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Lightning broadcaster Dave Mishkin pens a novel

Bill DeYoung

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"Blind Squirrel" is the first novel from Tampa Bay Lightning announcer Dave Mishkin. "My writing journey," he says, "has to be, at least in this case, I needed to know the beginning, middle and end before I actually sat down and wrote anything." Photo: Tampa Bay Lightning.

As the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dave Mishkin maintains a busy schedule, especially during hockey season.

Somehow, during the last few NHL offseason breaks, he found time to write a novel. Blind Squirrel, published this week by St. Petersburg Press, is about – you guessed it – a hockey player.

The protagonist, Noah Nicholson, is team captain of the minor-league Hershey Bears. He possesses unparalleled hand-to-eye coordination, although he’s not the best skater on the team. Still, he’s beloved by his teammates and by the fans in this medium-sized Pennsylvania town.

Yet for all its meticulous rink-and-puck mechanics, Blind Squirrel is not a story about hockey.

Noah Nicholson has an inexplicable inferiority complex and fears that something is deeply, severely wrong with him. He can’t put his finger on it, but for all the good things in his life, he’s just not happy.

It is a poignant and profoundly moving story.

Mishkin, who joined the Lightning organization in 2002, began the book a few years later. And life, as it will, got in the way.

“It was probably a fool’s errand for me to think that I could write a novel while I had two young children, and working the job that I had, etcetera etcetera,” he explains. “I’ve done a lot of writing in my career, but nothing like this. I’ve written, basically, for hockey teams, features, recaps, thoughts on the game and things like that.”

Although he’d started by creating a full story arc for Noah, “I had no idea, when I started writing, what his recovery would look like. I just figured well, I’ll start writing and I’ll figure it out. And I didn’t even get that far.”

The key, Mishkin discovered in a “lightning bolt” moment, was understanding and fleshing out his character’s backstory. “The story of the parents is critical to understanding who Noah is, and what makes him tick,” he says. “But I didn’t really have that crystallized in my mind, so I stopped.”

After that initial fury of writing, he put Blind Squirrel on the shelf. For 15 years.

It was Mishkin’s wife, Dulcie, who suggested, almost offhandedly, that he think about that novel he’d started. “I didn’t write a word for several weeks,” he reflects. “All I did was think about the story. I was coming up with idea after idea after idea.”

Suddenly, there they were: Noah’s parents, Paul and Mary; his grandmother, Nan; his eventual love interest, Lydia. And the puzzle pieces snapped together.

“I don’t mean for this to sound dramatic, but I don’t think I would have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t seen it through at that point,” Mishkin says. “Because I had this idea all those years ago, and now there was no excuse for me not to write it. If I had the story in my head.”

Although Mishkin did work for the Hershey Bears in his pre-Lightning career, he swears he himself was not the model for Noah Nicholson.

“It’s a book about mental health, it’s a book about family, it’s a book about sports – in that it’s got sports in it,” he explains. “But it’s a character-driven story, and there’s a little bit of me in all the main characters. Which is how I was able to write them that way.

“I’m cerebral like Mary is cerebral; I like puzzles like Paul likes puzzles. I grew up cheering for Boston sports teams like Nan cheers for Boston sports teams. And in the right circumstances, around the right people, I’m goofy like Lydia is goofy. That’s how I was able to write them.”

 

Blind Squirrel is available through Mishkin’s website, blindsquirrelnovel.com, via Amazon and St. Petersburg Press, and at the Tampa Bay Lightning team store at Amalie Arena. It will be in local bookstores shortly.

Mishkin will sign books at Ford Thunder Alley, outside Amalie Arena, from 5 to 6:15 p.m. Thursday, April 11. The Lightning play the Ottawa Senators at 7 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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