YORKTON - Sometimes the best books are those that offer interesting little tidbits without the need to read hundreds of pages.
For example; “One day in New York City, the Jet’s team was unable to navigate a right turn due to an improperly parked Volkswagen Beetle. The driver was perplexed, but it wasn’t a problem for John Ferguson. The Jets general manager hollered, “Jimmy, bring a couple of the guys.
“Jimmy Mann, John Ferguson, and company then stepped off the bus, picked up the car, and plopped it down on the sidewalk. Problem solved,” writes Curt Keilback in his new book, a book filled with interesting and often humorous stories.
Two Minutes for Talking to Myself by Curt Keilback is one of those easy read books, with each chapter only a couple of pages, or less, but within that limited space are some interesting insights into the National Hockey League in particular the original Winnipeg Jets and the Coyotes of Arizona they would become.
Locally in Yorkton, and by extension Saskatchewan, the new book has interest given the connection of its author.
While Keilback is from Brandon, Man., he began his broadcasting career as sports director for CJGX radio in Yorkton, later moving to Regina, where he did play-by-play for CKCK, and then on to bigger and better things, as related in the book.
“The crowd at the Winnipeg Arena was in fever pitch as the final seconds ticked off, then nearly blew the walls down at the buzzer. The broadcasters managed to exclaim, “The Winnipeg Warriors have won the Edinburgh Cup!” before they were drowned out by the euphoria. It was all anybody heard on the radio for eight minutes. The broadcasters, Cactus Jack Wells and the guy he called “Kid,” Jim Keilback, just sat back and let it all soak in, but they weren’t alone. A wide-eyed seven-year-old was with them in the booth that night. I believe that was the moment I decided to be a hockey broadcaster when I grew up, just like my dad and his broadcast buddy, the late Cactus Jack Wells,” begins the book.
“Years later, after a move from Winnipeg to Saskatchewan, my dream began to take shape; I broadcasted senior hockey for the Yorkton Terriers. It continued in Regina, where I did play-by-play for the Pats team that won the Memorial Cup in 1974.”
Keilback said it was always his idea to make the book an easy read.
“I wanted waiting room type thing,” he said.
While Keilback had a vision for the type of book he would eventually create, it was never actually something he expected to do.
It started with a radio show where he penned 13 ‘editorial’ short pieces to share with listeners.
“I just put them away,” he said, adding they sat untouched for some time.
Then one day Keilback came across the stories again.
“I was sitting at my desk and came across the stories and thought ‘I should write a few more,” he said.
For example, Keilback writes; “Contrary to popular belief, not all records are meant to be broken. No NHL player will ever better the mark of Winnipeg’s Billy Mosienko, who scored three goals in twenty-one seconds for the Chicago Black Hawks. Nobody will ever score two goals in less than four seconds. It’s been done twice, once in 1931 by “Old Poison” Nels Stewart, and once in the mid-90’s by Jet defenceman Deron Quint.
“With the abolition of tie games, the Jets’ thirty-game winless streak may haunt the record books forever.
“Others on the “tough to top” list:
“Jet Dale Hawerchuk is the youngest player ever to collect five points in a game; he was eighteen. On another occasion, Hawerchuk became the only player in the modern era to collect five assists in one period. Dave Christian scored for the Jets seven seconds into his first NHL shift, Doug Smail is one of only four players to score five seconds into a game; the others are Bryan Trottier, Alexander Mogilny, and Merlyn Phillips. It’ll be awhile, but somebody will eventually challenge the record of Jet Teemu Selanne, who scored seventy-six goals as a rookie.”
Soon he had about 100, and then COVID hit, so with time on his hands Keilback wrote more.
In the end, he had enough for a book, which the author said sort of surprised him.
“When you start reflecting you don’t realize how much you do remember,” he said.
Of course lots of the stories about the Jets move to the hot weather of Arizona.
Keilback said initially he thought the NHL could work in the hot weather state.
“They did great things initially,” he said.
But, whatever good things were accomplished early have long ago been lost, and Keilback said he doubts the Coyotes can ever find success in Arizona now.
Interestingly, while Keilback’s career had him connected with hockey, in retirement he has stepped back a bit and become a broader fan of sports following baseball, basketball and football far more today.
“I’m not near the hockey fan I was,” he said, adding in today’s world there is “a never ending supply” of a diverse array of sports to catch his attention.
That said, when Keilback does watch hockey now he has liked it.
“I think hockey today is great from what I’ve seen,” adding it seems like every player can now skate like a Paul Coffey.
“And it looks to me like it’s back to being a lot more offensive.”
So how has response been to a book he never really expected to write?
“It’s kind of strange. I don’t really know how to explain it, so far there hasn’t been a lot of feedback,” he said, adding he does hope it will sell well for the December holiday season.