Espo, Orr and 48 more
Author Fluto Shinzawa had the difficult task of taking the Boston Bruins’ 92-year history and boiling it down into his book “The Big 50: Boston Bruins: The Men and Moments that Made the Boston Bruins.” (Though it is too bad that someone couldn’t boil down the book’s title to less than 14 words.) As the title abundantly suggests, the book reads like a highlight reel of the Bruins’ best players and defining moments. But Shinzawa doesn’t just focus on the high points; some of the team’s darker moments are spotlighted.
Shinzawa reaches way back into the old time hockey era with tales of players such as Dit Clapper, Eddie Shore, Frank Brimsek, Milt Schmidt and the “Kraut Line.” Of course, modern greats get their due as well: Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, Johnny Bucyk, Ray Bourque, Cam Neely, and Zdeno Chara, among others.
It isn’t all just wine and roses, though. Shinzawa makes the bold decision to recount some of the lowest points in the B’s history: Ted Green’s traumatic head injury, Joe Thornton’s ill-advised trade to the San Jose Sharks, and the infamous “too many men” call in the 1979 semifinals. Even Ken Dryden — arguably the biggest nemesis the Bruins ever faced — gets his own chapter.
Unlike a standard history book, “The Big 50 Boston Bruins” doesn’t go in any order, liberally skipping from era to era. For a new fan, this book serves as a great primer on one of the NHL’s oldest teams. For the veteran, “The Big 50 Boston Bruins” is a mostly-happy trip down memory lane.
What I like about “The Big 50 Boston Bruins”: Not surprisingly, Shinzawa — the Bruins’ beat writer for The Boston Globe — has exceptional knowledge of his topic. I marveled at all of the tidbits and little-know facts that he squeezed in here and there throughout the book. Seasoned fans and even diehards will learn a thing or three. Also nice is that the book is printed in full-color.
What I do not like about “The Big 50 Boston Bruins”: See that clip art picture of the Bruins jersey on the book cover? That same picture is used ad nauseam throughout this book. What this book really needs though is more pictures of the actual players that are discussed. For example, Shinzawa talks about the famous photo of Bobby Orr, but that photo is never shown. Heck, I would have even settled for a photo of the statue based on the photo. There’s a chapter about goaltender Gerry Cheevers and his iconic “stitches” mask, but no photo of either. Meanwhile, pictures of others are placed haphazardly throughout: Don Cherry is shown in a chapter about the Bruins’ playoff comeback in 2013, Chara is pictured in Cheever’s chapter, while Bourque and Esposito are shown in a chapter about Tim Thomas because, I assume, that is where the book’s designer could squeeze in a picture.
The information in “The Big 50 Boston Bruins” is rock-solid, but the presentations could use improvement. ■