In the opening pages of “Black Ice,” a 12-year old Valmore James is teaching himself to ice skate after-hours in a darkened hockey arena. Meanwhile, his pet dog is making a game of emerging from the shadows, knocking James to the ice, and running away. James believes that if he could learn to skate while dodging a charging Doberman, he would be able to avoid getting hit when playing hockey.
But during his career, it was other hockey players who would try to avoid getting hit by James. In his autobiography, “Black Ice: The Val James Story,” we follow James, as he makes the unlikely journey as a young man, transplanted from Florida to New York, who learns how to play hockey as a teenager and becomes the first African American to skate in the NHL. We also learn about the endless racially-charged hatred that he had to endure because of the color of his skin. Continue reading “Book Review: Black Ice: The Val James Story”
If you gaze at a minor league team photo long enough, you won’t see a sailboat, but you will probably find a few guys who went on to play in the NHL. It’s like watching a Burger King commercial from ten years ago starring your favorite television actor before they were famous. Only in this case, it’s a hockey player who was riding buses to far-flung midsize American towns, such as Cleveland.
So many stories about minor league hockey are of sad-sack franchises — the teams that can’t pay their players on time, have little support from the community, and end up folding or relocating in a few years. This is not one of those stories, because the Columbus Chill were not one of those teams. “Chill Factor: How a Minor-League Hockey Team Changed a City Forever” recounts the history of the Columbus Chill, one of the most successful minor-pro teams in hockey.
Just how successful was this team? The franchise got to go out on their own terms, turn a tidy profit and help build the city of Columbus into a serious contender for — and eventual winner of — an NHL franchise. Like any good story, there were setbacks along the way, but for once, the little guy comes out on top.
Compiling a list of the top 100 sports trading cards is a harder job than it sounds. Sure, you have the obvious choices, like the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, the 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan, the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky and — for those with really deep pockets — the T206 Honus Wagner.
But what comes next? In “Got ‘Em, Got ‘Em, Need ‘Em,” co-authors Stephen Laroche and Jon Waldman take on the unenviable task of listing the top 100 cards of all time. The duo does not focus solely on high-value cards. Instead, they select cards that have transcended the boundaries of their sport or that have made a historical impact on card collecting. It is a fascinating book that every collector should read.
I had high hopes when reading “He Shoots, He Saves: The Story of Hockey’s Collectible Treasures.” It isn’t every day that a book about hockey collectibles comes along. Plus, the book is written by Jon Waldman, who co-authored the excellent sports trading card book “Got ‘Em, Got ‘Em, Need ‘Em,” and is a regular writer for “Beckett Hockey Magazine.” Even better, Waldman got this book published without making it your typical price guide that slavishly informs us what every scrap of paper, ink or fabric is supposedly “worth.” That’s great, because while price guides may give values, they don’t tell the whole story.
Unfortunately, with heavy heart I must confess that “He Shoots, He Saves” did not meet my high hopes. Although well written, too much of the book talks about the teams and players, while very little actually talks about the collectibles. Continue reading “Book Review: He Shoots, He Saves”
This is one of the earliest photograph of Ed Belfour as an NHL player. It predates his “Eagle” mask. In fact, this photo is so old that he’s wearing number 1. Practically every photo you find of Belfour with the Blackhawks shows him wearing number 30, which was his number from 1990 to 1997. His 1990-91 Upper Deck rookie card (and 2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies card) shows Belfour wearing number 31. But Eddie the Eagle started his career wearing number 1 for six weeks — the same number that Glenn Hall donned for a decade. Continue reading “Ed Belfour Originally Wore Number 1”
The Lost 10 Point Night: Searching for My Hockey Hero, Jim Harrison is not your typical biography. Instead of the usual formula — early days, career and post-career with current reflections woven throughout — this is a story about both the subject and the chronicler, liberally flip-flopping between past and present. The result is a book that, in many ways, is more about the journey than the destination.
Have you ever looked at an old hockey card and wanted to know what the story was behind the photograph? Or wondered what the player thought of their own card? That is exactly what author Ken Reid thought when he wrote his new book, “Hockey Card Stories: True Tales from 59 of Your Favorite Players.” Reid, an anchor for Sportnet Central, interviewed former NHL and WHA players, picking key cards from each player’s career — sometimes their rookie card, other times just a card of interest — and talked about them. His book is a page-turner for anyone who grew up loving hockey cards. Continue reading “Book Review: Hockey Card Stories”
Five-Photo Friday is a way for me to share some of the more interesting hockey images that I have collected throughout the years. Some of these I took myself, while others are curated from various sources. Read on to see a sidewalk art from a defunct TV station, a scoreboard like you’ve never seen and a table hockey game for girls.