Book Reviews


by Joe Pelletier

September 29, 2019

What does it take to win?

This is the question that, ultimately, everyone in pro hockey asks themselves every day. Even if they do not consciously ponder it daily, every move, every workout, every strategy meeting is designed to work towards answering that question. Because only the championship team at the end of the season has proven to have answered it.

As a hockey fan who can't skate very well or shoot the puck very hard, I have always dreamed of being a general manager of an NHL team. Making roster decisions designed to win the Stanley Cup. Identifying the right players for the right roles. Finding the right 23 guys to win the Stanley Cup championship. Building the next great hockey team.

Jason Farris obviously has similar interests. And he took it to a whole other level with his new book, It Takes 23 To Win.

In it, he essentially asks 23 NHL veterans this question - what does it take to win? And he then has each of the 23 players pick an all-time team of actual teammates that they would go to war with. And they add their commentary as to why these players are essential to a winning hockey team.

It's an amazing undertaking - one that is almost too large for one book! - but this is not about all-star dream teams here. Farris constrained each of his participants by forcing them to build as realistic a line up as possible. There is no stacking the 4th line with superstar scorers here. The fourth line has to be made up of fourth liners. There are quality third line role players, depth defensemen and true back up goaltenders.

This is the real value of the book. As each player names his team, the real answer to the question of what does it take to win is revealed. What are qualities and traits are these players looking for in their teammates? What makes a great first line, or quality role player, or final minute of play defenseman? We are familiar with many - though maybe not all - of the players selected, but it is the why they are selected is the key.

Farris' line up of players is also just as varied. Farris, who is well connected in hockey circles and formerly worked for the Dallas Stars as Chief Operating Officer, enlisted an interesting blend of superstars (like Dominik Hasek, Joe Nieuwendyk, Frank Mahovlich and Mark Recchi) to role players (Brad Marsh, Terry Ruskowski, Bob Bassen and Brad May). It's like a real team - and purposely down this way.

The book truly does "put you in a dressing room stall between a Hall of Famer in his prime and journeyman checking forward who's taking you under his wing." We get the varied perspectives, seeing the contributions of every role from varying vantage points.

As always, a Jason Farris book amazes. Self-published under his own circaNow Media banner, no one is better at presentation. The book's layout and graphic work is the dream of every author and should be the goal of every publisher. This particular book tones down the splashy presentation to a degree compared to some previous Farris offerings, and I think it is actually for the better. It is a perfect mixture of eye-catching display without commanding the attention of the reader from the true gem of the book - the written content.

The book does not truly answer the question. What does it take to win? There are no shortages of hints and quotes as to all the necessary ingredients, but there is no summary. There is no blue print which answers the question definitively. I'm sure every coach, every organization, every leader has such a blue print and they try to fill the identified roles with the players and coaches with the desired attributes. I would love to see these blue prints.

Of course, Scotty Bowman and company are not exactly just going to show you. So this book fills the void. The reader is left to piece it all together and figure it out for themselves. What are the essential contributions of every role on the 23-man roster? What is needed not just on the ice, but off of it, too?

The book really makes you think, and that is the great fun of it. There is no uniform answer. But the book challenges you to come up with your own answer.

The book does get bogged down a bit with some supplementary material. Now the material in and of itself is all fantastic stuff. Some of it could be expanded into bigger projects on their own. There are some great historical elements, like the history of hockey team photos and team travel; sections on international hockey, women's hockey and sledge hockey; plenty of features on team programs and hockey cards. I don't mean to complain about these fantastic add-ons. I just question whether they take away some of the main focus of the book.

The book is pricier than most at $59.95. But bottom line is any Jason Farris book is worth the price. Like I said already, the presentation is always second to none. The content of this book in particular matches that. It will remain within easy reach for me all hockey season long as a must read and return to frequently.

Colligan Hockey


by Mike Colligan,

October 1, 2019

What Makes a Successful Team? NHL Players Share Their Thoughts

“The pressure to fill around the edges of the roster and make sure that we are performing well will fall directly on me. I know that is what myself and our management team will be judged by and what the fans and the media should be judging us on.” ― Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs GM (Summer 2019)

Seven years ago, I came across a book that changed the way I think about management in hockey.

Behind the Moves ( was a unique concept. Author Jason Farris spent more than a year criss-crossing the continent in an effort to understand how successful NHL teams are built. He spoke with every living General Manager who had taken a team to the Stanley Cup Final and what resulted was 252 pages of sports management insight.

This wasn’t a PhD dissertation from Farris with his ‘Keys to Success’ or ’12 Pillars of Hockey Management’. Almost all of the content came directly from the mouths of the GMs he interviewed. The quotes and stories were fascinating.

The biggest takeaway that stuck with me is there’s no single formula for building championship teams. Lou Lamoriello’s philosophy is very different than Ray Shero’s, just like Shero prefers to build his teams differently than Brian Burke. What mattered is they all had a clear vision that was communicated and reinforced at every level of the organization.

When I spoke with Farris about the book in 2012, he talked about how Burke had convinced the Toronto Maple Leafs ownership group to take advantage of the power of ‘Big Blue’:

“Toronto has the best practice facility, a dedicated goalie coach, a player development staff, a scouting staff of 35 when most teams might have 20. You’re limited in what you can spend in player salaries, but they’re outspending everyone off the ice to try and create a competitive advantage.”

Seven years ago, Kyle Dubas was 26 years old and had just finished his first season as GM of the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds. Maybe Dubas was reading Behind the Moves too, but he probably didn’t realize that Burke was establishing the foundation for a Maple Leafs team he would later inherit.

Some of the efforts by Burke were intentional — like using the power of ‘Big Blue’ to make Toronto a world-class destination for players.

Others were not — such as continually missing the playoffs and positioning the Leafs to eventually land top-ten draft picks like Morgan Rielly and William Nylander.

Life is certainly different for Leafs fans in 2019.

Simply qualifying for the playoffs isn’t good enough anymore. Coach Mike Babcock is on the hot seat and no one in Toronto is happy with how Dubas is compensating the team’s growing pile of young, emerging superstars. As we head into the 2019-20 season, instead of trying to predict whether Mitch Marner will score 85 or 100 points, I’m more interested in monitoring what Dubas called the “edges of the roster” in his quote at the top. I want to know if Alex Kerfoot can fill the shoes of Nazem Kadri. Will Jason Spezza provide the veteran presence that Carlos Beltran did for the Houston Astros?

Superstar players are the necessary, but not sufficient pieces of a Stanley Cup winning team. Any Cup champion will tell you that it takes the entire 23-man roster to win and every role is critically important.

That’s the theme of Farris’ new book titled It Takes 23 to Win: Building and Being Part of Great Hockey Teams (

The format is familiar if you’ve read Behind the Moves. A large, coffee table style book with over 250 pages of carefully organized quotes, presented in a variety of formats that appeal to any type of reader. Hockey history buff. Fantasy hockey GM. Even fans of hockey outside the NHL like the women’s game and Olympic squads. All angles are covered in creative ways. There’s a choose-your-own-adventure feel to the content that allows you to flip to a random page and learn something new about building winning hockey teams.

What’s different about 23 to Win is that now we get to hear directly from the players. Farris says that while Behind the Moves was “going behind the velvet curtain of the GM society, this book is like walking down a couple flights of stairs and going into the dressing room with the same concept.”

The cover image captures that concept perfectly. Bob Gainey, who just happens to be number 23, lifting the Stanley Cup and being held up by an entire team of players around him.

After just working my way through the book for the first time, here are three quotes that stuck with me at this stage of my own learning journey.

(1) Accepting Your Role on a Team

“On teams that win, you have great people who are selfless. That’s number one. Everybody has to be selfless because you might not be put in a position where you have been successful before. You might be asked to play a different role than you’re used to — and it could be a bigger role or less of one — but the common theme of being on a great team is that you have to be selfless and willing to do whatever it takes to help the team be successful. That’s not always easy. At the end of the day, every NHL player has a little bit of selfishness in him. That’s why we made it to the NHL. You have to have a little selfishness in order to be successful. It’s just a matter of how much we keep inside us and how much comes out.” ― Mark Recchi in It Takes 23 to Win

One theme that appeared continuously throughout the book was the idea of establishing and accepting roles. Not everyone can play 20 minutes a night or on the top powerplay. In a playoff series, it’s usually the depth players who make the difference between winning and losing, especially as injuries start to pile up. It’s the shutdown defenseman who can neutralize an opposing team’s star player. Or the veteran center who wins critical defensive zone faceoffs.

Joe Nieuwendyk told Farris that the 2003 New Jersey Devils team was defined by the timely contributions of their substitute players like Mike Rupp, Jim McKenzie, and Oleg Tverdosky. Nieuwendyk said GM Lou Lamoriello believed in his teams having “no superstars and a lot of people contributing to the team’s success”.

Take a look at this salary cap chart for Lamoriello’s New York Islanders team on CapFriendly and you’ll see the same team-building strategy. Nearly 20 players with cap hits between $1 million and $7 million this season. Lamoriello can afford to fairly compensate (or even overcompensate) his checking line forwards because he doesn’t have elite superstars demanding upwards of $10 million or more.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are trying to navigate through this challenge. GM Julien Brisebois and his predecessor Steve Yzerman have done a fantastic job using the example of Steven Stamkos taking less than market value to create collective buy-in from the rest of the roster, while also moving out those players who don’t want to accept their role in the pecking order.

Brisebois traded depth forward Adam Erne to Yzerman’s new team in Detroit this off-season and Erne’s comments to The Athletic after the trade hinted at why (emphasis mine):

“I think in the beginning it’s easy to not play the way that got you there. Sometimes you get caught up in just trying to play a certain role that the team might see you in or have you play, and that gets you away from what makes you yourself. I think, in Tampa, they didn’t have many big bodies, and I think there was a lot of emphasis on me just going out there and hitting guys and (bringing) that physical aspect, but I don’t think that’s what my value is. It definitely is a part of it, that’s part of my game, but I think I’m able to score goals and make plays and play with good players. I’m just looking to prove that with the opportunity.”

As Recchi said, every NHL player is probably a little selfish. No one can blame Erne for wanting an opportunity to produce offensively and ultimately earn a bigger contract than his current $1 million salary. But to win a Stanley Cup, as Tampa obviously aspires to do this season, you need 23 players who buy into their roles for the collective good of the team.

Patrick Maroon showed that willingness with the St. Louis Blues during their roller-coaster, Cup-winning season last year. That’s probably why, 10 days after Erne was traded, Brisebois signed Maroon to fill that depth role of physical winger.

(2) Managing Faultlines

“I often compare a hockey dressing room to an office. In a dressing room you have 23 players. You have your leadership on one side, your fence-sitters in the middle and your naysayers on the other side of the spectrum. If your leaders are strong enough, they pull the fence-sitters — the ones who are the followers, if you will — to them and then you have a pretty good dressing room. But if the naysayers and the complainers, the bitchers and the moaners and the ‘grass is greener on the other side of the hill’ guys are stronger and pull the fence-sitters to them, then you end up with a bad, cancerous dressing room, just the same as you can end up with a bad, cancerous office workplace.” ― Brad Marsh in It Takes 23 to Win

Throughout 23 to Win, I also noticed a sense of how fine the line was between “winning” and “losing” locker rooms. A few groups are doomed from the start, but most seem to follow the description above by Marsh. Some strong leaders, a handful of complainers, and a lot in the middle waiting to be pulled to one side or the other. Adversity is inevitable during a long season. When it strikes, does the environment become toxic or is the leadership in the room strong enough to hold the line and pull everyone over to their side?

In The Cubs Way, author Tom Verducci described how David Ross stepped up and yelled “No, we’re not going to do that!” when a frustrated teammate threw his glove in frustration. A research paper titled “In Search of David Ross” at the 2017 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference even tried to quantify the team chemistry impact of leaders like Ross. 

In our discussion of Astroball, we discussed how Carlos Beltran found ways to diffuse conflicts and unite disparate factions. One anonymous player in 23 to Win talked about how he played the Beltran role on his own team. “I was a clique buster,” he said. 

An interesting article in the Journal of Applied Psychology studied the emergence of “organizational faultlines” and the impact of conflict on baseball team performance. I love the concept of faultlines. Every locker room has the potential for earthquakes. Does the pressure building between ‘tectonic plates’ of various cliques get diffused quickly by a smart and vocal leader? Or does it linger under the surface, only to erupt in a massive way during a frustrating losing streak or critical playoff series?

(3) On the Brink of a Stanley Cup

“The low point of my career was being traded from San Jose [to Vancouver with Christian Ehrhoff to enable the signing of Dany Heatley]. I thought that team was going to win the Stanley Cup that year. In the summer, after we had lost out in the first round, the Sharks had a town hall meeting to answer questions for the fans and media. I remember watching that on TV, and all the answers were right from Pavelski, Boyle, Thornton — the difference makers. I thought, ‘Man, this is a team that is either saying the right things or has learned their lessons and I would stay out of our way. Don’t do anything, don’t change anything. We had such a bad taste in our mouth after winning the Presidents’ Trophy… Maybe we got comfortable, or guys didn’t take days off when they should have because we had personal agendas? I think we learned from it, and had we kept that team together, San Jose would have won the Cup that year [2009-10].” ― Brad Lukowich in It Takes 23 to Win

One of the best parts about Behind the Moves and It Takes 23 to Win is Farris’ ability to get candid comments from General Managers and former players.

With this new book, players were asked to select a roster of 23 of their former teammates who best represented the roles of their ideal hockey club. The fantasy draft activity seemed to put players in a different interview space than they’re used to and gives us a window into their true feelings.

Some players talked about how much they appreciated the locker room staff in a particular city. “If I was becoming a GM and I wanted to know somebody’s character, I’d go to the trainers,” Ray Whitney said. “How you treat the training staff is telling.” Others, like Lukowich above, didn’t hold back when it came to wondering about what could have been. Was he right? Did Sharks GM Doug Wilson throw away a Stanley Cup in 2010 with too much roster tinkering? We’ll never know. I just love that Farris has created a vehicle where players felt comfortable being honest about these aspects of team building.

I asked Farris about that quote above and he said Lukowich had moved on and certainly wasn’t dwelling on the issue, but “it was palpable how strongly he felt about that team and what a great opportunity he felt that team really did have.”

Only one team can win the Stanley Cup each year. The Washington Capitals won back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies before finally coming in under the radar and winning it all in 2018. Tampa Bay knows that feeling well after steamrolling the entire NHL last regular season, only to get swept by Columbus in the first round. GM Brisebois was forced to move out a handful of players due to salary cap constraints, but he told Joe Smith and The Athletic that after the devastating disappointment he wanted to stick with his core:

“The story of this team, the story of this nucleus of players, of this coaching staff (is that) it’s not over. It’s still being written. The best and most memorable chapters lie ahead. I have great faith that eventually we’ll get the job done and we’ll bring the Cup back to Tampa with this group of players, with these coaches. I don’t know when, but I know when we do, it’ll be all the more sweeter because of the disappointments we’ve experienced along our journey to making that happen, including the disappointment we’re feeling right now.”

I applaud the patience displayed by Brisebois and owner Jeff Vinik, who echoed similar sentiments in interviews this summer, but the reality is blowing up the roster isn’t really an option for most GMs. In this NHL environment with long-term player contracts and a stalled out salary cap ceiling, you can’t rebuild a core on the fly.

The solutions available to management have to largely be internal: improving the team culture, investing in player development, managing the edges of the roster to avoid earthquakes, and then finding a little luck along the way.

But Farris gives us a window into what really matters in the end: the 23 players themselves.

“Management’s job is to remove all excuses,” Gerald Diduck says in the book, “so all that’s left for players and coaches is accountability.”

It Takes 23 to Win was self-published by Jason Farris and is only available at 

Two Minutes for Reading So Good


by Greg Oliver

September 20, 2019

Society for International Hockey Research,

Farris' It Takes 23 to Win is 'really 5 books in 1'

It Takes 23 to Win: Building and Being Part of Great Hockey Teams might be the hardest book I've ever had to explain here at “Two Minutes for Reading So Good”—and that is in no way, shape, or form a knock. It's just that there is so much going on in it.

The basics are easy. It's the work of Jason Farris, who has previously done books on general managers, goalies, announcer Jim Robson, Texas hockey history, and goalie Cesare Maniago, and it's self-published under Farris' imprint, meaning when the print run is sold out, it's gone.

So you'd better act quick at, and don't flinch at the $59.95 price tag. It's the kind of book that you'll pick up again and again, leaving it out to flip through and ponder when Hockey Night in Canada is muted during commercials, just to wonder at the idea of it, let alone the content.

At an elevator pitch level, it's about teams, and having players pick teammates to make up a squad based on their own careers. But there are historical elements, like the history of hockey team photos and team travel; there's sections on international hockey, women's hockey and sledge hockey; there's copious amounts of statistics; there's a celebration of team programs and hockey cards; there are some great photos from the Hockey Hall of Fame.

See what I mean about a whole lot going on?

In conversation from Dallas, where he formerly worked for the Stars as the team's Chief Operating Officer, Farris answers the first question with a question of his own:

“Where did the idea come from?” he questioned. “I've always thought about teams and teammates and whatnot. I like constraints and people having to make trade-off decisions, and that's really what the modern NHL is about under the cap. I just wanted to apply that same process to players, to put some constraints on them, to think about what they valued in their past. I'm not just interested in the star players, but I'm interested in the role players. I wanted to see how players sat in a room and viewed others across the room, and what they contributed. I figured this would be a way of getting at that.”

He conducted one interview while he was a Stars employee as sort of a test balloon, and then, having amicably parted ways with the Stars, and getting ready for his next gig (as of yet unannounced), he dove in with both feet, recorder and laptop, completing the book in nine months.

Farris talked to every player in person or on a video call, sitting with them as they selected their team. He's not sure of how many hours of “tape” there actually is, maybe 80; for comparison, his earlier book, Behind the Moves: NHL General Managers Tell how Winners are Built, had at least 120 hours.

There were 23 players chosen. “I wanted each of them to be legitimately a player that people would recognize playing in the slot that I had them in. I didn't want a first-line winger playing on the fourth line. I wanted a true fourth-liner. I got guys that were in each position,” Farris explained.

“But then it was a real jigsaw puzzle, because I wanted to have four guys out of each of the decades, four out of the '60s, '70s, four out of the '70s, '80s, four out of the '80s, '90s, so it was a nice mix of players over those years.”

Each and every franchise, including dearly-departed teams like the Cleveland Barons, is represented except, oddly, the Minnesota Wild,

The goal was to find well-traveled players, whether it was with the Kansas City Scouts or the New York Rangers. “I picked guys that had played 600 or more games in the league, but had played, importantly, in four or more cities, because I didn't want, as interesting as Steve Yzerman's all-star team would be of just Detroit guys, I wanted a variety,” he said. “In some cases, players played in great places and then terrible places. Frank Mahovlich played on three dominant teams, and then he played on the Toronto Toros and the Birmingham Bulls. Dennis Maruk played on some really bad hockey teams, but was a good player, but played on some really bad teams. You've got a mixture of guys that played in different places that reflect the true nature of the league—not everybody's in star-studded situations.”

Farris just called up the players and made his pitch, and almost all were on board immediately.

Like Ray Ferraro. “Once I told him what I was doing, there was dead silence on the phone. I thought he was coming up with an artful way to tell me to go take a hike. But what he was really doing was figuring out, he was already down to the third line. 'Geez, if I take this guy, then I can't take that guy.' He was all the way into it.”

Remember that most players had over 200 teammates, if not a lot more than that. “The universal response was, 'I haven't thought about so many of these teams and teammates since we played together,' and in many cases, it was 20, 30 years ago. The teams disband and they move on. They really enjoyed seeing all the names back in front of them.”

Using the criteria he came up with, and providing the players with a printout of every single team they played on, often with line combinations, Farris “ended up with a really neat swath through the league that really reflects the players that had played in the league over the last 50 years.”

Of the 23 he used, there are four Hall of Famers and 11 Stanley Cup winners. The insight of goaltender Dominik Hasek, for example, is very different than 1970s tough guy scorer Wilf Paiement.

Each player ends up reflecting the era that they played in. “So Wilf Paiement has a lot of pretty physical, bruising, nasty players that he's picked,” said Farris. Paiement's team, drawing on his time with brutal teams in Kansas City and Colorado, a halfway decent Toronto club, and a contender in Quebec City, reflects his time in the league as well. Wilf's values matter in selection too—“the type of players from his pool that he has to select from that he likes, whether that's on-ice, off-ice, or a mixture of the two, you really get an interesting thumbprint for each of these teams from those three things: The era, the teams, and their personal preferences.”

To create It Takes 23 to Win, Farris had to rely on his own team, from those who helped him secure phone numbers and interviews—Brian Burke from the GM book helped with Brad May, for example—to those who did the layout and editing. The Society for International Hockey Research is well-represented, and Farris is well-known in the group, especially after spear-heading the Dallas meeting in the fall of 2018, in conjunction with the Stars.

Kevin Shea and Eric Zweig wrote pieces, Lloyd Davis edited, Ernie Fitzsimmons helped with old photos. “There's a whole network of people that are part of it, and SIHR is certainly a common thread that runs through it all,” said Farris. “Having done seven books before, five under my own publishing arm, I've got people all over the country that do different things for me, in terms of design, graphics, editing, stats work, and pulling memorabilia. I was able to pull that group together pretty quickly and get a lot more done than I'd be able to do obviously on my own.”

A new addition was an illustration, a team picture of the 23 players who contributed to the book by Steve Galvao “The list of people listed in the back is a long one and an important one, because all of them had something to do with it.”

Now, to market. There will be no ebook—and no reprints. “My other books, most of them have sold out, and they're almost impossible to find second-hand, and if you do, even the GM book, typically it sells for more than what I sold it for,” he said.

Farris is confident in what he has created.

“I lead with the product. I'm relying on people that take an interest in it, people like you, that will help me get the word out, because this is simply sold on my website. I've already paid for it all, so I've already made the big investment. Hopefully, people will enjoy it like they have my others,” said Farris. “So far, it's always worked. This is a bit of a different market for books, in terms of people paying for content, so we'll see. I'm hopeful people won't let me down and will see the value of this.”

In the end, Farris will agree it needs to be seen to be believed.

“This one is a little more complicated to explain to people what it is. The GM book, 35 living GMs that have taken a team to a Cup final—that's fairly understandable. This one, there's a lot going on. Somebody said to me the other day, 'It's really five books in one.' Each section is really a completely different take through the same theme of teams and teammates, and assembling them. This concept of players assembling their own teams, takes a little while for people to get their head wrapped around. Hopefully, I can communicate that.”

The Hockey Writers


 by Andrew Forbes

 October 3, 2019

Building and Being a Part of Great Hockey Teams

There are so many clichés on what it takes to win in team sports. A strong offence can beat a strong defence. Defence wins championships. It takes a full team effort. And the latter might be the best way of leading into the introduction to this new book.

It’s called It Takes 23 to Win: Building and Being Part of Great Hockey Teams – authored by Jason Farris. And it’s a book with quite an interesting concept.

About the Book

With over 260 pages that include conversations with some top-notch former players, this book delves into the art of building a winning team. The focus? That is doesn’t just take a superstar or two or an incredible goaltender to win a championship. Even a good top six won’t secure any team a win, rather it’s about the 23-man roster as a whole in the game of hockey.

Each player has a role. Whether it be a penalty killer, a master in the face-off dot or a fourth-line physical presence, each player has a job to do.

To do that, Farris takes an interesting approach to showcasing how teams are made up. He harnessed a group of former players, including the likes of Sergei Gonchar, Dominik Hasek, Brad May and Joe Nieuwendyk, along with 19 others and had them build 23-man fantasy-type rosters compiled of former teammates.


“I’m interested in 23-man units. Twelve forward and the two extras and then, you know, your seven defenceman and two goaltenders,” said Farris during an interview with TSN 1040 Vancouver. “But I’m not just interested in the star goaltender and the high-flying right winger. I’m interested in the third line, I think there’s a lot to be learned from guys that play down the lineup and the different roles that get played on the teams. And in hockey, unlike really all the other major sports, it really does take the 23 guys on the roster to win at some point down the road.”

As Farris points out, the 23 players that he compiled come from all sorts of positions on their former clubs. Some are Hall-of-Famers, while others are those depth players that have specific roles within the lineup. Each player was given constraints on picking their lineup, including the fact that the players they chose had to play in their positions from then their fantasy general manager played with them, for example no one could put Wayne Gretzky on their fourth line. They had to have true fourth-line players to make up their lineup.

The result, a widespread diversity of players were selected by each and every player (or fantasy GM). From the selection part of it, each player had to explain why they selected specific players. Was it their personality? Their on-ice toughness? What was it that made them so unique and a good choice in putting them into a 23-man roster?

What’s incredible is that each player had a different reason or a different anecdote as to why they selected specific players. What made them take a specific third- or fourth-line guy could’ve been their outspokenness in the dressing room or their unwillingness to give up on the ice and that’s what Farris is trying to get across in this book – that every player is important on a winning team.

Leadership: More Than a Letter

A former Executive Vice President with the Dallas Stars, it’s seems almost obvious that Farris would have some insight into what it would take a team to win. After all, he was around an NHL franchise and saw the inner workings of the team.

That considered, Farris allows the 23-man selection committee to do the talking – explaining what they see as important traits to a winning lineup.

For Brad Marsh, he recognizes the need for more than just a captain and the assistants in the dressing room.


“The leadership in the room is more than one C and two As, it takes a handful of guys,” said Marsh in Farris’ book. “If you look at any championship team they could have two, three, four and five captains, and that is what makes the team stronger because it brings the fence-sitters to them and the naysayers become fence-sitters to see which way it goes.”

While Marsh recognized the leadership of many within the dressing room, a guy like Terry Ruskowski talked about another important role player on a team he played for – coach Roger Neilson.

“I loved Roger Neilson as a coach,” said Ruskowski in It Takes 23 To Win. “He would write things [game honors] on the board after games. I never won anything and wasn’t super-talented, but I always worked hard. He created a category just for me in order to have me on the board every once in a while. I knew he did that on purpose, and I always appreciated it, because otherwise my name would never be brought up – sometimes that can be good news or bad news.”

Those are just two of many stories that Farris included in his book. Some talk about the specifics on players they select for their 23-man roster, while others describe what the dressing rooms were like throughout their careers and what they learned from their experiences.

It’s a different concept, that’s for sure. But it’s an interesting one that looks at how to build that winning team. Farris even closes out by taking a closer look at some recent winning clubs and rivalries in international play and what made them winners. What made them Stanley Cup champions?

It Takes 23 To Win isn’t a team-specific book. It’s not a player specific book, but one that could help any of its readers understand the make-up of a winning franchise. Highly recommended, Farris’ book is one that will give you the insight from both a player and a front office point of view.