There is a new book out about Buzz Deschamps, which after reading it and talking to Buzz Deschamps about it leads to an inevitable question: What took so long?
And another question: How about a movie?
That already happened, sort of.
When “Slap Shot,” the notoriously raucous 1977 film about minor-league hockey starring Paul Newman, came out, hockey journalist Stan Fischler took Deschamps to the premiere.
Two things about that: First, it all rang true to Deschamps. “I’d seen everything in that movie happen — but not in an hour and a half,” he said.
Second, he got into “a little bit of an argument” with Newman over the depiction of players’ wives in the film.
That’s Deschamps in a nutshell.
At 83, he might know more hockey people, past and present, than anyone else does, and he has a story to tell about all of them — from Newman to John Brophy, widely considered the real-life model for Newman’s “Slap Shot” character.
Hence, “A Stick in the Window: The Hockey Life of Buzz Deschamps,” by Joseph Rossi, which seeks to tell as many tales as possible about a sprawling life, more than half of which has been lived on Long Island.
Some of the only-in-hockey characters — even their names and nicknames — seem like fiction. But they’re real.
Former Islander Bryan Trottier, who wrote the foreword, told Newsday: “Buzzy wears hockey in his heart, on his sleeve. He bleeds hockey. He’s an encyclopedia, but he’s also a wonderful mentor.
“All the kids he’s helped in the game of hockey at St. John’s and on Long Island in general, he’s just a special human being . . . There’s only going to be one Buzzy, and we all love him.”
Deschamps has yet to read the book. “I lived it,” he said.
But he trusted Rossi, who retired as a teacher at Babylon Memorial Grade School, to get it right. (Deschamps promised to read the book eventually.)
Deschamps now works as a “hockey ambassador” for the Town of Oyster Bay at its Bethpage rink. He said as more and more people there urged him to write a book, he finally decided to do so and reached out to Rossi to help.
Had Deschamps played in an era of 32 NHL teams rather than six and later 12, he likely would have made it to the big leagues. But that would have made for a far different and far less interesting book.
“Playing in the minors was probably the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “If I had made an NHL team, I probably wouldn’t have had the life I’ve had.”
Deschamps’ hockey web began to take shape as he grew up in small-town Ontario and expanded during playing stops in Sudbury, Indianapolis, Baltimore, St. Paul, Providence, Los Angeles and, famously, with the Long Island Ducks from 1962-64.
How did he arrive on Long Island? That’s another story. One day he “just kind of had enough” of his coach in Indianapolis, former Ranger Alex Shibicky.
So he told Shibicky that his father had told him Shibicky was lacking as a player, but he used a far less inoffensive word than “lacking.” Deschamps then punctuated the insult with a punch. “So I got suspended,” he said.
He went back home to Ontario and played in a local league that spring.
In summer 1962, John Muckler showed up to sign Deschamps, sight unseen, on the recommendation of future Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Harry Lumley, a fellow Ontarian whose brother Bill was a trainer for the Ducks. Deschamps was working in a foundry at the time.
The left wing would record 95 goals and 84 assists in his two seasons with the Ducks.
After he retired as a player, Deschamps went into sales for Koho and later other stick manufacturers, which expanded his connections again, now worldwide.
He was at the 1980 Olympic hockey tournament, working with the Soviet Union team, which used Koho sticks.
But naturally, Team USA coach Herb Brooks was an old friend, as was equipment manager Bud Kessel. Soon Deschamps found himself on the ice in Lake Placid in borrowed skates shooting pucks with the Americans.
“I still say to this day, Herbie never thought they could win a game,” Deschamps said. “But they pulled a miracle.”
Later that year, Bob Nystrom scored an overtime goal against the Flyers to win the Islanders’ first Stanley Cup. Nystrom got back the stick he used that day 40 years later.
Where had it been?
Deschamps had it. Nystrom had signed it for him after the game.
Deschamps returned to Long Island for good in 1972, working in youth hockey and coaching at St. John’s and Stony Brook.
At a recent book signing in Westhampton, he ran into a lot of old Ducks fans.
“I’m always saying, ‘Once a Duck, always a Duck,’ ” he said. “It’s got a whole life of its own.”
Deschamps said he decided Long Island would be his permanent home in 1972, when he entered a deli in Commack to ask for directions to St. James as he began a new chapter in his life story.
“I walked in the front door and the guy said, ‘Hey, Buzzy, you still living around here?’ ” Deschamps recalled. “So this was the place for me. I hadn’t been here for [almost] 10 years, and they remembered me.”