Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Review: The Metro Prystai Story by Frank Block

With the Kings Stanley Cup win fading in the rear-view mirror and training camp still many miles down the road, I needed a hockey fix.

And it arrived courtesy of author Frank Block and his e-book - The Metro Prystai Story. Prystai, who passed away on October 8, 2013, wore an NHL uniform from 1947-48 to 1957-58.

Also, there was a pleasant surprise when I opened up the attachment to his e-mail, but I will get into that later.

Wasting no time, Block addresses the crowning achievement of his subject in the NHL - Detroit's Cup victory in 1952. That was the year the Red Wings cruised through their opponents and won the bare minimum of 8 games. In the playoffs they swept Toronto and Montreal.

When asked to comment on his Cup experience, which included scoring the winning goal in game 4 of the final, Prystai replied, "Oh terrific, you know Sawchuk got 4 shutouts...they never scored a goal on us at home."

Then, comes the story of young Metro Prystai growing-up in Yorktown, Saskatchewan. Interviews with his siblings and friends provides insight into his boyhood on the Canadian prairie. His dad worked for the railroad and like most households in the 1930s, his mother looked after the home.

On the hockey front, Block chronicles Prystai from the time he played in high school to junior in Moose Jaw. "We had a pretty good team there...and they were pretty well all local guys," said Prystai. "We won three championships in a row in Saskatchewan."

A turning point for Prystai came in January 1945, when the Chicago Black Hawks decided to sponsor the junior Moose Jaw Canucks. In 1947-48, Prystai earned a spot on the Black Hawks roster and he took up residence in Chicago.

The chapter detailing his time in Chicago includes some incredible stories about his interaction with Matty Capone, who was Al Capone's brother (yes, the gangster). For example, Matty attempted to recruit Prystai into the family business. When he inquired as to what would be required, Capone replied, "just carry a gun."

Wisely, Prystai decided his true calling was to carry a stick and not a gun.

A trade in July 1950, sent Prystai to the Detroit Red Wings. In addition to helping his club capture two Stanly Cups, Prystai had the respect of his teammates. This becomes abundantly clear in the chapter titled "The Strike." A trade in November 1954,  sent Prystai back to the Windy City, setting off a firestorm in Detroit's dressing room. Led by defenceman Red Kelly, the Wings weren't happy with the transaction and they were ready to take action over managements decision to shed Prystai from their team.

Prystai, made a triumphant return to Detroit in 1955-56. He made an immediate contribution as the Wings advanced to another Cup final by defeating Toronto in the semi-final.

The book touches on numerous aspects beyond Prystai's involvement in hockey. It contains background on his family life, and business ventures after he hung-up his skates. And hockey wasn't the only sport Prystai participated in. During the summer he played ball and in one exhibition contest he shared the field with a true baseball icon.

Along with wonderful tidbits of information and moving moments (my favourite being Metro's return to the Motor City in 2011 with his family to receive a Stanley Cup ring), there are amazing photos taken at various stages of Prystai's life. The passage of time reflected in early black & white pictures, followed by bursts of colour as he got older.

Before reading Frank Block's e-book, I was somewhat aware of Prystai's work in the NHL. Going through my files, I came across this description of a goal he scored against Toronto in game 3 of the 1956 semi-final: "Then Metro Prystai, an industrious workman for the Wings, broke away, thrashed into the Leaf end with his bull-in-a-china-shop skating style, and scored with a 35-foot backhander."

How can one not appreciate a player who's style of play is described in this manner? Thus, it was a delight to expand my knowledge of Prystai beyond a file folder of clippings and notes. His story is new and not a recycled effort of the more known names in the game.

Now, for the pleasant surprise.

As Block writes on his website, included in the attachment is  "a professionally produced two and a half hour audio version where you'll get to hear exclusive interviews with Metro as well as other great hockey legends such as Red Kelly (who wrote the Forward), Emile Francis, Ted Lindsay and more."

This extra feature brings a certain intimacy to the process of getting to know Metro. I suggest first reading the text, then close your eyes and soak in the verbal portion.

So, if you're like me and in need of a hockey fix, I highly recommend securing this e-book/audio presentation. You will not be disappointed. It will satisfy the hunger of fans wanting to devour a new meal of hockey stories and information!

For further details, please visit or e-mail the author at

"I have really gotten to know Metro in a truly remarkable way," noted Frank Block. "It seems that no matter who I've talked to about Metro, the underlying theme in our conversations is that everyone has nothing but the utmost respect for him."

And who wouldn't want to read and learn more about someone with that reputation?

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