So, I don't really know how many of you out there read, but the Literary Review of Canada released their list of the 100 most important books in Canadian publishing history, and sandwiched between people like Margaret Atwood, Archie Lampman and Northrop Frye was good ol' Howie Meeker, with his timeless instructions on hockey basics. I actually remember checking this book out of my old elementary school's library on more than one occasion as a youngster, though I honestly can't tell you what basics were found throughout. Nor can I tell you what I was thinking (I also took out a bunch of Garfield books, to put it in perspective).
Anyway, it got me thinking about hockey books in general, in particular the best of them. And, such is my want, I figured I'd list them. Now, I have to admit, I haven't read all that many hockey books, so this is sure to leave out what are likely some important ones, but by all means, feel free to add any I've overlooked/never read.
So, in no particular order, here goes:
Grapes: a Vintage View of Hockey
I'll probably get flamed for this, but I honestly have to say that this is probably one of the best books I've read with hockey as its subject matter. Yeah, yeah, it's just a fairly rambling recollection of his life in hockey, but Cherry had the benefit of not only playing minor league hockey in a time when it was essentially populated with nothing but the borderline (and sometimes outright) crazy, but also coaching what were probably two of the more interesting teams of the late '70s and, of course, being fairly flamboyant the whole time. I suppose we won't actually find out what life is like for a hockey player these days for a good ten or 15 years, but I can't imagine that, with all the conditioning and money and insurance and such, it's half as interesting as it was in Cherry's day. I also sort of like the fact that Cherry doesn't ever bother to get the least bit philosophical about his life; hockey is just a game, after all, and I think it's far better for a laugh and a good story than any deeper message about life.
Which is probably why I don't hold Ken Dryden's account in as high esteem as everyone else does. But hey, it's still a fine book, and probably the most literate account of anything by an athlete. Dryden saw the game a little differently from presumably most other players out there (and not just in the talented-player way), and it makes the book hold a bit more weight and insight than your typical memoir.
Net Worth: Exploding the Myths of Pro Hockey
This was actually the last hockey-related book I read freely of my own accord (damn you to hell, Dave Bidini!), in about 2001 or 2002, and though it probably didn't hold the weight it would have when it was first released, thanks to about a decade of players clearly winning the money battle and the fact the story had become a bit better known than it was in the early 90s, I'd say it ranks with Moneyball as one of the best examinations of the game within the game that is professional sports. It's apparently quite hard to find (the Strathcona County Library used to have a copy, and probably still does), which is sadder than a retarded puppy with a broken leg, because it's well worth a read.
Peter Puck: Love That Hockey Game!
It doesn't seem right to have a list of hockey books without Brian McFarlane on it, and this is honestly the only one I can remember reading (it might even be the only one I've ever read, come to think of it). It also has Peter Puck, which is fairly awesome. Actually, come to think of it, I'm sort of surprised Peter Puck hasn't ever been brought back. I'm too young to have gotten the full Peter Puck experience, but surely someone out there must be nostalgic for him. Huh? Space Ghost and Harvey Birdman have made comebacks, why not Peter Puck?
The Hockey Sweater
Come on, it might get a little overdone, but that's only because it manages to pretty much perfectly nail the deep-seated loyalty and loathing that come hand-in-hand with sports obsession in a format easy enough for children to understand. I mean, really, haven't we all, at some point or another, wished the entire Maple Leafs roster would get devoured by moths? It also gets the dynamic of your parents (and it's usually moms) almost buying you what you want, but missing out on the important subtleties.
That's obviously not very extensive, and while I've read more hockey books, they've mostly been a collection of mediocre memoirs or fairly unremarkable histories/anecdotes. I've heard good things about The Stick and Money Players by Bruce Dowbiggin, and I've also been recommended to Thunder and Lightning, Phil Esposito's memoir, and Ice Time by Jay Atkinson, but I've never actually bothered to check any of them out for some reason. Probably well worth a read if you get the chance, though.
So, yeah, any books all y'all dig?
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