It seems like every NHL player who has some degree of success writes a book when their career comes to an end. But what about the thousands of players who don’t make it to the NHL? What sacrifices did they make — and what scars did they pick up — along the way to ultimately fall short of reaching their dreams? In “Conflicted Scars: An Average Player’s Journey to the NHL”, ex-NHL draft pick Justin Davis talks about the hazing by teammates, horrid living conditions, and health risks he endured while playing major junior in the Ontario Hockey League. The physical scars may quickly heal, but emotional scars sometimes take decades to even be discovered before the healing can begin.
Fifty years ago was the 1972 Summit Series, where the best NHL players from Canada faced off in an eight-game exhibition series against the top hockey players from the Soviet Union. But, as it turned out, this was no mere exhibition series. In the book “1972: The Series That Changed Hockey Forever,” author Scott Morrison gives a comprehensive, almost exhaustive history of the Summit Series. Many books have been written on this subject, but “1972” might be the best.
Most hockey books chronicle the tales of elite players who were great at an early age, usually playing against older kids before going on to renowned hockey programs en route to an NHL career. “Thin Ice: A Hockey Journey from Unknown to Elite — and the Gift of a Lifetime” is not that book. Instead, “Thin Ice, ” by Ryan Minkoff, is for the rest of the players; those who work hard, get passed over again and again, yet have the drive to keep going, no matter the odds against them.
Hey, Wayne! What is This Book? Please Explain.
Stumbling around in a discount book store last fall, I found a copy of 99 Stories of the Game by Wayne Gretzky sitting by the cash register. I’d seen this book before and had passing interest, as in I was mildly interested in reading it one day, but I’d always passed on it. But this one has a gold sticker in the corner advertizing it as a signed copy and I actually had to put my eyeballs on the ink to see if was real. It was! Who is going to turn down a $15 autograph of the man whose many accomplishments also include hawking a ready to eat soup mix from your own Stanley Cup?
I will say that the title is a little misleading, or it was for me. Continue reading “Book Review: 99 Stories of the Game”
Chris Chelios is the greatest American-born defenseman to play in the NHL. He may be the greatest American to ever play hockey at any position. Chelios spent 26 seasons in the NHL, breaking in with the Montreal Canadians at age 22 in 1984, winning numerous accolades along the way, and finally retiring at age 48 in 2010.
Also, Chris Chelios is my favorite hockey player of all-time. So, I am not sure why it took me this long to review “Chris Chelios: Made in America,” penned by Chelios and former USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen in 2014. Nor can I guarantee that this will be a totally unbiased review of his book.
Regardless of how you feel about Chelios — hockey fans either loved him or hated him for his physical, almost reckless style of play — his book is an enjoyable memoir of his storied career.
The California Golden Seals have a long and storied history as the worst hockey franchise in the NHL’s 100-plus years of existence. So long and so storied, in fact, that it took author Steve Currier over 400 pages to document all of it in his book, “The California Golden Seals: A Tale of White Skates, Red Ink, and One of the NHL’s Most Outlandish Teams.” If you love a good story about a bad team, then this book is worth the read.
If there are two things that Bruce Dowbiggin loves, it is sports and business – or more specifically, the intersection between the two. He is a former sportscaster for the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) and writer for The Globe and Mail. Dowbiggin was a part of the investigation that put Alan Eagleson, the corrupt former head of the NHL Players’ Association, in prison.
He has also written numerous books about sports and business. His latest work, entitled “Cap in Hand,” explains how parity and the salary cap are ruining professional sports in North America. Dowbiggin recently spoke with Sports Collectors Digest about his new book, why pro sports must change, and how soccer gets it right.
Sal Barry: Why would someone want to read “Cap in Hand”?
Bruce Dowbiggin: If you’re like a lot of sports fans, who wonder why it is that every season starts with eight to 10 teams that basically say “we’re not going to try and compete,” then I think you’re going to want to read this book. This is a book about how we got to where sports are today, to the point where it is that teams don’t care about winning, that teams are tanking. It’s all in the service of parity for the major league sports in North America. I make the argument that the usefulness of parity is over. We want a new sports economy, and it’s time that the people that run the leagues understood that.
SB: So, why write a book about the salary cap?
BD: I wanted to write a book about the 10 or 12 most-significant player contracts in history. I wanted to show the evolution from Babe Ruth to current contracts today. My publisher suggested that I put it in a bigger context. So, that’s where the idea came in, about how salary caps have done more harm to pro sports in North America than they have to help.
SB: Why is the salary cap the main culprit?
BD: As you know, in baseball, football, basketball and hockey, we’ve lost seasons or half-seasons. We’ve lost considerable amounts of time where leagues have locked out its players to get salary caps. Was it worth it? No, it wasn’t. Whenever there is a labor lockout, the owners and their commissioner are always talking about that somehow this is going to keep ticket prices restrained. That doesn’t happen at all.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.
Do you want to give a book to your favorite hockey fan this holiday season? Then consider any of these fine books listed here. I have personally read each and every one, and highly recommend all of them.
Nearly 29 years after he skated his last shift, former St. Louis Blues center, honored Hockey Hall of Fame member and current Blues color commentator Bernie Federko finally penned an autobiography. Entitled “Bernie Federko: My Blues Note,” and co-authored with Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic, the former superstar recounts his 14-year NHL career and what came afterward. Federko — perhaps because of his subsequent career as a broadcaster — has no shortage of interesting things to say, good or bad, about those he played for, with or against.
With the NHL hockey season back in full swing, we take a look at five hockey books from the 2017-18 season that are well worth the read. And if you aren’t a hockey fan, don’t worry; these books will still appeal to anyone who loves reading about sports.
“Gratoony the Loony”
by Gilles Gratton and Greg Oliver
Gilles Gratton had a short, tumultuous career in the National Hockey League and World Hockey Association during the 1970s – but not because he lacked talent. The oddball goalie, best known for his lion mask, was sometimes said to be better than Ken Dryden when it came to his ability to stop pucks. The problem was, Gratton hated playing hockey.
“Gratoony the Loony: The Wild, Unpredictable Life of Gilles Gratton,” explores the life and times of one of hockey’s most colorful characters. Despite having the talent to garner a six-figure contract – great money for a pro hockey player in the 1970s – and representing Canada in international tournaments, Gratton sought interesting and absurd excuses to get out of playing hockey. Some nights, he couldn’t play because of a bad horoscope. Other nights, Gratton’s war wounds – incurred during his “past life” as a soldier in the Spanish Inquisition – made it too painful for him to play. The list goes on.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.