Blog Tour: Coach’s Challenge, by Avon Gale

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Coach's Challenge Avon GaleSports romance fans: rejoice! Avon Gale has a new hockey romance out, and it’s everything you could hope for an more! Not a sports fan? You’ll still fall in love with these snarky and sexy characters.

Today Avon has brought us a special insight into Troy Callahan, the main character of her newest release, Coach’s Challenge— he’s the coach in question, in case you were wondering.

So keep reading to check out the book Kristie calls, “thoroughly enjoyable” and “fantastic!” (Her review.)

Coach’s Challenge, by Avon Gale
Series: Scoring Chances, Book 5
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: June 26, 2017

It’s been decades since blackmail forced Troy Callahan to retire from playing professional hockey, and he’s built a successful career behind the bench. When he’s offered the opportunity to coach the Asheville Ravens—the most hated team in the ECHL—he’s convinced that his no-nonsense attitude is just what the team needs to put their focus back on hockey. But Troy is disheartened when he finds that the Ravens have signed Shane North, a player known for his aggression. And it only gets worse when Shane’s rough good looks give Troy inappropriate thoughts about a member of his team, even if Shane’s set to retire at the end of the season.

Shane’s career in the majors never quite took off. Wanting to quit on his own terms, Shane agrees to a one-year contract with the Ravens and finds himself playing for a coach who thinks he’s an aging goon and with a team that doesn’t trust him, the coach, or each other. Despite his determination to not get involved, Shane unwillingly becomes part of the team… and is just as unwillingly drawn to the gruff out-and-proud coach. As the Ravens struggle to build a new identity, Shane and Troy succumb to the passion that might cost them everything.

Purchase Coach’s Challenge from:
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Player’s Tribune article with Troy Callahan

[Note from Avon: if you’re not familiar with the Player’s Tribune, it’s a website where athletes tell their stories in their own words – former players, current players, etc. If you’ve got some time, take a look at the amazing hockey stories – especially from John Scott and Scott Darling, if you’re in the mood to be inspired and maybe shed a few tears. This is a fictional version, obviously, though hopefully inspiring in its own way.]

Troy CallahanContributor

A lot of kids dream about that phone call home, the one where they get to tell their parents they made the NHL.

Not many kids dream of the call where they tell their parents they’re retiring before they’re twenty-five.

Lucky me, I got to make both.

My parents were understandably confused. Why was I retiring? Was I injured? Was I having problems with my teammates, my coaches?

I told them the truth, that someone had a problem with me. Specifically, with me being gay. My parents hadn’t known, and this wasn’t the way I’d wanted to tell them. I hadn’t wanted to come out like this – I hadn’t wanted to come out at all.

This was the early nineties, and there was no You Can Play Project, no team Pride Nights. I was a scared kid who didn’t know what to do, and despite my parents’ suggestion that I find an advocate, someone to talk to who might mitigate the situation, I didn’t do that. I stayed quiet, and I quit.

Why did St. Savoy do it? I don’t know, and I really don’t care. This isn’t an article about the many and varied things wrong with Denis St. Savoy. If it was, I’d be using a lot more colorful language. All I can tell you is, I hope he chokes on those Stanley Cup rings of his. You might think is hyperbole if you’ve never met me. It isn’t.

A few months ago, my longtime best friend and former teammate, Gabriel Bow, called me up to tell me he’d taken a general manager’s position with an ECHL team that had recently “been through some trying times.” He told me all about St. Savoy, how he’d paid to injure one of the few openly gay players in professional sports (tell me the ECHL isn’t a professional league and I’ll hit you where it counts with a hockey stick. I still know how to use one.) How St. Savoy had terrorized and manipulated his team for years. And how, after his lifelong ban went into effect, the Ravens needed a new head coach.

Six days before, I’d been on my way to Manhattan to meet with the front office staff of the New York Rangers. They had an opening for an assistant position, and I was on the short list of candidates. I’d been coaching the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford, and they were impressed with my record.

Two days before, I’d verbally accepted an offer and put my house up for sale.

Three days after Gabe called, I contacted the Rangers’ and rescinded my acceptance.

Two days ago, I moved to Asheville. And In a few weeks, I’ll begin my duties as the head coach of the Ravens.

Why?

Coaching is not an easy job. You have to dissect past mistakes while still managing to live in the moment, all the while planning for the future. It means telling a player why their pass didn’t connect, changing up line combinations when the offense isn’t working, and planning what you’re going to do if the game goes into OT. All in the same five, stressful seconds you have to think and not just react.

Guys like St. Savoy create a toxic culture of homophobia, fear and paranoia in their locker rooms. And that culture spreads when people are silent. And people are silent because they are afraid.

I can’t change anything about what happened in the past. But I can – and will – do something about the future. As a coach it is my responsibility to make players the best they can be, both for themselves, their team, and the game of hockey in general.

It’s my belief that the place where I can do that with the most meaningful impact is not with an NHL team in New York. Today, right now, it’s with the Asheville Ravens of the ECHL.

Maybe one day I’ll be back in the NHL, stressed out during a Stanley Cup Final with the cameras moving quickly away before they show me shouting a lot of bad words on television. Maybe I’ll lift the Cup, maybe I won’t.

But one thing I will do is speak up. And I hope that the Ravens are ready to hear what I have to say. And when the day comes, when it matters most…I hope they’ll speak up, too.

It might not silence men like St. Savoy– in my experience, nothing ever does. But we can make our voices louder, and his harder and harder to hear.

And if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s being loud.

Troy Callahan begins his first season as head coach of the Ravens this fall in Asheville, North Carolina.

Avon Gale was once the mayor on Foursquare of Jazzercise and Lollicup, which should tell you all you need to know about her as a person. She likes road trips, rock concerts, drinking Kentucky bourbon and yelling at hockey. She’s a displaced southerner living in a liberal midwestern college town, and she never gets tired of people and their stories — either real or the ones she makes up in her head.

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