Hey, Mighty Ducks. Meet the River Rats.
“Let Them Lead: Unexpected Lessons From America’s Worst High School Hockey Team” by New York Times bestselling author John U. Bacon tells a hockey underdog story with a different approach, and it might be getting “The Mighty Ducks” treatment after all.
What? We will get to that. In “Let Them Lead,” Bacon details his experiences as a high school hockey coach at his alma mater and building the River Rats into a contender. The book was released this week.
It is not just a high-school hockey book, and it is not just a self-help book for aspiring bosses, teachers and coaches. Bacon works two timelines into one good story with ease.
“If that is the one-line review I would take it all day long,” Bacon told Sporting News. “That is exactly what we were trying to do. If all we were doing was telling a story, well, how many people care about high school hockey? Not a lot. If all we’re doing is giving advice, then it’s kind of empty. The fun part, but hard part, was telling the team of this crazy team’s progress while telling the lessons along the way.”
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Bacon took over at Huron High School as head coach of a hockey team that finished 0-23-2 the year before he was hired and flipped it into a winner. Bacon details the leadership lessons that came with turning the power over to players and assistant coaches at the program with a confident yet self-deprecating approach. He also fleshes out how those approaches succeeded and failed. The dueling timelines complement each other well.
“I thought it was going to work and believed in it,” Bacon said. “My approach, and it was stolen from great coaches elsewhere, but when I took the job I told my parents, ‘It’s going to take me five years.'”
So, how long did it take to build a winner?
That is the fun part of reading “Let Them Lead.” It’s a journey that might just find its way to the big screen. Bacon is working with screenwriter Jim Burnstein, who worked on “D3: Mighty Ducks,” and producer Eddie Rubin on a screenplay.
For Bacon, all that success is secondary to what he saw unfold at Huron High School. He’s quick to point out he played 86 high school games without scoring a goal. He found a greater reward as a coach, and that’s the heart of a must-read book for those who want to learn more about that pursuit.
“I would trade scoring 100 goals to see the looks on the faces of the players I coached,” Bacon said. “Any parent, teacher, coach or boss can relate to this. The success they have is so much sweeter than any success you would have. That is what we set out to do.”
“Let Them Lead” can be ordered here.
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