Even though the 2012-13 National Hockey League regular season has been put on hold for the time being, that doesn’t mean you can’t get your hockey fix. No need to brave the elements to take in junior or college hockey, or the AHL, or the CHL, or the ECHL (though they’re all fine); you can enjoy the greatest game on ice from the comfort of your own home.
Nothing says Holiday Season at this time of year like the avalanche of hockey books all competing for shelf space at your local book store, and on-line.
Last year, we waded through the releases in order to bring you the picks of the litter. Lace up your skates as we once again navigate through the busy waters of Holiday Hockey Books.
(All quoted prices are what is listed on the jacket cover. They are subject to change).
National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book 2013
664 pages $29.95 U.S. $32.95 Canada ISBN 9781894801249
Even with a lockout, no self-respecting hockey fan should find themselves without a copy of the bible of the NHL. Published now for decades, the back cover of the book proclaims “Essential for reporters and broadcasters on the NHL beat”, and they’re not kidding.
All the relevant statistical information one needs in order to get more than a snapshot of the league. Historical records, trophy winners, Stanley Cup rosters, regular season and playoff records, who’s in the Hockey Hall-of-Fame in Canada, and the U.S., team records by year, major rule changes, retired player index, and, as the saying goes, so much more.
This year the Los Angeles Kings grace the cover of the book, the colour scheme a very classy black, silver, and white motif.
Okay, so there might not be any 2012-13 NHL season. Why not just wait until next September to purchase the latest copy? Well, Kings’ fans will want this for sure. For the rest of us, if there’s no hockey, you’ll have plenty of time to bone up on your NHL stats. Might win you a trivia contest somewhere down the line. Plus there’s always the NHL prospects sections; that does change yearly.
Well worth your money.
This colourful, comprehensive look back at the September 1972 meeting between Canada and the Soviet Union should be the final word on this paradigm shifting hockey series. Prolific hockey author Andrew Podnieks talked to every Canadian player still alive, and that’s most of them. The one exception was Bobby Orr, who declined to discuss the series. Imagine a book from that guy.
Nonetheless, this is One Stop Shopping for the hockey fan who either wants to remember those frenzied, tense, magical days forty years ago, or for the person who wasn’t around at the time, and wants to get a handle on why old timers keep going on and on about Paul Henderson.
The photographs alone are worth the price of the book, and just when you think you’ve heard everything you could about the eight games, Podnieks manages to unearth another fact or story.
Stanley Cup – 120 Years of Hockey Supremacy by Eric Zweig 352 pages
$49.95 Firefly Books ISBN-13: 978-1-77085-104-7
Talk about the perfect Christmas gift for the hockey starved fan in your family. This impressive book deals with the Stanley Cup, everything you can think about the old trophy, and more. Who won it, who lost, where, why, etc. Everything.
It’s the definitive dictionary on Lord’s Stanley greatest gift to mankind. Broken down into eras, and then by individual years, you’ll be coming back to this book time after time as the ultimate Cup reference guide. It’s also an engaging read if you tackle it cover to cover. Just enough photos, more than enough stats, and tons of background information on the greatest trophy in all of sports, the Stanley Cup.
There are hockey fans who weren’t born when the Cold War was still raging. And the Cold War was a factor in hockey, not surprising, since the Soviet Union was a mad about hockey as Canada, and parts of the U.S. were.
So how to go about getting all that untapped shinny talent out from behind the Iron Curtain, and into the hands of the likes of Iron Mike?
Cloak-and-dagger tales abound in this informative book by Pinchevsky, who puts into context the political climate on and off the ice during the 1970’s, leading to the spiriting of the Stastny brothers out of Eastern Europe.
Chapter One properly restores the name Vaclav Nedomansky into the annuals of hockey history as a pioneer for European players taking a crack at the North American pro game. Big Ned should have been a star in the NHL, and had a few productive years with the Detroit Red Wings after his tenure with the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association. His story alone is worth a book.
The game of hockey changed, for the better, with the exposure to European hockey. It is one of the major turning points in the history of the game. Breakaway captures the feeling of furtive paranoia, and late night meetings, which accompanied this crucial chapter in the long, twisting narrative of the game. Highly recommended.
Let’s be honest, you can read the key parts of a large majority of hockey autobiographies during a TV commercial break. Most of those books are by-the-numbers recounting of a player’s career, his early years, and his subsequent life away from the NHL. Controversy is avoided at all costs. Almost all names are changed, and you can practically cut-and-paste anecdotes from one book to another. Yawn.
Not the case with Straight Shooter. The book lives up to its title, and that probably shouldn’t be a surprise. Way back in the early 1970’s, All-Star defenceman Brad Park teamed up with noted hockey author/personality Stan Fischler to produced “Play The Man”, a book that was the “Ball Four” of the NHL. (Interesting to note that Park distances himself somewhat from that old book in this new book, but not because it was controversial for its time).
Brad names names, and places, and incidents, and it is a wonderful look back at his Hockey Hall-of-Fame career, spent primarily with the Rangers, and Bruins.
For example, where else would you get a critique of Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, who has been pretty much sainted by the rest of the hockey world?
Park goes over the highs and lows of his career, but with great detail, and clarity, no doubt aided by Thom Sears, who is a member of the Society for International Hockey Research. Relive the Rangers-Bruins rivalry, the never ending comparisons to Bobby Orr, Team Canada 1972, the big trade to Boston, the knee injuries, the too many men on the ice penalty against Montreal in 1979, the big overtime goal against the Buffalo Sabres, the time spent in Detroit, and the short stint behind the Red Wings bench.
Park was also involved with the NHLPA, and speaks of Alan Eagleson, and other matters, such as the merger with the World Hockey Association. Number 2 for the Rangers (Number 22 for the Bruins) was always a feisty, well spoken player, and that comes through in this book.
The Instigator – How Gary Bettman Remade the League and Changed the Game Forever by Jonathon Gatehouse 344 pages $32.00 Viking
A timely book if there ever was one, and an essential primer on the Commissioner of the NHL. Gatehouse makes his living writing about things other than hockey, and that’s a major plus here, as he’s able to put aside assumptions and prejudices that all too often have attached themselves to any previous examination of arguably the most controversial figure in NHL history. (For a better understanding of the current CBA impasse, make sure to read about the 1994 and 2004 lockouts).
Gatehouse was granted unprecedented access to Mr. Bettman, enabling him to properly flesh out the life of the most powerful man in hockey. It is an engaging read, and by the time you’re finished it, you may not have your mind changed one way or the other about him, but rest assured you’ll have a fuller understanding of a complex, interesting, yes even likeable individual.
What do you mean, 2012-13 NHL Season? Not so far. So why the need to pick up this book?
Because the ten men who put together the research on all the players contained in this book do a wonderful job at making the numbers speak. Moneyball for hockey is the lazy way of looking at it. Breathing life into the numbers is what Hockey Prospectus does, so even if there isn’t NHL brand hockey this season, a lot of these guys will be plying their trade elsewhere. When the NHL is actually playing games on ice, I keep this book next to the television for quick reference. Worth reading just for brushing up on your stats. The breakdown of the Top 100 prospects is worth the price of admission alone. Plus, some guy named Mick has a testimonial on the back cover.
WELL WORTH YOUR TIME
Coach – The Pat Burns Story by Rosie DiManno 315 pages $27.95 U.S. $32.95 Canadian Doubleday ISN 978-0-385-67636-6
Confession time. I have long been a fan of Rosie DiManno, having read her in the Toronto Star newspaper for the past two decades. Often disagreeing with her, yet drawn to her reflections on life, sports, the military, and politics, she can make the most tepid subject interesting.
No need to infuse any juice into the life story of former NHL coach Pat Burns. His might be the Great Canadian Success Story, and DiManno follows his path, from childhood, through to Ottawa-area police officer, to junior hockey, right through to the National Hockey League.
Forgot the hockey, there’s a ton of great tales about Burns’ days with the Gatineau police. By the time he gets behind the bench of the Montreal Canadiens in the autumn of 1988, the Legend of Pat Burns was well underway. DiManno takes us through that rookie season, and coming up just two wins short of the Stanley Cup.
The pressure he lived with in Montreal, and then Toronto, is chronicled, as is his bumpy tenure in Boston, and eventual redemption with the Devils. The complex personal life of Burns is also examined; the book doing a masterful job of making you feel as if you met the man before his untimely passing from cancer. After completing this book, don’t be surprised if you’re advocating Burns’ admission into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Back in the day, when we didn’t have a lot to do, friends and I used to argue the merits of what year in popular music should be considered the best. My choices came down to 1966, and 1979.
1966 because it was just before the concept of a complete album began to take over from singles; rock and roll was not yet rock, and commercial radio (was there any other kind then outside of pirate radio in England?) played pop, rock, folk, soul, gospel, surf, country, and novelty records. All in the same hour, radio programmers be damned!
1979 made the cut because it was the perfect storm of Album Oriented Rock, Punk, and New Wave. Just consider the albums that came out that calendar year. A quick list would include Armed Forces, Labour of Lust, Off The Wall, Get The Knack, Dream Police, The Records, Replicas, Wave, Damn The Torpedoes, Eat To The Beat, Back To The Egg, Candy-O, Graffiti Crimes, In Through The Out Door, A Million Vacations, The Raven, Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws, Setting Songs, Unknown Pleasures, The Undertones, Regatta de Blanc, Slow Train Coming, Drums and Wires, Quiet Life, Squeezing Out Sparks…not to mention London Calling, which is often considered a 1980 release, but came out in England on December 14th of 1979, only the greatest album of all time.
Point being, the 1992-93 NHL season can rattle off an equally impressive roster of seismic events.
Try expansion to Tampa Bay, and Ottawa, the rookie season of Eric Lindros, Manon Rheaume in net for the Lightning, the rise of Doug Gilmour and the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Wayne Gretzky high stick that wasn’t called a penalty in the playoffs against those Leafs, Patrick Roy winking at Tomas Sandstrom, Mario Lemieux fighting through injuries and Hodgkins, Teemu Selanne super rookie, Alexander the Great with 76 goals in Buffalo, Dale Hunter and his cowardly hit on Pierre Turgeon, David Volek sinking the Penguins with a Game 7 OT goal, the Rangers crash-and-burn, Mayday Mayday Mayday, Koo Koo Bananas, Pierre Page publicly berating young Nordiques’ forward Mats Sundin on the bench, Detroit eliminated in Game 7 OT, Anthony Robbins and the Kings, Gretzky back in the Cup final, McSorley and the illegal stick, Desjardins with the first hat trick for a defenceman in a Stanley Cup Final, the awakening of John Leclair, the 100th anniversary of the Stanley Cup, and the Montreal Canadiens capture it, the last one on Montreal Forum ice.
Whew. No doubt there are other notable events, but that alone qualifies the 92-93 season as one of the greatest on record. I’d argue, just like 1979 is a watershed moment in pop music history (before the music industry fragmented for good), 1978 was also a great year. Same here; the following season was just as good, but more on that later.
Denault is also a member of SIHR, and has already penned two highly detailed hockey books, one about Jacques Plante, and the other about the 1975 New Year’s Eve game between Les Canadiens and the Russian Red Army.
Another sumptuous book, this one all about one of the greatest franchises in all of sports, the Victoria Cougars.
Okay, the Detroit Red Wings, but the lineage is there. Simpson, who earlier worked on a similar book for the Boston Bruins, has clearly crafted a labour of love here, and the reader is the beneficiary. Any book that takes you from the heartbreak of the 60’s, through the Darkness of Harkness, out again into the light with Yzerman and Ilitch, the near misses of the early 90’s, and finally The Promised Land beginning with the 1997 Stanley Cup, well, that’s a book worth checking out.
Simpson deals with the good and the bad, and one of the delights of the book is when he highlights players who toiled for the Wings during the Dead Things era. Nick Libett, your time has come! If you’re just into pretty pictures, this book also delivers. A solid edition to your personal hockey library, even if you’re not a Cougars fan.
It’s pronounced McInDOO, not Doe. It only took us about half dozen appearances on The War Room by Sean in order for us to get it right.
However you say it, the guy’s funny. Funny in a chuckle to yourself way. Funny in a nod and smile way. Funny in a “I gotta share this with someone right now!” way. McIndoe started as a blogger, and at heart still is, which affords him distance from polite reserved writing conventions.
Not that he is a hack; far from it. He’s witty, informed, even poignant at times. And prolific, judging by his daily output on Twitter, where he gives away the product for free. Spend a bit of cash and pick this one up for yourself, or for someone else for Christmas. It’ll be a great way to spend the big day, laughing through their lockout tears.
Hot on the heels of “A Season In Time” comes this nostalgic look at the next season, the 1993-94 campaign.
The one where the New York Rangers finally put to rest the chants of 1940, and captured the Stanley Cup in an intriguing seven-game series with the Vancouver Canucks. But before that, there was the seven-game set with their neighbours, the emerging New Jersey Devils, anchored in net by a young guy named Martin Brodeur. Sullivan makes a convincing case for this being the best playoff series in the long, storied history of the National Hockey League.
I’d rank it up there, though personally, I’d put the 1971 Bruins-Habs, 1993 Kings-Maple Leafs, 1978 Maple Leafs-Islanders, 1979 Bruins-Habs, 1986 Flames-Oilers, 1986 Flames-Blues, 1984 Nordiques-Habs, and 1984 Islanders-Rangers before this one. That Pens-Caps 7-gamer a few years ago was pretty good, too. It’s a personal preference, and if you’re a Rangers’ fan, you’ll readily agree with his thesis.
Here’s a book that I wasn’t all that sure about at first glance. The Jeremy Roenick Story, as told to us by J.R. (with help from the ever dependable Kevin Allen, so that’s a good start). I’ve always been rather ambivalent about J.R. He enjoyed a very good NHL career, putting up Hall-of-Fame worthy numbers, though I’m still on the fence about that. He’ll always be a Blackhawk to me (and obviously someone else thinks so too; J.R. in the sharp red Chicago sweater adorns the back cover).
The thing is, J.R. likes J.R. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I get too much J.R. He’s become one of the recognizable faces of U.S. hockey, as he and Mike Milbury battle it out to see who’ll be the Don Cherry of the Lower 48. So I wasn’t expecting much when I opened up this book. And I was proven wrong.
This is an engaging read. Actually difficult to put down. Most of these “autobiographies” bog down at the start, with drawn out stories of life before the NHL. After slogging through dozens and dozens of these over my life, I pretty much skip those chapters now. Not this time. Roenick has admittedly led an interesting, unorthodox life. His family comes off as wonderfully certifiable, and J.R. is not afraid to tell tales. I’ve learned more about his former coach Iron Mike from this book than from countless other portraits of Keenan.
The last thing I want to do is feed the J.R beast, but I find myself doing exactly that. This book pulls no punches, much like J.R. on the ice. (Noticed today at Costco that the Canadian edition features a different cover. Now you know).
Four years ago, I came up with a list of the Top 30 NHL goaltenders since the year 1940. I don’t think anything I’ve ever done in my life received the same amount of attention this list garnered after it was posted on the NHL Home Ice website After long and careful deliberation, I settled on Martin Brodeur as the top NHL goaltender of all–time.
Not necessarily the most talented, or athletic, nor the one most responsible for his team’s success. No, just the most successful. Thus, the greatest. And to be the most successful goaltender in NHL history you have to have been very good, you have to have been lucky, you have to have played on a top team, with above-par players, and with a team that pays close attention to the defensive side of the game.
A great team makes a goaltender great, but, a great goaltender also makes a team great. Both parts of the equation are required for greatness. Brodeur is the perfect embodiment of that equation, thus my selection of him as the number one goaltender of all-time.
Talk about a crap storm.
The blog got picked up by the New York Post, and a number of other U.S. newspaper websites. David Staples of The Cult of Hockey (Edmonton Journal) attempted to dismantle my argument with a lengthy explanation why Patrick Roy should be number one, and Staples emphatically stated he wouldn’t be swayed by “some blogger”. Hey, even Puck Daddy picked it up.
The only neck of the woods that loved the article was the Garden State, go figure. All those in disagreement with the Top 50 listing all had their own variation of the list. No-one was in agreement. (Phil Esposito couldn’t believe I put his brother Tony in the number 12 position, behind Ken Dryden).
Four years later, with a few tweaks, (Chris Osgood?) I stand by my list. Feel even better about it after reading Without Fear.
Kevin Allen and Bob Duff update their book, an enjoyable tour through the men brave/stupid enough to strap on the pads over the decades. Sorry to wreck the suspense, but they also go with Brodeur as number one (Roy is right behind him). They also have Dryden ahead of the younger Esposito (#8 for Kenny-D, #16 for Tony-O).
As Gene Clark said, I Feel A Whole Lot Better.
We seem to love lists, regardless of the subject matter. Lists are instant argument starters, just add water, this book being that water. Required reading for anyone taking NHL Goaltending 101.
For the record, my Sept. 2008 Top Six NHL goaltenders of All-Time, in order, were:
- Martin Brodeur
- Jacques Plante
- Glenn Hall
- Patrick Roy
- Dominik Hasek
- Terry Sawchuk
The Top Six NHL Goaltenders of All-Time according to Without Fear:
- Martin Brodeur
- Patrick Roy
- Terry Sawchuk
- Glenn Hall
- Jacques Plante
- Dominik Hasek
Pretty close. Read the book. Then you decide. (For the record, Osgood checks in at the number 34 slot in the book).
ALSO TAKE A LOOK AT THESE
Some fun, eh is this book. Okay, I love Bernie Parent. Was one of my goaltending heroes when I was in elementary school, even though he played for the Evil Empire. The guy was just cool, and still looks cool after all these years. A good combination of career overview, and vivid picture book, Unmasked is a must for goaltender fans, and yes, Flyers fans. The shot of Bernie making a save on page 154 is worth framing.
Dropping The Gloves by Barry Melrose with Roger Vaughan 240 pages $27.99 U.S. $29.99 Canadian Fenn M&S ISBN 978-0-7710-5694-9
The Coach has a lot to say, and does so on ESPN, and now in this fine addition to the hockey library. Melrose has pretty much done it all during his hockey career, and he’s not afraid to wade into the fray within these pages. And yes, he talks about the McSorley illegal stick. Still sore about it after all these years, but not at Marty.
The Outrageous Story of a Hockey Original is what it is subtitled, and that about sums it up. The Turk. Number 16 for the Big Bad Bruins. Maybe the original NHL Playboy. And man, could the dude play. It all went to hell, and the WHA, but Sanderson lived to tell about it, and is a testament to perseverance, and a cautionary tale for those who don’t remember the Bryan Fogarty’s of the world (a sad, tragic tale there). A solid read.
I’m of the opinion that the captain in hockey is an overly romanticized position; important, yes, but any successful team is full of leaders, most of whom don’t wear a C (or an A) on their chest. This book suggests otherwise, and it makes a pretty convincing case. The piece on who gets to hoist the Stanley Cup after the captain, which is contained in the preface, is indicative of this book. A fun read.
Now this is a hockey book tailor made for kids, even in the manner in which it is put together. Flyer Lives looks like one of those Ladybird books about flags, or ships, that I used to read as a kid. A Kid’s Own Hockey Book.
Ms. Clarke is the daughter of Bobby Clarke, so you know she has access inside one of the iconic franchises in NHL history. None other than Ed Snider penned the foreword, so we’re not messing around here. Yes, this is mainly for Flyer fans; it’s a Flyer Fest galore, but it’s also chock full of facts about what was going on in-and-around Philadelphia at the time of certain hockey events. A novel, and welcome, addition to the ever growing hockey library. Ranger fans might even enjoy this one.
Hockeytown Doc – A Half-Century of Red Wings Stories From Howe to Yzerman by Dr. John Finley 286 pages $24.95 U.S. $27.95 Canadian Triumph Books ISBN 978-1-60078-77103
The Good Doctor probably could have written a trilogy, based on what he’s seen over the decades. Finley served as the Red Wings’ team doctor from 1957 until 2003, so he really has seen it all. Which explains why Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe, wrote the foreword. A no brainer for Detroit fans, but also an interesting, different look at the often cloistered world of big league hockey.
Nobody knows as much hockey trivia/history as Liam does, and his third book reinforces that. It’s one of those books that I would have loved to have poured over as a kid, and I still enjoy going through it, particularly when Liam highlights the early days of the NHL. But, trivia experts, there’s no details about the time Liam tried to sneak a case of beer into the bathroom window of a Voyageur Bus that was parked outside the Montreal Forum. What year was that Liam? 1988? 1989? What happens on Big Man Chappy Tours stays on Big Man Chappy Tours. Get this book. I guarantee you’ll have fun reading it. Lots to learn!
The Hockey News Top 10 – Counting Down The Game’s Wonderful, Wild, Weird, and Wacky! Edited by Edward Fraser 232 pages $19.95 Transcontinental Books ISBN 978-09877474-7-1
This book, together with the Liam Maguire book, will make you an instant hockey expert. These Top 10 lists are fun, and can be consumed much like peanuts at your office Christmas party; a couple at time, no need to devour the entire thing in one sitting.
The Best Seat In The House by Jamie McLennan & Ian Mendes 238 pages $19.95 U.S. $24.95 Canadian Wiley ISBN 978-1-118-30253-8
This is the kind of book you’d expect a backup goaltender to pen. Lots of down time, sitting on the bench, watching the likes of Roberto Luongo get all the glory. The upside of all that are the stories contained within. Again, a light snack of a book, but a snack you’ll gladly go back to time-and-time again.
Talk about a timely book! Yes, the 2013 version of the Great Outdoor Game (Gimmick) has been cancelled, but it’s been such a success for the league, that there’s no way they pass on holding it next season at the Big House in Michigan. Cohen and del Tufo nicely capture all the pomp and circumstance of the league’s grand move to the great outdoors. Leafing through this will only make you miss the game more.