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Former Farmington teacher returns with another book of trivia

Jim Hoey is probably not the guy you'd want to face off against in a high-stakes game of Minnesota sports trivia. Pick a subject, and there's a good chance he's literally written the book.

Just in time for football season, Hoey, a longtime middle school teacher in Farmington and a former sports writer for this paper, has published his third collection of trivia, this time focusing on the Minnesota Vikings. It joins collections dedicated to the Twins and the Minnesota State High School hockey tournament on his bookshelf.

Hoey was a 9-year-old living in Northern Minnesota when the Vikings played their first regular season game Sept. 17, 1961 (a surprise 37-13 win over the defending NFL champion Chicago Bears, according to the book's first chapter). He grew up loving the team, through good times and bad. So, when he sat down to start work on this book a little more than a year ago, his own personal memories were a natural starting point. He spent months fact-checking those memories and supplementing them with new facts about old coaches, Hall of Famers, all-pros and other bits of the team's past.

The book takes the form of a trivia collection. Each chapter has questions on a specific topic, with lists of answers at the end so readers can quiz themselves. But Hoey sees the work as something more significant than that.

"I see this as much as an information book as a trivia book," he said. "It's Vikings history, definitely. I follow somewhat the same format I had for my other two books. We have chapters on coaches, on the playoffs, the Super Bowl, individual and team records.

"It's something nice that people can pick up and put down. They don't have to start at the beginning and go to page 270."

The Vikings — and the NFL in general — are an ideal subject for a book like this, Hoey said. There is just one game a week, with plenty of time in between to talk about how the team did, or how it's likely to do next week.

Putting everything together — double, triple and quadruple-checking facts — can be hard work. When you've stared at the same information for so long, it's easy to see what you think should be there rather than what's actually on the page. That's how Hoey got through the entire book spelling former Viking quarterback Daunte Culpepper's name Duante. He caught the mistake before publication.

Hoey enjoys the work, though. And he's happy with the final product. He likes going to book signings and connecting with other people who love the Vikings.

"The fun part is meeting people when they're big Vikings fans and they get ahold of something like this and they get so excited," Hoey said. "They say, 'My mother-in-law or my brother or my uncle would love this.'

"I know what it's like when I get access to something like this.... It's supposed to be fun."

Hoey, who retired from teaching several years ago, is working this year as athletic director at Trinity School at River Ridge. He's also hard at work on two more books, neither of them trivia collections.

The first, which he's been working on for at least the past two years, focuses on his 50-plus years as a student and teacher. The second is a biography of Willard Ikola, the Eveleth native who played hockey for the University of Michigan and Team USA before turning the Edina High School hockey team into a powerhouse.

"I'm really interested in doing a book on him because he's not only a great athlete but a fine person," Hoey said.

There's nothing trivial about that.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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