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The Hottest NHL Players According to a 1993 Issue of Hockey Digest

So a few months ago I wrote about a long-lost issue of Hockey Digest that featured an article that, I felt, set me on the path to writing hockey-based romance novels/being a general thirsty mess.

Well, guess what? My wonderful friend Johnathan Munroe managed to track down a copy of this very Hockey Digest issue, which is impressive because I wasn't at all sure what issue it was, or even what year it came out. My best guess was 1992 or 1993. Turns out, it was June/July 1993, which makes sense because summer is when hockey magazines are desperate for content and might stoop so low as to start rating the super hunks.

I mis-remembered a lot of things about this fantastic piece of journalism. For one, I thought it had been written by two or three female hockey writers who went on the record with their names and everything. Nope and nope. It was, in fact, written by superstar hockey writer Stan Fischler. In his introduction to the piece, he explains that "suddenly" hockey players are being admired for their "beefcake as their backchecking" and that almost "ten percent" of hockey fans are women.

Okay, Stan. Let me stop you right there.

Ten percent. Ten. TEN??? How was this even measured?? Secondly, I'm going to drop a little science on you, Stanley: hockey players have ALWAYS been ogled. And here's the bigger bombshell: some of the people ogling the hockey players weren't in the ten percent, if you know what I'm saying.

Anyway, Stan put together an emergency panel to get to the bottom of this new phenomenon of pro athletes being considered physically attractive. His panel consisted of three anonymous women who were "closely connected with the league from a broadcasting standpoint."

I one hundred percent believe that this panel was real, and that Stan Fischler himself didn't just open his running Wordperfect list of hockey hunks and turn it into some easy summer content.

But enough build-up, let's get to the HUNKS!

The list should count down from 13 to 1 (why 13??) but it doesn't. It starts at the top and the top is Jeff Brown, who was then playing for St Louis. The "panel" of "women" go so far as to call him the "best looking guy on Earth." 

I do recall Jeff Brown being a total dish. He had some fierce eyebrows and a jaw you could slice prosciutto with. I was, in particular, a big fan of this hockey card:

jeff brown.jpg

So, yes. Jeff Brown probably was the hottest man in the NHL at the time. He had some bad nineties hair under that helmet, but they all did.

Number two on the list was Shayne Corson, followed by Stephane Richer and Mathieu Schneider, so Habs and ex-Habs had a good showing in the top tier of this list. I was quite in love with Mathieu Schneider in my youth. He was an intoxicating blend of French-Canadian and New York Jewish. He seemed all French but was actually American, with a blinding smile and eyebrows that were almost too much, but were still perfect. 

The "panel of women" simply described him as "cute smile, neat eyebrows" and somehow did not mention the thick pelt of chest hair that one could take a nap in.

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Next on their list was Owen Nolan, who, despite having one the best hockey names ever, looked like a pot roast and I disagree with his inclusion here.

Number six is Brendan Shanahan, who kept it tight until he retired (and beyond). He's more "cute" than "hot", but I seem to recall he was more fashionable than most hockey players. Funny, too.

Number seven is Bret Hedican, and I was like "Brett Who-dican"? Stan, or whoever, describes him as having a "good, all-American look".

hedican.jpg

If the All-American look is having eyes that are very far apart. I just looked him up and he has been married to Kristi Yamaguchi since 2000??? And he's a television analyst for the San Jose Sharks broadcasts. Good job, Bret!

Next is Sean Hill, and then Joe Sakic and his "beautiful eyes". Then Scott Stevens, who I've always thought looked like he was built in a lab. Not necessarily in a hot way. More in a "perfect killing machine" way.

scott stevens.jpg

Number eleven is Rock Tocchet, who is bizarrely described as "Physical, nasty player who speaks his mind...cute." Number twelve is Zarley Zalapski, who actually died this past December, so that's kind of a bummer. Rouding out the list at thirteen is Craig Simpson, who is described as having a "Good personality with a nice smile," which is how I was described by my much hotter friends in high school. Anyway, Craig Simpson is a Hockey Night in Canada commentator now, so he's kind of come out on top here.

This list is kind of bullshit. For one thing, there are exactly zero Europeans on this list. That is just dumb.

Even more confusing: After the top thirteen are listed, there are some individual categories. Example: Best lips is awarded to Steve Yzerman. Why isn't Steve on the list? And where is Chris Chelios?? (Stan actually does mention the crime of omitting Chelios at the end, even calling him "the sexiest guy of all" and "the Greek God of the Chicago Stadium". Damn right).

chelios.jpg

Chelios also had a reputation for being the fittest guy in the NHL (and possibly in the universe), and stayed that way until he retired at age 48(!!!) and is probably STILL the fittest person.

If you would like to read the full piece, I have it scanned below. It is extremely tame by today's standards, but is still written with such a strong tone of "ohmygosh this is soooo naughty of us!". It's pretty wild.

I mean, the fact that the women, if they existed, actually refused to be named says a lot about hockey culture at the time. This is what I was saying in my original post: this dumb fluff piece changed my life. It gave me permission to openly appreciate hockey players for their looks as much as for their stats.

So thank you, Stan. If you are still alive, I would love to get mojitos and come up with a current top thirteen list with you.

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About Riptide

On Thursday of last week I flew to Toronto to lock myself in a hotel room for four days and work on my two upcoming books, both of which were scheduled to be published by Riptide this year. I was excited to get away from all distractions and just focus on writing and editing.

But, of course, during those four days, all hell broke lose in the LGBTQ romance biz, and some very upsetting things were revealed about people who worked for Riptide.

It's hard to not feel devastated. I have long been a fan of Riptide and their books, and I, like so many others, had no idea what was going on behind the scenes. I was extremely pumped to have signed not one, but TWO contracts with them for my books. It was a family I was proud to join.

So it is with a very heavy heart that I have asked Riptide to release me from my contracts.

My dealings, personally, with Riptide have only been positive. They were only professional and supportive with me over the past few months. My editor, Caz, was especially awesome and she definitely made Game Changer leagues better than it was. Wherever the book ends up, I want to make it clear that her editing was fantastic and led to some significant changes in the manuscript that I am grateful for.

That said, I have decided that I can't stay with Riptide.

Game Changer is the first book in what I have planned to be a four book m/m hockey romance series. It had a planned release date of July 9. The second book (tentatively titled Heated Rivalry), was scheduled for release with Riptide in December of this year. I am hoping to find a new home for the series ASAP, or I will self-publish. My husband happens to be a professional book designer, so I definitely have an advantage there. I'm not sure I have the time on my hands that I would need to promote and market a self-published book, though. I'll look at all of my options.

The last thing I want to say is that I am sad not only because my publishing dreams have been bruised, but because I truly loved the idea of Riptide as a publisher. They published a lot of books that I truly love. I was so impressed with their diverse catalogue. I know there are other LGBTQ romance publishers, and I am sure new ones will emerge to fulfill the need for these stories to be told. I also sincerely hope that Riptide themselves can regain the trust of the community, and rebuild.

But mostly I hope that the world will one day be able to read my mushy stories about big ol' hockey players falling in love. Because I really love writing them.

 

I owe everything I am to the female hockey journalists who wrote the 1993 'Hockey Digest' list of the most attractive NHL players

Or maybe it was 1992. It was definitely either 1992 or 1993.

I swear if I had access to a time machine the first thing I would do is go back to my childhood bedroom (when my twelve-year-old self is not there, obviously. I'm not stupid) and I would locate the dogeared copy of The Hockey Digest that set me on a path.

This publication had the GUTS to ask two or three female hockey journalists to compile a list of the best looking NHL players. This was before the internet. Before Buzzfeed. Before it was okay for women to just be openly thirsty as hell.

I had been obsessed with hockey for years at the time. Because this was "unusual" for a young girl, I was always careful to keep my feelings about the sport "professional" and "manly". I admired players purely for their skill, their stats, their honour, and, when I was feeling daring, their personalities. But to comment on something as superficial as a player's looks was just...not being a proper hockey fan. What on earth did it matter if a defenseman had a chiseled jaw, or a rugged cleft chin, or piercing sapphire eyes? Obviously the only thing that mattered was that he was throwing up a decent plus-minus average.

But then there was this list.

A list written by actual hockey reporters. Female hockey reporters. Women who knew these players professionally. Women who were probably just barely taken seriously by fans, players and the media alike. And here they were counting down the best players in the league based purely on how attractive they were. What balls these ladies had!

Do you know what that list said to me? It said, "Hey. It's okay. There are some hot men in the NHL and it's okay to admit that. To celebrate it, even! Lusting after these men does not make you a less knowledgeable fan. It does not make you respect them less as players."

I read that list so many times. I held onto the issue for years, but it's sadly lost now. And as comprehensive as the internet is, I have never been able to find the slightest evidence that the list had ever existed. So I have no idea who the women were who wrote it. I can still remember probably half of the players who had made the list. 

I wish I could thank these women. I am sure they wrote it as a fun puff piece, but to me it was earth shattering. If anyone can find me a copy of this list, or the names of the women who wrote it, I would be so goddamned happy. This is my white whale.

Most Sportsmanlike

The cruelest thing about being born a girl is that you are immediately robbed of the dream of one day winning the Stanley Cup.

My love of hockey was so strong and pure growing up that it was torture watching the boys in my class chase that dream. None of them joined that negligible percentage of the population that gets to play in the NHL, or even play hockey professionally, of course, but they did get to at least try. The dream was a big part of their lives, and I felt left out.

When I was thirteen, the agony became too much. I needed to know what it felt like to wear the gear that I had long admired in Cleve's Sporting Goods, to have to make decisions about how much of a curve I wanted on my stick blade, and to know the unforgiving hour that coaches call a hockey practice. I wanted it all, from the bruises to the grueling schedule. I wanted to sit in a locker room, listening to my coach. I wanted to learn how to jump over the boards and onto the ice. I wanted to spit water through the holes in my face mask. I wanted to have a position on the ice, and a number on my back. I wanted to practice shooting pucks at a brick wall, and I wanted it to be for a reason. I wanted to experience the rush of the play-offs, and I wanted to win. More than anything I wanted teammates, camaraderie, and I wanted them to know that I was completely devoted to every minute of every game, just like my heroes in the NHL.

I signed up for Bedford minor hockey's house league that year. At that time, there was no girl's hockey league in the area. They were willing to let me play with the boys, but I had to play an age level below my own because I had to play in a no-contact league. It didn't bother me in the slightest. I would have played with anyone, anywhere. I was just thrilled that I could now go to a store and get my own set of real hockey gear. I knew what brands all my favourite players wore. I read The Hockey News religiously, and was familiar with all of their recommendations for gear. Of course, none of that mattered because my mother was just going to buy whatever gear at the second-hand sports equipment store fit me. Again, I didn't care. I was going to be a hockey player!

It never really occurred to me that hockey was something that couldn't be learned in a year.

In preparation for my rookie season, I had enrolled in a summer hockey camp, and had taken power skating lessons. My first obstacle had been becoming comfortable on skates again. At the age of ten my dreams of becoming an Olympic figure skater were shattered, along with my right leg, before they had even begun. If not for hockey, I may never have put on a pair of skates again. The men of the NHL quickly became my idols as I waited for my leg to heal. Those fearless gladiators would never let something as trivial as a broken leg keep them from returning to the game they lived for. Some, to my horror and delight, would even go so far as to freeze their injuries and play on fractured ankles and body check with broken ribs. I thought of them when I stepped back onto the ice for the first time, my legs wobbling and tears stinging my eyes. They would be disgusted by such a display of cowardice. It had been two years since that accident. In hockey time, that's an eternity.

I did overcome my fear, aided by the thirty or so pounds of hockey gear that now protected me. When September came, I was ready. At least mentally.

If I hadn't been so infatuated with the idea of being a hockey player, I may have been discouraged by the fact that I was terrible at it. It was to be expected, as there are very few star hockey players who first picked up a stick when they were a chubby teenage girl. I could barely skate, pass, or stick handle. No matter what I did, I could not figure out how to get the puck to raise off the ice when I took a shot on net. I had no speed and no grace. It turned out that the little things that looked so simple when I saw my heroes do them on Hockey Night In Canada, like vaulting over the boards onto the ice during a line change, were actually very difficult. I did, however, get very good at spitting.

I played every game that season, loving every aspect of it. I gleefully overlooked the fact that my coach referred to my line as the "donut line" when he played me at centre. I didn't care. Nicknames and harsh words from coaches were a part of the game. I knew that from the countless hockey biographies I devoured. Being mocked by my coach meant I was a part of the culture I had wanted so badly to be included in, even if that inclusion was different from what my male teammates experienced. I couldn't change in the dressing room with them, of course, but I was permitted in the room to hear the coach's pre-game speeches once everyone was decent. I had to bite my lip when the coach would ask if anyone in the dressing room didn't have the balls to win the game we were about to play. At school my teammates would make comments as they passed me in the hall, one even checking me into a wall and snarling "Girls can't play hockey." It was an unfair statement. Certainly I couldn't play hockey, but surely he was mistaken about all girls.

There was, in fact, one other girl on the team. Unlike me, she had been playing hockey for years; in Europe even. I was dazzled by her. She was the only other girl in the league, and she was, by a significant margin, the best player in the league. She, also, had no choice but to play house league below her age level.

That season would be my first and last playing the game I loved. My team won the championship, beating the other three Pee-Wee house league teams in Bedford. "And we even had the girls on the team!" my coach exclaimed during his congratulatory speech, impressed by the boys' ability to overcome such a handicap. I had scored four goals that year, which was four more than I, or anyone else, had expected. At the end of the year banquet, I was given one of the four medals that each team gives out: Most Sportsmanlike. I was thrilled, even though I knew the only reason I went the whole season without a single penalty minute was because I wasn't fast enough to catch another player, let alone trip or slash them. I think the coach just wanted to give me something because I was just so happy to be there. Most Sportsmanlike was the closest medal he had for that.

I still have the medal. It's far from being a Stanley Cup ring, but looking at the smiling face of the Esso Tiger declaring that I 'earned my stripes' reminds me that it's worth trying something, no matter how ridiculous it may seem, or how bad I will probably be at it. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the game of hockey, and that's mine. It's an unusual lesson, but I was an unusual player.