Apr 18 2017 4:00pm

A Romance Reader’s Guide to the 2017 NHL Playoffs, Part 1

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Note: This post is part 1 of a two-part series of posts that's perfect for hockey fans... and those who are just looking for some good recommendations, too! Go sports!

As pivotal Game 4 of the Stanley Cup hits your television sets, familiar faces who are avidly following the coolest game on ice answer questions about their favorite teams, and give some book recommendations.   

Tonight’s Lineup:  

  • Pittsburgh Penguins (last year’s cup winner)  vs Columbus Blue Jackets
  • New York Rangers vs  Montreal Canadiens
  • Edmonton Oilers vs (last year’s runner up) San Jose Sharks

Pittsburgh Penguins

Why do you like this team? 

Katie Kenyhercz, author:

Growing up in Northeast Ohio, the Pittsburgh Penguins were the closest to me at just over an hour away when the Blue Jackets were 3 hours away. This meant the Pens were on local TV, and I started watching around the time Sidney Crosby came on the scene. I was instantly amazed and in love! His skill on the ice is matched by his kindness and politeness off. He's a great leader with an impressive eye for the game, and he never fails to wow me. We've been able to keep the core of our team together for over a decade, and they really feel like family to me. The guys we've added have only made us better, and I love knowing my team will be formidable for a long time.

RJ Scott, author:

I am a hockey newbie, I’m just coming up to my first anniversary of being a Pens fan. I would love to say I chose that team to support because of statistics, or analysis, but I have to admit I was incredibly shallow. I visited a page called the twenty hottest NHL players and fell for Sidney Crosby. Then I saw one particular moment when he did this complicated stop, change direction, shoot, score, goal and I was lost! They went on to win the cup which I had no idea what that was until I found myself staying up until all hours watching the games.

Melody Gatto, author:

I love my Pittsburgh Penguins because they are my hometown team. They have heart and desire, it's been fun watching them grow as a team. I grew up watching them in the early 90's and have been hooked ever since. I've had the chance to meet a lot of the players and they are all down to Earth and friendly guys. On the ice they seem untouchable, but up close and personal, they are just regular guys.

Jen Lazaris, author:

My favorite hockey team is the Pittsburgh Penguins. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania., so I basically bleed black and gold. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to be the home of some of the best players in the world like Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and of course, Sidney Crosby.    It was so much fun to see them win the Stanley Cup last year! To be honest, I think it was a perfect storm type of situation. A whole host of things fell apart first, and then they all fell into place. We acquired Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, and Carl Hagelin, and we also had all of these younger guys really step up and show what they had to offer as well, guys like Conor Sheary and goaltender Matt Murray. And having Coach Mike Sullivan come in mid-season really made a HUGE difference in our team. They just became unstoppable and so, so fast. I really hope they can win it again this year!

Jessie Edwards, Avon Romance publicisit:

Because even through all the adversity they’ve faced (at certain points in the season, they’ve been down 7 of their main players due to injury; they’re best defensemen is out for the rest of the season and possibly into the next) they’re still one of the top teams in the league. They’re an elite team, skilled with a ton of depth. Every time I watch them I am amazed at what they can do.

Who’s your favorite player/player to watch ? 

Kenyhercz :  The obvious answer here is Sidney, and I do love watching him above everyone else, BUT I have a special place in my heart for Phil Kessel, and he has just BLOSSOMED with us. Sheary and Rust are an exciting team, and Bonino has been on fire. Bonino! Bonino! Bonino! Bonino! ;-) The depth of my Penguins is the secret to their success. We've had a lot of injuries, but every player is so skilled and willing to step up, you'd never know it.

Scott: My favorite player to watch has to be Sidney, and in the Pens I have my favorites, Rust, Fleury, Hagelin, Kessell, et all.  I might be a little obsessed (that’s not a bad thing, right?)

Gatto:  Kris Letang is my favorite player. I love watching him play and the speed and passion he puts into his game.

Lazaris: My favorite player on the Penguins to watch is Conor Sheary. I mean, here comes this kid in from the Penguins Wilkes-Barre / Scranton AHL team, and he’s not really a big guy, you know? But damn, he’s got skills. He’s just lightning fast and very crafty, and he gets points up on the board. A LOT of points. I think he’s a really hard worker, and getting to watch him play alongside Sidney Crosby is so much fun. I think the two of them make each other better players. I mean, think about it-if you can be the guy to make Sidney Crosby a little bit of a better player? Then you’re doing a damned fine job. Conor is going to go far in this league.

Edwards: Obviously Sidney Crosby is my favorite player because he is amazing, but I think the player to watch this year is Jake Guentzel. Moved to first line right wing because Bryan Rust got injured, he’s been playing with Sid and Conor Sheary (affectionately called the “Sid and the Kids” line) for much of the season and has produced goal after assist after goal. One of the Pens’ strongest assets is the strength of their young and depth players. They don’t just rely on their stars to put up points.  Jake Guentzel is the perfect example.

Book recommendation:  

Home Ice by Katie Kenyhercz

Kenyhercz :  I don't often base my characters around real players, but I did for Home Ice (Amazon | B&N | Kobo). Dylan Cole is a young, phenom captain of the Las Vegas Sinners with the weight of the entire league on his shoulders. Sound familiar? He's got a lot of parallels with Sidney Crosby because that background intrigued me. How does one deal with that kind of pressure and keep rising to the occasion? What happens when they stumble? In Home Ice, Dylan hits his first ever slump and doesn't know how to deal until he befriends former Olympic figure skater Lori Kelly. Lori broke her ankle in the last Olympics and is determined to rehab and get back there to claim the medal that's rightfully hers before she gets too old. She's not used to having teammates or really anyone she can trust, but Dylan shows her what that's like.

Scott: I can’t choose between Vicki Locey’s Point Shot trilogy (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) (so much so we now write together!) and Avon Gale’s Scoring Chances series (Amazon | B&N | Kobo)

Gatto: Score On Me and Playing the Game (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) are two of my books that I feel capture the relationships and attitudes of my Penguins. Books that I enjoy to escape the stress of everyday life are The Pucked series by Helena Hunting.

See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson

Lazaris: My favorite hockey romance of ALL time is See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) It was one of the first hockey romances that I ever picked up, and it was wonderful. Jane was a “plain Jane” heroine, and watching her get her man, bad boy goalie Luc Martineau, was so much fun. That book made me want to write hockey romance.

Edwards : Him and Us by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy! (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) I go back and forth between which one I like better (usually with Us winning out…), but they’re both really stellar romances.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Why do you like this team?

Piper Vaughn, author:

I love what a turnaround the Blue Jackets have made this season! Last year they finished in the bottom five of the league. As of right now, they're in the top four. That's huge! It just goes to show how a new coach can revitalize a team - and how drastically things can change from one season to the next. I'm happy to see them doing so well.

Who’s your favorite player/player to watch ?

Hands down, it's Sergei Bobrovsky. I'm a sucker for goalies, and he's in my top 3 (the other two being Dubnyk of the Wild and Holtby of the Caps). I actually fell in goalie love with Bob during the World Cup of Hockey last summer. I'm so thrilled he's having such an amazing season. His numbers have been fantastic, but beyond that, he's just incredibly fun to watch!

Breakaway by Avon Gale

Book recommendation: 

The Scoring Chances series by Avon Gale. I reread the books all the time, and they always take me to my happy place. My favorite of the series is probably the third, Power Play. I love Misha as a character and adore him and Max as a couple, not to mention his relationship with Isaac, which gives me lots of squishy feels. Closely behind that is Empty Net, but really the whole series is great! Outside of hockey romances, one of my favorite books to reread is Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton. Jon and Cole are one of my favorite couples, and I love their story so, so much. That book and the sequel, Fear, Hope, and Bread Pudding, are two of the most reread stories on my Kindle. 

Montreal Canadiens

Why do you like this team? 

Victoria Denault, author:

I was born and raised in Montreal and the Canadiens are a religion there. I was a fan from a young age because that's what you did, there was no other choice. But I'm still a fan decades later, even though I don't live there anymore, because they're exciting to watch - they play hard and they never give up. Games are rarely slow or boring. 

Who’s your favorite player to watch? 

On the Canadiens it's Brendan Gallagher. I love that he's a small guy but he's fearless. He plays with a ton of heart. He's always in front of the net creating opportunity for his team even if it means getting roughed up. 

Pucked Over by Helena Hunting

Book recommendation:

Book you go to when your team makes you angry: Pucked Over by Helena Hunting. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) It's romantic comedy so it puts me in a good mood and the hero has a beard, which reminds me of playoffs and playoff beards, and I am a sucker for a playoff beards

NY Rangers:

Why do you like this team?

VL Locey, author

There's just something special about the Rangers. They have so much heart, drive, and personality that it's hard not to be drawn to the team. 

Stacey Agdern: 

There are many reasons, but this year, I’m focusing on the fact that I have a legacy to uphold.  This isn’t just my favorite hockey team, but it’s also a team that my family (including my adorable 2.5 year old nephew!) loves.  When things are at their best or at their worst, my family can talk about our beloved hockey team.

Who’s your favorite player/player to watch ? 

Locey: Mats Zuccarello is my favorite Ranger. He's always in the middle of everything! If you want to know where the puck is just look for Zucc. He's a pivotal part of the team in terms of heart and plain old spunk. 

Agdern: This year, my hometown team has been full of some amazing faces and stories(Vesey, the resurgence of Kevin Hayes, the development of JT Miller, Pavel Buchnevich and the amazing Mika Zibanejad).  But I have to say that if speedy Michael Grabner can once again find the back of the net, watch out world.  

Chasing Stanley by Deirdre Martin

Book recommendation:  

Locey: I'd have to say that the book that reminds me of my favorite player is my Point Shot Trilogy books. Dan Arou, the man that the leading man falls in love with and marries, is a great deal like Mats Zuccarello. He's on the small side for a hockey player, gritty, spunky, quick, and provides real leadership for his team as an alternate captain. 

Agdern: So even though I’ve written about both agitators and rookies in the New York Empires Series, for me, the book I associate with my Rangers is a classic : Chasing Stanley by Deirdre Martin. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo)  It’s a book I’ve actually taken to Madison Square Garden when I attended a playoff series ages ago.  I was so superstitious, that it was the only book I read during that time.  Partly because it was a wonderful book, but also?  Deidre Martin’s New York Blades won the cup and I needed my happy ending. 

Edmonton Oilers

Why do you like this team?

Susan Scott Shelley, author

I live in Philly, and for the past few years I've purchased the NHL game package that gave me access to every team and every game. (The best thing EVER, I love this so much!). Being a night owl, I was wide awake for the West Coast teams and saw a ton of Oilers games. They play with so much heart and are exciting to watch. A young and upcoming team, they've been rebuilding for a long time, and this season, they've made the playoffs for the first time since 2006. I'm SO excited for them, and think they're going to go far in the playoffs. 

Samantha Wayland, author

I chose to start following this team a couple years ago because I had already adopted teams in the other three divisions and I thought I should have one in the Pacific, too. I chose the Oilers because, frankly, they sucked, and sometimes I cannot resist rooting for the underdog. This season is precisely why! It's been such a thrill to watch them transform into the team they are today.

Who's your favorite player/player to watch?

Scott Shelley: I love Pat Maroon. A 6-foot-3 powerful winger, Big Rig uses his size and physicality to make plays. What can I say, I like the heavy hitters. ;-) I also love the huge smile that spreads across his face during his goal celebrations.  And Connor McDavid, who became the only NHL player to reach 100 points this season (and wraps up the Art Ross trophy as the NHL's top scorer, and is the third-youngest scoring champ, behind Crosby and Gretzky, which is great company to be in). I love his speed and hockey sense. He has great hands and great moves. At only 20-years-old, this Oilers Captain is well on his way to taking the torch from Penguins' Sidney Crosby as the new face of the NHL.

Wayland: I know it's a cliche, but I'm going to have to say Connor McDavid. The kid had talent oozing out his pores, and he's completely selfless. I honestly believe this kid could have get the Rocket Richard *and* the Art Ross, but he will always, ALWAYS pass to a teammate and let them get the goal. I was dubious of them giving him the C so young, but he's proven worthy, from all outward appearances. I like to hope the truth inside the locker room is the same.

Book recommendation: 

Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

Scott Shelley : Roan Parrish's Middle of Somewhere series (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) is my go-to when I need a break from everything, including disappointing losses by my hockey team. This three-book male/male series so good: raw and emotional, compelling and beautifully written.

Wayland: This is actually the hardest question of the three, since I have SO MANY thoughts and connections I draw between my love of hockey and my love of romance — and it's not about the gorgeous men typical in both. It's actually about the gentle giants, the gentleman warriors. One of my all-time favorite romances is Saving Grace by Julie Garwood. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) Her hero, Gabriel, is a tough and fearless warrior. But he's also smart, and gentle with those who have less, and a good leader. That's EXACTLY what I love about a lot of hockey players. They are beasts on the ice, but off it, they're suit-wearing proper gentlemen, and doing tons of charity work, and are generous with their fans—particularly the kids. It's about brains and heart, not flash and ego, and that's everything I ever loved about a hero in a romance novel.

San Jose Sharks

 Kasey Lane, author:

I’m not much of sports person. In fact, I find baseball and football pretty boring. But I’m crazy in love with hockey and hockey players. I was an editorial clerk in San Jose when the Sharks came to town over 25 years ago. Some of the players came through the newsroom and were so charming and adorable that I thought it might be a good idea to check out this hockey thing. I was hooked the very first game by the sport’s athleticism, grace, brutality, and strategy. I loved it all. I’ve since added other teams to my list, but whether the Sharks have a horrendous season or a great one (like last season) I will always bleed teal. My favorite early players are probably Jamie Baker and Sandis Ozolinsh.

Sasha Devlin, author:

My team is the San Jose Sharks.   I like them because I love an underdog. When I started watching, the announcers made such a huge deal about how their franchise had never won the Cup & how some of the players had been there the entire time with no championship.

Favorite Player/Player to Watch: 

Lane:  I love the current lineup. I feel pretty strongly about Patty Marleau, but there are several other players that are killing it this season (Brent Burns, Big Joe Thorton, and Pavs)…and others that I feel need more credit (Brendon Dillon, Joel Ward).

Devlin:  Joe Thornton even though I'm not always a fan of his gnarly beard. Pavelski is a close second

Alex by Sawyer Bennett

Book Recommendation

Lane: Sawyer Bennett’s Cold Fury series. So hot, plus she gets the game which makes it a deeper read for me. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo)

Devlin: Katriena Knights' Blood on the Ice (Amazon | B&N) which is currently out of print. It was a m/m hockey book with vampires in Chicago. How could I not love it?

Of course there are a lot of fans who have multiple teams they’re rooting for.  An example of those is author Emmy Joel.

Why do you like your teams ?

This season I'm enjoying the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers. Pittsburgh because my sisters allegiance to the team has rubbed off on me. New York because for the past year or so I have been heavily researching this team as research for my hockey romance series—which is set in New York!

Who's your favorite player/player to watch?

On the Rangers Chris Kreider. This season I've loved watching his athletic energy and learning more about him as a person on and off the ice. He's making a statement and it's fascinating to watch.  On the Penguins, Kris Letang, but the injury is very unfortunate. I actually discovered him when someone told me his wife was on Hockey Wives.  Plus he's hot (sorry, but it's true) and he's a defenseman, so it was a pleasure to watch him for a while as I was researching and writing Warrior.

Book recommendation:

Without a second's hesitation, I recommend Jaci Burton's Melting the Ice. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) All of Burton's Play By Play sports romances are compelling and sexy as hell. I demand to be drawn into a world when I read fiction and these books (particularly Melting the Ice) have given me what I want.

So what team are you rooting for? 

H&H Editor Picks:

Live From Romancelandia: A Viewing Guide to the NHL Playoffs

Romance Novel and Olympics Heroes

April 2017 Romance New Releases






Stacey Agdern, @nystacey

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