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Commito the historian merges with Commito the hockey fan on second book
2021-09-08
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Academically trained as a historian, Mike Commito realized, not all that long ago, that his passion for hockey might equal or exceed his love of scholarly research.

If it wasn't obvious at the time of his first book (2017 - Hockey 365: Daily Stories from the Ice), it certainly is as the sequel prepares to hit local book shelves this month.

Blessed with a far better appreciation for the entire process of writing and publishing a book, the native of London who criss-crossed the province as the son of a Sears store manager (Stratford/Mississauga/Thunder Bay/Timmins - and finally to Sudbury in 2000) is thrilled with the final product that has again drawn plenty of praise from those within the hockey industry.

Hockey 365, The Second Period: More Daily Stories from the Ice follows a similar format to the original, allowing the audience to weave their way through a hockey story a day, 365 days strong, all conveyed in a style that even the most casual reader can appreciate.

All this from a man who did not even play organized hockey until his adulthood.

"Living in Thunder Bay (around the age of ten), there was always a rink in one of the empty lots," said Commito, whose full-time gig finds the father of two stationed at Cambrian College, serving as Director of Applied Research and Innovation.

"The neighbourhood kids would get together and we would play there, just skating around - but my first time in full equipment was in 2014 when I was 29 years old. I finally found a group of guys who had a similar skill-set to mine, who did not play a lot growing up."

Also a little late to the party in terms of competitive swimming - Commito first enrolled with the Timmins Marlins at the age of 12, but would eventually swim for the Laurentian University varsity team - the author who recently celebrated his 36th birthday remained an avid follower of Canada's winter sport through every stage of his life.

Given his line of studies: History degree from Laurentian, Masters in History from Laurentian, PhD in History from McMaster, the deeply-rooted desire to probe and explore the lengthy lineage of hockey likely comes as little surprise.

The move towards putting pen to paper and sharing these findings, however, requires a little more context to understand.

Some of it is quite intrisic, historically speaking.

"At the end of the day, a historian's job is to be a story teller," said Commito. "I think that I've always enjoyed writing, though I never thought that it was something that I might do to the extent that I am doing it now."

"I always assumed the writing I would be doing would be for scholarly journals and such - but to be honest, I really didn't like that style of writing, because I really just wanted to tell stories."

In the age of the internet, finding outlets to feed his creative side was hardly an issue at all.

"I got some opportunities to write for a more popular audience and then just kind of built on that."

Initially, his works would feature the obvious overlap between historian and hockey fan. The owner of his own personal website, Commito would take to blogging, developing a concept where he would somehow marry a pertinent Canadian historical factoid with a preview of an upcoming game for one of the country's six NHL teams - an interesting marriage, to be sure.

"I was still stuck in the world of the historian, thinking that was where my credibility came from, so that had to be the thin edge of the wedge into hockey."

The concept became transferrable when Commito, doing some work for a Los Angeles Kings fan website, launched the Preview Professor, combining general California history with news from the Kings, Sharks and Ducks.

By the time he started the History in Hockey series with Sudbury.com, Commito had developed a much better vision of the end product he desired.

"If I was going to make a name for myself in hockey, it didn't make sense to combine both," he said. "I started just pitching hockey."

At his root, this is where his literary comfort lies.

"The hallmark of my writing has always been to be accessible, engaging and, at times, fun - which is probably why I gravitated to hockey," noted Commito. "It gives me a chance to write in my genuine voice, to write the way that I would want to read it."

Slowly but surely, Commito started to accumulate a wealth of potential story ideas, some of which morphed into a wildly popular Twitter account that looks back on interesting occurances of any particular date.

Still, there had to be more if these notions were to expand into a full scale book.

"In working with that material for five to six years, I've had to find stories to diffentiate myself from others who are out there," he admitted. "That's where the history is important. There is a very well connected very enthusiastic hockey history community out there."

"As casual hockey fans, you don't know those stories. Having the history background lent itself to digging up some of those unusual, quirky stories. I think that's what people wanted to hear."

Very regimented in his approach and more fully prepared for the process, Commito would deviate just slightly with his literary template the second time around. "The only thing that changed in my style was maybe my confidence level," he suggested.

"I tried to be a little more off the wall with this book."

An eclectic reader by nature, Commito makes but one small alteration to his bookshelf consumption as we inch closer to the release of his second book on September 28th.

"Once the book writing process began, I stop reading hockey books," he said. "I'm always worried that I will see something that I would like to change, but can't."

A historian, Mike Commito may be - but also a hockey fan, through and through.

Copies of Hockey 365, The Second Period: More Daily Stories from the Ice are available on line through Amazon, and later this month at Chapters in Sudbury.

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