Written by Lance Hornby, QMI Agency
If you can’t give hockey equipment this Christmas, give hockey books.
They’re cheaper, easier to giftwrap than shoulder pads, last longer and smell better. This year has a better selection than ever, especially for students of the game. And for a sport that’s trying to make inroads with new citizens, what better way to say ‘welcome to Canada’.
Here are some of our favourites:
Diary Of A Dynasty, 1957-67
Kevin Shea (with Paul Patskou, Roly Harris and Paul Bruno)
Firefly, 480 pages, $29.95
The past 10 years of the Maple Leafs’ success would be a thin book indeed, but 1957-67 were among the most exciting and rewarding times for the club and its followers, The Leafs went from pretender to contender and set the table for four Stanley Cups, in a decade when TV brought the team into every home and Leafs Nation didn’t need recruitment drives.
This isn’t another nostalgia book about ‘67 and how the Imlach era unfolded, it details Leafs’ success through the eyes of Hockey Night In Canada, the perfect little Canadian theatre. Shea and Co. know their stuff and include plenty of sidebars and never-before-published interviews with Leaf personnel from the original HNIC broadcasts. Stats and important dates are highlighted to make it a must-read for Leaf fans who lived through it — or wish they had.
Best Of The Best
Key Porter, 224 pages, $32.95
Hockey Night In Canada’s award-winning journalist and his all-star panel break down the best players by position, both pre- and post-expansion, while compiling an all-time list of the top general managers and coaches.
Any ranking of more than 6,000 NHLers will spark debate, but the hockey fan will love the format. There’s a bio on every player, full colour photos, a fascinating ‘did-you-know’ segment on each man and a list of major trophy winners.
Society For International Hockey Research
Quarry Press, 268 pages, $34.95
At last, North America’s most dedicated hockey historians come out of the basement and into print.
Academics. collectors, lawyers, statisticians and just average hockey dads with a passion for the past, SIHR acquaints you with the first ever Team Canada in 1910, the science of the modern shootout, hockey’s brushes with the law, the unknown stars of the pre-NHL era and why the Charlotte Checkers might be the best team ever to come from the American South.
How Hockey Happened
J.W. (Bill) Fitsell
Quarry Press, 154 pages, $24.95
You’ll be shocked to see how far one can rewind from 30 teams and a billion dollar industry. Fitsell, former curator of the International Hockey Hall of Fame, investigates every link of the sport, from ancient Romans hacking at each other with crude field hockey sticks, to the ‘kolf’ played on frozen Dutch canals. The tales of ricket, bandy, lacrosse, shiney, shinty, right up to the first mention of the word puck in the 1870s are explored with some fascinating sketches and old photos.
Hockey Stories Part 2
Doubleday, 264 pages, $29.95
Strip away his loud suit n’ tie, Ron MacLean and the TV bombast and you’d think Grapes would be hard-pressed to hold a conversation. Wrong.
Cherry can tell a great hockey story without always telling you how great he is. His second book of stories connects hockey to Lord Nelson, Francis Drake, and Cherry’s grandfather who was in the Northwest Mounted Police. You get some Hockey Night In Canada insights, his painful return to the modern junior hockey scene, lots of right wing social commentary of course and a chance for daughter Cindy and son Tim to give their take on the man.
Blood Feuds/We Are The Champions
The Hockey News
Transcontinental, 204 pages/252 pages, both $19.95
You’ll like Blood Feuds just for detailing famous feuds of team against team and player vs. player, but it’s a new take on hostilities between countries (Canada-Russia), colleges (Michigan-Michigan State) and junior clubs (Regina-Saskaton). It’s the war of words between specific owners (Ilitch-Karmanos), general managers (Burke-Lowe), networks (TSN-CBC) and people against politics (Eric Lindros and the province of Quebec, Bill Wirtz and the city of Chicago).
Champions, meanwhile, ranks the 25 best NHL teams in history, the best year of all 30 current clubs and the top international and minor league organizations.
Official Guide To The Players of The Hockey Hall Of Fame
Firefly, 554 pages, $19.95
Handy colour-coded reference book with quick facts and stats.
HHOF Book Of Goalies
Firefly, 216 pages, $35.00
Coffee table trivia for mesh maniacs, with stories of the classic ‘keepers by top sportswriters and beautiful photos of masks and vintage equipment.
I Am Not Making This Up
HB Fenn, 224 pages, $22.95
The former Sun hockey columnist’s greatest hits columns from a career in the press box, the dressing room, the airport and the bar. As usual, he doesn’t hold back.
They Call Me Killer
Brian Kilrea and James Duthie
Wiley, 288 pages, $29.95
Duthie does a good job on a book that could almost write itself with the tales Kilrea compiled on the junior buses in his long career.
20 Greatest Hockey Goals
Dundurn, 224 pages, $24.99
A different twist on the goals that changed the course of hockey. Zweig goes back to the pre-NHL and some of his selections will surprise you.