality of the goalie masks he bought. Mr. Higgins decided to mold his own, which he came to do so well he eventually supplied some of the first molded masks ever used in the NHL. This led to the Crestwood Circle gang witnessing the arrival of such legends as Jacques Plante, Cesar Maniago, Eddie Johnston and Jerry Cheevers at the Higgins household, to have their faces molded in Ernie Higgins's plaster.

And as the sixties progressed, Richie Hebner became a hockey legend. Hebner went on to play seventeen seasons in major league baseball, but when he was a kid in Norwood he was best known for his hockey talent. At a time when Minnesota's Tommy Williams was the only American playing in the NHL, Richie was offered a contract by the Boston Bruins which he, in retrospect, sensibly declined. I delivered the Patriot Ledger to the Hebner household, and one day encountered Mr. Hebner leaning over the engine of his car. Richie was a rookie with the Pittsburgh Pirates then, and I asked Mr. Hebner what he thought of Richie's newfound fame. "Ahh, " he spit out, dismissing the thought with a wave of a blackened hand. "He could have played with Bobby Orr..."

The first time I ever entered Boston Garden was in 1965 to see Richie Hebner's team lose the Massachusetts State Final game, 1-0 to Walpole. Two years later, with my brother Ken the leading scorer, I again visited the Garden to see Norwood lose the State Finals, this time to Arlington High School, 2-1. In 1968 Norwood again made the Finals, but despite the play of Norwood's new all-time leading scorer Dick Donovan and two goals in the last minute of play to tie the game by his wing Dennie Hebner, Arlington scored in overtime against three-time All-Scholastic goalie Neil Higgins to win its second consecutive state title.

Norwood had become hockey mad. The obsession in my hometown was further fueled by one of the more colorful teams in NHL history. The Big, Bad, Bruins, led by the miraculous play of Bobby Orr and emerging superstar Phil Esposito, accompanied by such colorful characters as Derek Sanderson and Johnny 'Pie' McKenzie, took New England by storm with their brawling, overconfident swagger. Boston became Hockeytown, idolizing these athletes in an era before the American obsession with political correctness. A time when conquering athletes drank freely and openly, apologized for nothing, and conducted their lives on and off the ice as if there were no tomorrow. I witnessed one of their more outrageous acts after the '70 Cup win, when, during a frenzied celebration at City Hall, Pie McKenzie poured a pitcher of beer over the head of Boston's Mayor Kevin White as he addressed the crowd.

That same year as a fifteen-year-old sophomore I first stepped out on the ice for Norwood to line up against Needham High School's Robbie Ftorek. Ftorek at the time was the best hockey player the United States had ever produced; he would score eleven points in the 1970 Massachusetts State Final game. The following year I made my first trip into Boston Garden to play in a State Final game. In those days, before the Catholic schools began to recruit and dominate Massachusetts High School hockey, there was tremendous interest in the high school tournament. Four teams were seeded each year, and a team had to win its first two games in Boston Arena to reach the quarterfinals, which were held in the Garden. As destiny would have it, we once again played Arlington High School before a sold-out crowd of 13,909 and once again lost, 3-0. For the fourth time in seven years, Norwood had lost in the State Finals, the last three to its now arch-rival, Arlington. All of which led up to the finest night in the town of Norwood's history.

The 1972 Norwood hockey team was a powerhouse, destined to be remembered as one of the finest Massachusetts high school teams of all time. How good was this team? We had four or five of the best players in the state. Every single player on it went on to play college hockey. One friend of mine, Dave Katchpole, was cut from the team, and a year later won Division Three College Player of the Week. Louie Parker, the backup goalie, started for four years at the University of Connecticut, and was named to the 2nd Division All-American team. Our Captain Peter Brown would go on to become Boston University's hockey captain, became enshrined in its Hall of Fame, be selected a Division One All-American, spend two seasons with the U.S. National Team, and be drafted by the Atlanta Flames. We went through the regular season undefeated, in fact, our two-year record going into the 1972 State Finals - against Arlington - was 42 wins, 1 loss, and 2 ties, the only loss, of course, the State Final game the previous year. In eighteen regular season matches we outscored our opponents 102-22. Three quarters of the way through the season our leading scorer Mike Martin fractured his wrist, preventing him from breaking Dick Donovan's single season point record. That night I saw Mrs. Donovan raise a glass in Mrs. Praino's kitchen during a post-game party on Crestwood Circle to toast the security of her son's record...

The entire town of Norwood played that game on March 15, 1972. Every former player was in the stands, every player from four previous final-losing teams were there, the Hebners, the Reddicks, the Donovans, the Higgins' - everyone. Between the second and third period, the game tied 1-1, Arthur Harris, a former Norwood goalie, stormed into our dressing room stark-raving drunk, raging us on...and I can remember skating in Boston Garden, the glare of the lights blinding with its reflection off the ice, the maddened, howling crowd hanging over every piece of glass, off every balcony, every nook and cranny of that old barn filled with screaming, delirious fans, the noise so overwhelming it seemed difficult to skate, to shoot, to stickhandle, the game now 2-2 with time winding down...and I'll remember more than anything I'll ever remember in this life Ed King deflecting a short pass from Billy Clifford into the net with under two minutes to play, erupting that now departed, legendary building into a hysterical, pounding, raging explosion of dancing delirium... In its fifth try in eight seasons, Norwood had finally won its State Championship.

On the ferry this day, twenty-five years later almost to the day, somewhere between Sitka and Petersburg, I meet a couple from Massachusetts. They ask about our journey, and when they hear the hockey story and hear I'm also from Massachusetts, the man looks at me and says, "My son played hockey for Acton-Boxborough back in the old days, won the State Championship."

"Really," I reply, genuinely interested. "What year did he win it?"
"Oh, I don't think so..."


"I awake to see my uncle poised above me, his fingers wiggling before my face..."

Manuscript notes: Begun 8/26/96 in room 263 Holiday Inn, Mechanicsburg, PA, continued enroute Boston-Syracuse, and Walpole, MA. Notes in margin include, "Tell the story of head blown off. End w/going to F. end w/"I love our house." Also, "27th Aug Happy Birthday Allie. I love you, Daddy." "Aug 28 Same joint. (Bikini contest tonight, though)." "Home Sweet home," and "cont. 9/3 HSHome."


Developing the Kinnear back-story in Sackville and the Mirimichi woods, as well as his schooling in the trenches. With Alf Smith such a harsh, strong character, I sought to make Kinnear softer, more cerebral. I was conscious from the start of Laurel Boone's warning to make sure they were significantly different.

It was something of a risk to go into the technical information on the trenches. But I remembered a review Laurel Boone once gave me from the copy editor of Dawson City Seven, who said, essentially, that the perfect book was not only one that entertained, made you laugh, and made you cry, but which also taught you something. I was fascinated with the descriptions I found of how the trench systems actually worked, and so used them.

One of my methods of research is to read book after book, making lists of any bits of information that interest me, or that I feel might fit somehow into the novel. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that genius was recognizing that what was true for you, was true for all men. Just today I read a quote by Louis Breger in his book, FREUD: Darkness in the Midst of Vision, confirming this. He wrote that Freud's understanding of his own childhood "became the prototype for his understanding everyone, a foundation that he relied on throughout his life." And so I have come to trust in my own judgment of what is truly interesting, and include it in my novels.


Laurel Boone