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Brass Bonanza Plays Again: How Hockey's Strangest Goon Brought Back Mark Twain and a Dead Team--And Made a City Believe Paperback – January 6, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From the Author

This book began 9 years ago on a walk with my father when reminiscing about the past I unexpectedly choked up. I realized then how much I missed Hartford and the Whalers. I needed to find someone who loved them as much. Tiger Burns was revealed to me.

From 1984 to 1994 I worked for the Whalers--driving a new car on-ice between periods (moonlighting in the Actuarial Department at Travelers Insurance). Some would say I saw a lot of bad hockey. I couldn't disagree more. It was the most privileged association of my life.

It was a magical time, just out of college, with scores of like-aged actuaries to hang out with. And, of course, there was the Whale. My roommate Brad Peters was a press gofer for the team. One night out of the blue he called, tone urgent, "Get down here! We need someone to work the penalty box." That night, I opened and closed the gate for Hall-of-Famer Gilbert Perrault.

Two weeks later, Brad called again. This time the need was different. When I arrived, his supervisor Mr. Henderson tossed me a pair of keys. Drive the promotional Honda Accord on ice between the first and second period. "On ice?" I gasped. What if the car skidded, rammed the boards and flew into the crowd? I could already see the headlines: DRIVER GOES BERSERK AT CIVIC CENTER. 10,000 LOOK ON IN HORROR. 'MAD DOG' MULDOON UNDER HEAVY GUARD.

It went fine. Next season, incredibly, the regular driver left. These jobs were plums, passed on from father to son. Get your friend, Mr. Henderson told Brad. For the next 10 seasons I drove the car on-ice (first a Honda, then a Buick and last a Cadillac). No headlines.

I wrote a story "View from the Penalty Box" in the Sunday Hartford Courant describing the experience. Phil Langan, the Whalers PR Director, invited me to write for Goal Magazine, the game program. I cut my teeth with features on the Zamboni Driver, Team Photographer, Team Dentist, Security Guards, Assistant General Manager, and Sky Boxes. Mercifully, at last, he entrusted me with a player.

His name was Shane Churla. A tough guy! Wear a helmet and mouthpiece to the interview, my father teased. Others followed: Sylvain Cote, Paul MacDermid, Randy LaDouceur, Scott Young. No more Zamboni Drivers. Some of the players I profiled became NHL Coaches: Joel Quenneville, Dave Tippett, John Anderson.

I went to grad school in New York City and moved back home to Boston, where for 2 seasons I drove 120 miles round-trip to keep the car-driving gig. In Boston I experienced first-hand how all things Hartford were sneered at: Hartford sucks! Whalers suck! My affections deepened. Who doesn't love an underdog?

On April 13, 1997 I headed down for the last game. PA Announcer Greg Gilmartin snuck me down in to the penalty box where it all started for me 14 years earlier. I watched teary-eyed along with 15,000 others. Oooooooooooone minute left in Hartford, Gilmartin said.

After the game, we went to Chuck's for the Irish wake. Beat writers Jeff Jacobs and Alan Greenberg, of The Courant, Randy Smith, of the Journal-Inquirer held court, as always, but the mood was funereal.

Kevin Dineen scored the last goal--and the players left for Carolina. Hartford was left with bittersweet memories. Five years later, I took that walk with my father--and the memories all flooded back.


Writing this has been a monomaniacal pursuit for 9 years. I've learned one thing: I don't have a glass jaw. Again and again I've been knocked down, dusted off the ice shavings and skated back into the fray.

For a time I had a New York agent (who represented The English Patient novel), and she pitched it to a New York publisher, and the response was "Hockey books don't sell!"  I tried telling her it was a Rocky book, not a hockey book. An underdog story. A love story. She said in these troubled times publishing houses are closing. I said in these troubled times America needs Tiger Burns and his story of loss and perseverance.

Hockey books don't sell. The epitaph.

So now I take inspiration from fellow Bates alum Lisa Genova who self-published when she was told Alzheimer books don't sell. Still Alice went viral, was picked up and debuted on the New York Times best-seller list at #5. Alzheimer books don't sell, indeed.

From the Back Cover

What happens when a major league pro sports team leaves a city? The Hartford Whalers left on April 13, 1997--leaving behind devastated fans. The players left, too--except one who stayed and suffered like the fans.


Tiger Burns is an unlikely hero--even for a hobbit-sized, smash-faced, hockey goon with 600 fights. Standing 5'3", with one-eye, cauliflower ears, and a full-rigged ship tattoo on his chest, his most unusual feature is this: he loves Hartford and its team, the Whalers. In a league where players date super models, ice princesses and Miss Americas, he is a misfit. But in a league of Los Angeles, New York and Boston so is Hartford.


Brass Bonanza Plays Again tells the riches-to-rags story of Mark Twain's hometown, once the nation's richest, now the butt of jokes. It relates the true saga of a small city's beloved team moved away, like Brooklyn's Dodgers. And it weaves the tragicomic tale of the muscle-bound gnome who blows the jump-the-shark game against arch-rival Boston on April 11, 1990, lives homeless under a bridge, only to rise up and lead a dead team, out of the stands onto the ice.


Tiger rallies not only a dead hockey team, but awakens the ghosts of Hartford's past. He brings to life a ragtag band of 19th century legends and is saved by a guardian angel Rube Waddell, one of sport's "goats" from the 1905 World Series. Can a one-eyed, homeless underdog make a faded city believe and rescue a star-crossed spirit? In Brass Bonanza Plays Again, we have Rocky (on Skates!) meets Field of Dreams.


Rocky came out of a Philly row house, Rudy out of an Indiana steel mill, and now Tiger Burns comes out from under a Hartford bridge to bring a dead team to life. A book of provincial aspirations and condescension, Brass Bonanza Plays Again tells the story of this small city, midway between New York and Boston, long considered just a urine-stop or ass-wipe between Wall Street and Cape Cod.


The New York Times recently printed an essay "In Search of the Great American Hockey Novel" lamenting that hockey, unlike other sports, has yet to be celebrated in a notable work. "Where is the Chekhov of the Chicago Blackhawks?" the Times asks. "Who is the Stendahl of the stick to the groin?" To that, we humbly say: read on.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (January 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1450281052
  • ISBN-13: 978-1450281058
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #697,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

For 10 years, Bob Muldoon worked for the Whalers, driving a new car on-ice between periods, squiring models vying for the title "Miss Cadillac" (the best part-time job in Hartford). A graduate of Phillips Andover Academy and Columbia Journalism School, he has been published in Newsweek, the Hartford Courant, Ring Magazine ("the Bible of Boxing"), and Birdwatcher's Digest.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Burt on March 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a friend of the author but believe you will find this review unbiased.

As I learned more about the story, it started seeming far-fetched. The lead character is a 5'3" hockey "goon" (non-hockey fans: the goon is each team's enforcer/fighter. If you rough up a team's star player, retaliation from the goon awaits you). 5'3" is one small goon, but whatever. This goon is also missing an eye... very unlikely! If I next heard he was an amputee or could talk to animals, that would just about kill my interest.

As I started to read the book, I warmed up to the writing style, story, and character development. At some point, I reminded myself that baseball ghosts probably don't walk out of cornfields to play baseball, yet I loved Field of Dreams. The story reminded me of Field of Dreams the most, the character has a bit of Shrek in him, and there is an underdog story. The story was creative. Weaving in so many facts and real life characters helped the story become more credible.

There are a few sets of people I recommend this to:
* Sport stories - if you liked Field of Dreams and The Natural, I think you will like this. You have to "let yourself believe" a little in this creative story of an unlikely hero.
* Hockey fans - ideally, if you were a hockey fan during the mid-1980's to mid-1990's, you will appreciate the real life characters.
* Hartford - I lived in Hartford for five enjoyable years. I enjoyed the book's Hartford setting. I like history and enjoyed the brief segments on some of Hartford's notable citizens of the past, descriptions of past events such as the Hartford Circus Fire, etc.

I look forward to seeing what others think. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tom T on March 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
Robert Muldoon has delivered a wonderful, engaging and highly entertaining ride of a novel. He captures the essence of old time hockey (without the Hanson Brothers) by giving us a beer barrel on skates in the figure of 5'3" Tiger Burns. Tiger is wonderfully portrayed and is so endearing you want to scratch him behind the ears like a dog. He has the qualities of toughness, dedication, loyalty and honor who relies on his fists to earn a living. Muldoon develops a cast of real and fictional characters around Tiger as he spins a tale of love, dishonesty and redemption with fascinating insight into the history of the NHL, the Whalers and Hartford- a city who has never caught a break! I learned a lot, laughed a lot and was sorry it ended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Reader on March 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
I met the author at an event and learned of his book. I am neither an avid sports fan nor a voracious reader but purchased the book out of curiosity, slightly cynical about the author's comment that one did not have to be a hockey fan to enjoy the read. A few evenings later, I finished. The premise of the novel appears to me to be about redemption - a misfit among misfits who blows a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but where weaker wills might falter, this resilient hero whose love for his team and city is boundless, gains a second opportunity and triumphs.

I enjoyed the book: laughed, cried, and rooted along for the hero whose outward appearances belie his inner charisma. The author provides enough background so that the story can be appreciated by sports enthusiasts and novices alike. Did you know, for instance, that baseball pitcher "Rube" Waddell munched animal crackers to lull himself to sleep? Who cares, you might respond, but you could hardly repress a smile when you read that this bizarre habit irritated his bunkmate (a teammate) who commented that he did not mind the flat ones but was bothered by those with horns.

If you enjoy a good read through which you might shed a few tears of laughter and pity, appreciate creativity, and like happy endings - read the book and be the judge yourself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By dgordon on April 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
Many sports teams are well documented in literature. If you want to read about the New York Yankees or the Brooklyn Dodgers or the Green Bay Packers, you would not have to look far to find a book. But you would come up pretty empty if you were a fan of the now-defunct Hartford Whaler's.

Until now.

And what a book to read! Yes, it is fiction, as a fictional player is the hero, but he is superimposed over the actual events, which are worth reliving, especially the way Robert Muldoon tells them. And no detail is left out, from Chuck Kaiton to Chucks's Steak House and everything in-between. As the memory of the Whalers recedes in our memory, Muldoon brings it right to the fore so it appears crystal clear. Most of us can't see past the sad ending, but Muldoon reminds us of the good times. Even though the good times consisted of ordinary games, each was an event in itself, one in which the city of Hartford came alive, even for just a few hours.

And the fictionalized part does not detract from the story, it adds to it. Yes, our hero is a goon, but somehow, a lovable goon, an oxymoron which works. On the ice, he fights for his teammates, for his team, and his (adopted) city. Off the ice, he is the city's biggest booster; his naïveté and spirit are contagious. It doesn't take long to wish there really was a Tiger Burns in our past.

The Whalers come alive again on these pages, and the whole city of Hartford appears vibrant and thriving. A great read not only for those living in or near Hartford, but for anyone able to imagine Rocky on ice!
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