I love books. I buy many more than I read, and lately I’ve been buying out of print or gently used editions from amazon.com to add to my collection. Typically the used tomes fill in from days when spending $15 on a book would have put a serious dent in my spending money. Now that I can dabble in books and have somewhere to put them other than a cardboard mover’s box, I’m able to build up small libraries in obtuse topics such as Lake Placid, New York, hold’em poker, cryptography, and 70s art rock group Yes.
Without any further introduction, here’s my current top ten favorite hockey books:
|Last Season, Roy MacGregor. The only fictional book in the list, and one of the few sports-related books that’s ever made me profoundly sad. Perhaps it’s “Bats” discovering his limitations as a man and player; perhaps it’s the surprise ending.|
|Ice Time, Jay Atkinson. A book for hockey dads by a hockey dad himself, who also happens to be an outstanding sports writer. Atkinson follows the trials, travails and training of the Methuen, Massachusetts high school team, but this book truly digs into what it means to be a good youth sports parent.|
|Boys of Winter, Wayne Coffey. Of all of the content scribbled about the Miracle on Ice, this is far and away my favorite collection of insights and stories. Coffey takes a look at each player, and how their lives were shaped before and after the famous 4-3 game in Lake Placid. I quote from the introduction frequently as our youth hockey season winds down, as Jim Craig’s few pages alone are worth the cover price.|
|Blades of Glory, John Rosengren. Sort of the foil to Ice Time, Rosengren follows big-time high school hockey in the first state of hockey (Minnesota). Another great look at a season from deep inside the locker room. Casual references to players from rival high schools read like a who’s who of young NHL players, with the New Jersey Devils’ own Zach Parise and Paul Martin making cameo appearances as themselves.|
|Home Team, Roy MacGregor. He’s so good he gets two slots. Non-fiction and closer to home (literally). Blend Last Season with Ice Time and you get this book, a look at fathers and sons in and around NHL draft events. Expectations, met, exceeded, undershot or crushed, and how hockey families sometimes are more about family than hockey.|
|They Don’t Play Hockey in Heaven, Ken Baker. You’ve probably never heard of Ken Baker, as he was a goalie for Colgate but never “made it”. I only discovered this book after reading Kathyrn Bertine’s All The Sundays Yet To Come (figure skating and anorexia in South America, but quite funny), as she and Baker were friendly at Colgate. As an adult league player, and someone who has met many guys who always wondered if they could have made it in the ECHL, this is a great read: Baker tells a story of fulfilling his dream of playing professional hockey well after he had hung up his skates, and the result has the poignancy of a Disney movie blended with the rough edges of “Slap Shot.”|
|The Game, Ken Dryden. Stanley Cup, Montreal Canadiens, Cornell University, and now big-time Canadian politician. Awesome read, and in a newly released reprint.|
|Beyond The Crease, Martin Brodeur (and Damien Cox). Not at all what I was expecting. Rather than the usual “I was taped to the goal by my older brother who fired pucks at me from a carbon-dioxide powered air gun” story of his life from 3 years old to 3 Stanley Cups, Brodeur’s book focuses on much more recent events, including his relationship to the Devils management and the league, how he sees the sport evolving, and what it was like to represent his country in the Olympics. His reflections on playing in Torino, and echoing his father’s footsteps on Italian Olympic ground, are alone worth the purchase price.|
|Breaking the Ice, Angela Ruggiero. So this one is about brother-baiting and boy-badgering, but it’s about the only book I can find that addresses women’s hockey.|
|The Hockey I Love, Vladislav Tretiak. Yes, the Russian goaltender, who was pulled from the Miracle on Ice game. The book ends in the late 70s, a few years before the Lake Placid Olympics, so you don’t get Tretiak’s views on the game for which he’s probably best known in the States. What you do find is a discourse on playing in some of the most famous international hockey series of the 70s.|
What’s missing? A book about Jeff Halpern . Something focused on hockey diversity, featuring Scott Gomez and Jarome Iginla, perhaps. The hagiography of Saint Patrik (Elias), with a whole chapter on how he can consume dumplings and kolachi and still be pure muscle.