How a Candy Heir Sneaked Into Pro Hockey and Made His Name as a ‘Savage’ is this week’s feature story in the Renegade Newsletter. Buckland is a Toronto-based feature writer.

We spoke to Buckland about the story, writing, and sports reporting. You can listen to the interview or read some of the best moments below along with some other great long reads.

Here’s an excerpt of Buckland’s story that was published in the New York Times:

But Ferrara had outsize dreams. Hockey, he had found, was all that made him whole, all that allowed him to escape his crumbling personal life, which existed in the shadow of his family’s business, a famous American confectionery behemoth run by more than a century’s worth of Ferrara men. Nello was the presumed heir to this candy fortune.

As his father groomed him for the position, Ferrara discovered he wanted another life. The wealth, the power, the status that came with belonging to one of Chicago’s most prominent business families — none of it ever totally captured him. What did was hockey. So there Ferrara found himself in 2004, desperate to see if he had what it took to hang with the sport’s best.

To read the full story, click here


Here are the best moments from our conversation:

How he found the story:

The way I heard about this story, I think I was at a bar with a friend one night and he told me about these tweets that he’d seen from Paul Bissonnette. The thing that really caught my eye was, this guy has spent a million years in minor league hockey and he played on a thousand teams, but the fact that he was posing as his own agent and he seemed to have all these crazy ways to play hockey, I thought that that would’ve been quite an interesting story.

He really hated the person he was becoming and that was when it kinda became apparent to me that this story went much deeper than just a goofy minor league hockey guy.

A great anecdote:

Nello had some family resources and one time he was playing on a team called the St. Charles Chill and they were in Denver around Christmas and of course these minor league teams take these long bus rides and it’s really horrific travel and there was this young equipment manager kinda trainer on the team and in minor league hockey the equipment managers and trainers make almost no money whatsoever, not like the players are rich,

but especially the guys behind the team make almost no money and one of the coaches at the time told me a story that I never heard and Nello certainly never told me. Nello told the guy away, pulled the guy aside and the guy really wanted to get home for Christmas to spend it with his family and Nello bought him an airline ticket out of his own pocket, paid for him to stay at a hotel near the airport so he wouldn’t miss his flight the next morning. Through this act of generosity, Nello saved this guy a 20-hour bus ride back to near St. Louis.

His conversation with Paul Bissonnette:

Paul, what’s “the wildest story you heard about Nello Ferrara?”

“I heard a story that he paid for one of the actors from the Karate Kid movie to come to Chicago and hang out with him and then they became like best friends and then the actor from the Karate Kid came to Nello’s wedding” and I thought ‘What the heck is that?’

Apparently, Nello’s part of some social club in Chicago and for their anniversary party, every year, they want to get a big actor and they’re all kids from the 70s and 80s. They reached out to the agent who represented, the actor’s name is Martin Kove […] The guy fell in love with Nello, they became like best friends over this weekend and when Nello got married last weekend, that actor from Karate Kid surprised crashed Nello’s wedding.

His big break in feature writing:

Back in 2013, there was a famous baseball pitcher by the name of Mark Pryor who pitched for the Chicago Cubs. He was a kind of this ace pitcher. He was the next great thing and then in 2006, he got hurt and kind of vanished.

What I did was I tracked him down, and I convinced him to let me do an interview. I was unaffiliated. I didn’t have any real plan for the story other than I knew I wanted to write some kind of feature on him so I paid my way down to spring training in Arizona. Flew myself down there, put my stuff up in a hotel and paid all my expenses. I kind of made a bet on myself and wrote up a story about him.

On pitching articles to major publications:

For an outside writer, you’ve got to provide them something that they don’t have on their own. I can’t go to Sports Illustrated and say ‘Hey I want to write something on Lebron James.’ They have million people on staff that are gonna do that. You’ve got to find them some kind of access point, some kind of story that they don’t have on their own.

I pitched this story to Sports Illustrated. Hockey, you’ll find that outside of Canada no one really cares.

On transitioning from sports to news, and vice-versa:

I think above all else [what’s important] is your storytelling. The principles of writing about news and writing about sports are similar, especially in feature writing. The subject matter matters less and less. If it’s a good story and you tell it well, it’s gonna find an audience.

Jason Buckland’s pick:

-Dwayne Johnson for President! by Caity Weaver. Published in GQ on May 10, 2017.

“There are good ways and bad ways to insert yourself into a story — first-person feature writing is easy to do but isn’t easy to pull off properly — but I thought Caity did this incredibly well. By playing herself off The Rock, you get an intimate sense of what it must really be like to take a ride in Johnson’s world.”

Our picks:

- For the New Yorker, Ian Parker details the incredible story of a custody battle that redefines what it means to be a parent.

- Elon Green talked to Huffington Post Highline writer Jason Fagone about his article, What Bullets Do To Bodies for the Columbia Journalism Review.

- Seven months of reporting by Buzzfeed News correspondent Mike Giglio and photographer Warzer Jaff led to this pieceabout the “Golden Division,” a group of elite Iraqi soldiers who are formed and trained by the US.

- Revisited this 12,000-word mammoth by Luke Dittrich published in Esquire in February 2009 about a “To Catch a Predator” episode that went all wrong.

- President Donald Trump decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. It’s a great time to read one of the best articles about the environment: the Pulitzer-winning The Really Big One by New Yorker writer Kathryn Schulz.

- I (Étienne) used to visit the Outer Banks often when I was younger, so this article about the impact climate change has had on them was worrying.

- Gaby Dunn explains why YouTubers are being forced to turn to daily vlogging as a way of earning money (it’s because they can’t get hired anywhere else).

- In my opinion (Alexandra), The Atlantic’s story My Family’s Slave is one of the best longform articles of the year.

- A Toronto-based fertility doctor reveals her struggles with trying to conceive.