Book Report: Blades of Glory: The True Story of a Young Team Bred to Win
If you’ve ever wondered with high school hockey in the state of Minnesota is like, you need to read Blades of Glory: The True Story of a Young Team Bred to Win by John Rosengren. This book is the Friday Night Lights for hockey. Rosengren follows the 2000-01 Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars on their quest to the stories Minnesota Boy’s High School Hockey State Tournament.
Jefferson coach Tom Saterdalen granted Rosengren unlimited access to the team from tryouts through their heartbreaking lost to Eastview in the Section 5AA semifinals, a tough pill to swallow for a team that had state tournament aspirations.
Honestly, I don’t know why this book hasn’t gotten the Friday Night Lights treatment and hasn’t been turned into a movie. Rosengren does a magnificent job of telling the backstories of the players, digging into the emotions they ride along through the season and has you cheering for them with each turn of the page.
Rosengren examins why Saterdalen is such a successful high school hockey coach in Minnesota. His discovery is because Sats, as he’s known by those around him, worked closely with the Bloomington youth hockey coaches, teaching them his systems, sharing drills, etc. to make sure that by the time a player made it to him they knew the systems. This is not an easy thing to do. Many youth hockey coaches in Minnesota think they’re the next Herb Brooks and want to run their team their way. Sats got buy-in from the youth program, helping teams he coached win 545 games, 13 conference championships, 15 section championships, and 7 state championships (2 in Wisconsin and 5 in Minnesota).
You’re not going to learn any new systems or game theory reading this book, but what you are going to walk away with is a better understanding of what makes high school hockey so special in Minnesota. I’d argue that when this book was written the game was still just an extracurricular for the players who all aspired to play in the NHL, but understood only a select few get that opportunity. Today kids are specializing and training like pros before they even make it to high school with the expectation that they’ll go pro, but don’t know what to do with themselves when that doesn’t happen. Blades of Glory captures the waning days of game being just a game with an opportunity to those possessed the talent or were willing to work harder than the guy next to him, but still focused on the fun and purity of the game.