Sunday, June 15, 2008

Beach books...the hockey version

Okay, if you've read all there is to read about the Habs and you're still interested in some hockey-related lit, here are ten of my favourites:

10. Home Game: Hockey and Life in Canada, by Ken Dryden and Roy MacGregor. I read this years ago, and I admit the chapter that attracted me the most was the one in which Dryden goes behind the scenes on gameday between the Habs and Oilers. But the whole book is a great look at hockey at every level and a microcosmic synopsis of why the game means so much to us.

9. Thunder and Lightning: A No BS Hockey Memoir, by Phil Esposito. This is a hugely entertaining autobiography, which claims to tell it like it was. It includes some great behind-the-scenes stuff from the 1972 Summit Series, and while I suspect at least some of what Espo writes is, in fact,'s well worth the read.

8. Open Net, by George Plimpton. This one's hilarious. Plimpton went to the Bruins' camp in the seventies and writes about everything he sees, hears, smells and feels as he learns to play goal. His experiment culminates with him stepping between the pipes for five minutes during an exhibition game against the Flyers. Entertaining and enlightening.

7. Tropic of Hockey, by Dave Bidini. I loved this. Bidini travels the world looking for hockey, and boy, does he find it. Fascinating read.

6. Future Greats and Heartbreaks, by Gare Joyce. Another great behind-the-scenes read. In this one, Joyce convinces the Columbus Blue Jackets to allow him to tag along during the 2006 draft, including the combine leading up to it, and continue on through the 2007 season. It's a great look at what really happens in the world of scouting and what a team puts into selecting a kid.

5. Net Worth, by David Cruise and Allison Griffiths. This is a sobering and enlightening read about how players were the owners' pawns for so long, and how money has shaped the game into the form we see today.

4. After the Applause, by Gordie and Colleen Howe. How do players, even superstars and legends adapt to a world without hockey? The Howes give us an inside look into how it was for them, including a discussion of some of the bitterness they feel about the pension issue.

3. In the Crease: Goaltenders Look at Life in the NHL, by Dick Irvin. Goalies have always been my favourites, so I thoroughly enjoyed this chronicle of goaltenders and their craft, told by one of the game's great observers. Irvin covers a lot of ground here, from the earliest days of the game to Roy and Brodeur. He interviews many of the great goalies and discusses how the art of playing goal has evolved over the years. I read this one quickly.

2. Searching For Bobby Orr, by Steven Brunt. Orr wouldn't talk to Brunt for this bio, so the author went out and interviewed everyone who ever had anything to do with Bobby in his life, from his childhood friends and teachers to his roommates in his early years in Boston. He creates an intriguing picture of Orr as a reclusive, often kind man with a blistering temper. It fascinated me that Orr wouldn't let his own kids ever play the game that made him an icon. Great book.

1. Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems, by Randall Maggs. If you don't read poetry, don't worry about it. These are narrative poems that tell the story of a very troubled man and a brilliant goaltender who died too young. You don't feel like you're struggling to get through it at's really absorbing and entertaining. My favourite poem was one which tells the story of a Hockey Night In Canada interview between Jacques Plante, who was working on the show as an analyst, and Sawchuk, fresh off the ice. The interplay between them is poignant and memorable. This is worth reading, even if you haven't read a poem since high school.

Honourable mention go to "Glenn Hall" by Tom Adrahtas, which is a great bio of one of the game's iconic goalies, and "The Red Machine" by Lawrence Martin, about the rise of Soviet hockey. Of course, there are lots more, but if you're looking for some interesting hockey reading, those are a great start.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These sound like great recommendations. I recommend Hockey: A People's History and Saved in Some Must-Read Hockey Books.