Five Hole Diaries – Book Review

Review by Gary Moskalyk,
published in The Chronicle Journal, Thunder Bay, Ont.

“I’ve been around, ya know.” – Colonel Frank Slade, The Scent of a Woman.

Indeed, there’s a whole lot of ‘been there, done that’ to the sports writing of Fort William native Ross Brewitt. That assessment is immediately borne out in Brewitt’s seventh book, The Five Hole Diaries Volume One, a compendium of reprinted articles chronicling the personalities and issues surrounding the world of sport in 21 years of Friday articles from 1995 to date.

No Jose Bautista bat flip–maybe Volume Two.

Like the ‘Manalyst’ Gregg Zaun in baseball, and the iconic Don Cherry on Hockey Night In Canada, Brewitt is a required reference for the those looking for a critical and knowledgeable insider’s view of sport.

Born in 1936, Brewitt sprinkles in a liberal dose of his own athletic experiences growing up in Schreiber and Fort William. There’s a good amount of local name dropping here. Local Les Hunt is cited for his ability to body check, Dave Gatherum get his due when he receives a Stanley Cup ring half a century plus after winning it with Detroit. NHL Scout Lou Passador of Fort William has a dedicated article. Hall of Famer Alex Delvechhio gets a mention, Eric Staal an entire article–Brewitt is tapped in to his Thunder Bay roots.

Ninety articles are reprinted here. After each one, there is an update. For example, the firing of John Tortorella as head coach of the New York Rangers took place in 2013. Following the original article is a commentary of Torts and Alain Vigneault switching addresses in New York and Vancouver.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is a regular target as Brewitt takes on fighting and diving in the NHL. Sean Avery gets his due. Overbearing sports parents get a columnful, too.

Brewitt really hits his stride with stories and anecdotes of players such as Eddie Shack, Darryl Sittler, Dave Keon, Buffalo’s Rick Martin, John Ferguson, Jean Beliveau, Bobby Orr and many more. Having organized the NHL Oldstars softball team, been a reporter for most of his life, spoken at innumerable dinners, has six other books to his credit–and with the considerable chutzpah that Brewitt brings to the table–there’s no shortage of material to draw from. If there’s humour to be found, Brewitt will ferret that out, too. Let’s face it, with Eddie Shack around how could there not be.

Punch Slams the Door was the first article I read. I grew up on Punch Imlach and Toronto Maple Leafs. Imlach joined the Sabres later in his career. Brewitt spent extensive time with both organizations. And he drove around with Imlach in Buffalo.

There’s a softer side too. “Building A Christmas Memory” tells the story of a father and son attending a hockey game in Buffalo. Gatherum’s story was compelling. For the older fan the book is a re-telling of events and a fleshing out of personalities from long ago, others modern day, from a scribe who has rubbed shoulders with the best of them.

Ross Brewitt’s The Five Hole Diaries is a great stocking stuffer for Christmas.

If you were going to war you’d want Brewitt in your trench.