April 28, 2015

Reality Check: Travels in the Australian Hockey League by Will Brodie



From the author:Yes, there is ice hockey in Australia. There’s a fragile but thriving national league and my book Reality Check: Travels in the Australian Ice Hockey League chronicles a year in the AIHL, where dedicated locals and adventurous internationals train and play like professionals, but no-one gets paid.

I spent a year visiting the quirky outposts of this unique hockey backwater, making three trips each with arch-rivals Melbourne Mustangs and Melbourne Ice.

Australian ice hockey is intense but informal, exhilarating but irreverent. It thrives on grassroots improvisation yet utilises social media savvy to expand its national audience. In 2014, the passion of this community saw a disbanded team reborn in a week and delivered a dramatic finals series followed like never before.

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April 11, 2015

2014 Hockey Books




All The Way: Jordin Tootoo with Stephen Brunt
Bench Bosses
Boy On Ice: The Life And Death of Derek Boogaard
Changing The Game: A History of NHL Expansion
Chris Chelios: Made In America
Conversations With A Rattlesnake by Theo Fleury
Defining Moments: Toronto Maple Leafs
50 Greatest Detroit Red Wings
Facing Wayne Gretzky
Fuhr: Grant Fuhr with Bruce Dowbiggin
Frozen In Time: History of Minnesota North Stars
The Great Defender by Larry Robinson with Kevin Shea
Hockey Card Stories
Hockey Confidential by Bob McKenzie
Hockey Hall of Fame Book of Trivia by Don Weekes
The Hockey Saint
Ice Storm: Rise And Fall of Vancouver Canucks
It's Our Game by Michael McKinley
The Last Hockey Game by Bruce McDougall
Mr. Hockey: My Story by Gordie Howe
NHL Treasures: Third Edition
Old Timey Hockey Tales
On The Origin Of Hockey
Puckstruck
Save By Roy
Saved! by Clint Malarchuk
Showtime
Straight Up And Personal by Don Cherry
Tales Of A First Round Nothing by Terry Ryan
Teemu
The Ultimate Cookbook for Hockey Families
Warriors On The Ice

Kids Books:
The Boy In Number Four
Calvin the Cookie Maker
Duck With The Puck
Hero's Ho Ho Ho Hockey Dream
Iginla Sparks The Flames
My Granny Loves Hockey
Super Scorers
Great Goalies
Dominant Defensemen

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January 27, 2015

He Shoots, He Saves by Jon Waldman


He Shoots, He Saves by Jon Waldman.
Buy The Book - Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

From the publisher: Whether it’s a ticket stub from a game that father and son saw together, an autographed photograph from a hero, or a puck that went up and over the boards, hockey memorabilia is a record of our beloved sport’s history.

He Shoots, He Saves looks at hockey’s collectibles from hockey cards to commemorative beer cans to postage stamps. The book features artifacts from all 30 NHL teams, the greatest players of all-time, the WHA, the international game including the Summit Series, and the women’s game. Hockey greats such as Martin Brodeur, Frank Mahovlich, Ted Lindsay, and Sidney Crosby recall their own days collecting and offer their perspectives on memorabilia.

Joe's Take: This is an interesting book in that while it is very much about hockey collectibles, it is also a very neat introduction to the history of hockey.

The book's first 70 pages or so look exclusively a hockey collectibles throughout the years, touching on the obvious like hockey cards, books, magazines, pucks, pocket schedules (I never really understood that fetish) and arena artifacts but also looking at some of the more oddball collectibles like bottle caps, stamps, cereal boxes, and, of course, bobbleheads.

In the next 300 pages the author gives us brief run-downs on each franchise (plus some defunct teams), key players and key moments in the game's great past. Waldman tries to tie memorabilia into the conversation, though at times it strays away from that. Never fear, the text is laced with dozens of photos of neat collectibles that make this book as fun to flip through as it is to read from cover to cover.

Take a look at this book. Collectors will love it and any hockey fan can learn some hockey history in these pages.

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January 26, 2015

2015 Hockey Books: Who Is Wayne Gretzky?



Who Is Wayne Gretzky?
Buy The Book: Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

The latest in the successful Who is ... ? (or Who was ... ?) series is Who Is Wayne Gretzky? The elementary children series looks at famous people - past and present - and tells their story. Gail Herman and Nancy Harrison write Gretzky's story, hitting all the major talking points nicely but without including unnecessarily too much. It's just a perfect fit. Ted Hammond provides the series' trademark illustrations

As a kid I would have loved such biographies. The series includes Who Were the Wright Brothers?Who Was Isaac Newton? and Who Was Jackie Robinson? This is a fantastic series that should be in elementary school libraries and classrooms, but in parents' homes. I know I will be getting a few for my nephews over the next few eyars.

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January 24, 2015

Black Ice: The Val James Story


This is the cover image of Black ice, a new autobiography by former NHLer Val James.

Black Ice: The Val James Story
Buy The Book - Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

 Who is Val James? He is an almost entirely forgotten about hockey player from the past. But hey, I don't blame you for that. He played only 11 NHL games (plus 3 more in the playoffs) in his career and there are 1000s of guys like that who equally as memorable than him.

So why has Val James his autobiography and, more importantly, why should you read it?

First off, a bit more about the book. From the back cover, "Val James became the first African American player in the NHL when he took to the ice with the Buffalo Sabres in 1982, and in 1987 he became the first black player of any nationality to skate for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Born in central Florida, James grew up on Long Island and received his first pair of skates for his 13th birthday. At 16, James left home to play in Canada, where he was the only black person in junior and, often, in the whole town. While popular for his tough play and winning personality, the teenager faced racist taunts at opposing arenas, and the prejudice continued at all levels of the game. In his two NHL stints, James defined himself as a smart team player and opponent, known for his pugilistic skills.

Black Ice is the untold story of a trail-blazing athlete who endured and overcame discrimination to realize his dreams and become an inspiration for future generations."

That doesn't do nearly as good a job of catching your attention as in the inside flap:

"His teammates looked away, pretending not to notice that feared hockey enforcer Valmore James was crying . . . Less than one hour earlier, Val and the Buffalo Sabres had finished playing a fierce road contest against the Bruins at hockey's hallowed Boston Garden.

The years of dreaming and hard work and fighting - especially the fighting - had all brough him to this point. The moment he took to the ice, on a spring evening in 1982, he had become part of a tiny fraternity of American players who made it to the pinnacle of Canada's national pastime. Much more than that, Val James had become the first black American to ever play in the NHL. There had been no ceremony, no public address announcement. But Val knew. And if his dad were still alive, he would have known, too. Still, the tears were not born of the joy of finally making it to the show. Nor were they from the pride of being the first African American to do so. The tears that slipped past his scarred fists were tears of shame. And rage."

Now that is more like it. It immediately draws us in, capturing our attention with an intriguing story, as well as the promise of well written text (John Gallagher writes with James).

Unfortunately it turns out that James was crying because some classless Boston Bruins fans were blocking the Sabres team uttering racial slurs, while his teammates stayed silent.

No, Val James hockey story is not your typical story.  Here's more from Gallagher, as told to a recent SIHR audience:

"Val was the son of migrant farm workers from the Deep South who moved to Long Island during the JFK years to work on the farms that then filled large swaths of Long Island. Val was introduced to ice hockey at the late age of 13 when his father was hired as a night watchman at the Long Island Arena, home rink of John Brophy and the Long Island Ducks of the old Eastern Hockey League. From these humble roots, Val worked his way up through the lowest minor leagues to a place in hockey history as the first American-born black player to skate in the NHL as a member of Scotty Bowman's Buffalo Sabres. He would also become the first black player of any nationality to play for the Maple Leafs in the hockey mecca of Toronto. Val is remembered as a legendary enforcer and beloved teammate but the untold story of the abuse he had to endure and overcome on the way to his impossible dream is shocking and inspiring."

The book ends with a chapter called "As others recall it" where nothing by quotes by former players, coaches and team officials tell some of the James story. Those voices include Scotty Bowman, Mike Keenan, John Brophy, Paul Stewart, Ted Nolan and Nick Fotiu. It is an interesting, honest read.

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January 18, 2015

Chill Factor: How a Minor League Hockey Team Changed A City Forever

The hockey world will set its eyes on Columbus, Ohio next weekend as the National Hockey League mid-season All Star Weekend visits the city.

It is the first time that All Star Weekend will be held in Columbus. That's not really a surprise. The Columbus Blue Jackets have only been in the NHL for 15 years now. For the most part the Blue Jackets have had little impact in the hockey world. There was the expected expansion growing pains followed by a few years of irrelevance, at least outside of Ohio. They made great strides in 2013-14 with strong performances from Ryan Johansen and Sergei Bobrovsky, but have regressed this season thanks in large part to injuries.

Through it all the hockey fans in Columbus have been loyal and supportive. It is proving to be a good hockey market, which has surprised many of us. We wondered about corporate support and lack of a hockey history in a city that loved it's college sports, especially football, which ultimately is a commentary on our ignorance more so than the market place perhaps.

Columbus has had professional hockey since 1966. The International Hockey League hosted three different variations of Columbus hockey. First it was the Checkers, then the Golden Seals, and then the Owls. But by 1977 pro-hockey (and it was pretty low level of minor league hockey back then) had exited Columbus for a decade and a half.

Pretty unimpressive stuff, so far.

In 1991 the ECHL welcomed the Columbus Chill, and the hockey landscape changed forever in Columbus.

Chill Factor: How A Minor League Hockey Team Changed A City Forever is a new book that examines how this minor league hockey team changed a city forever, and paved the way for the National Hockey League's arrival by the turn of the century. It is written by long time Columbus sports writer Craig Merz along with former Chill president and general manager David Paitson.

Paitson was the man very much responsible for much of the success. He was the marketing genius who used edgy and innovative campaigns that attracted the attention of the town. It was refreshing and an authentic, and at times controversial. But this Ohio State University mad town were very receptive to their aggressive tactics (one reporter called going to the hockey game was like "the world's ;arg and, against long odds, really supported their upstart minor league hockey team. The rink was filled, including one stretch of 83 consecutive sell-outs.

Chill Factor is a fun story of off-the-wall marketing and keen vision turning a college sports town into a a major league NHL city. And with that Columbus' sleepy downtown was transformed thanks to the billions of dollars of development created by the new downtown arena. And with that, the city's status was changed in the eyes of outsiders.

It is told through the words of the man responsible for setting that vision, sports executive David Paitson.

Buy The Book - Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

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December 26, 2014

1984 Canada Cup Comes To DVD

Paul Coffey was a wonderful offensive defenseman, putting up numbers from the blue line that rivalled the great Bobby Orr. He was known for great outlet passes, his manning the point on the power play, and, above all else, his skating ability on those end to end rushes he was so good at.

But one thing he was not known for was playing defense. Which is funny because the lasting image of the 1984 Canada Cup has always been a brilliant defensive play by Coffey, which he quickly turned into an offensive rush and set up the dramatic winning goal. It is the quintessential Paul Coffey play.


Ah the wonders of the ol' Canada Cup tournaments. I bet you didn't know that released two days before Christmas 2014 was the Canada Cup 1984: 5 Disc DVD Collection, featuring all games involving Team Canada. Two days before Christmas certainly doesn't allow for capitalizing on the Christmas rush, but who am I to criticize the marketing team?

The key thing is the Canada Cup '84 is now available for us to relive. Buy the DVD box set here: Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com.

That's right - We can relieve the heroics of Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Raymond Bourque, Michel Goulet, Mike Bossy and all of Team Canada as the slowly come together through the round robin, win the classic semi-final against the Soviet Union and defeat the surprising Swedish team in the two game finale.

We also get a look at then-youngsters like Steve Yzerman, Dominik Hasek, Hakan Loob, Scott Stevens and Chris Chelios.

We also get semi-final game commentary by Team Canada assistant coach Tom Watt and Hockey Hall of Fame journalist Scott Morrison. In addition, we get many of the classic interviews and, yes, the always popular classic commercials from the original broadcast!

As a bonus, the final game of Canada Cup 1981 is also released on DVD. The Russians handed Canada their worst loss ever in that game, 8-1, likely ensuring we will never see a commercial release of that tournament. So the curious will want to see this game, too, and it is a great way to set up the drama of 1984.

Canada Cup DVDs already exist for 1976 and 1987 . Could 1991 be far away?

This also seems to be a great time to share this rare photo. It is of the jersey exchange after the tournament's final game, then tradition in such international friendlies. Here Montreal Canadiens teammates Mats Naslund and Larry Robinson exchange sweaters. Clearly Naslund's does not fit big Robinson very well.


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December 23, 2014

En Route To St. Moritz Gold



Roger Godin, veteran hockey historian, is back with another paper he calls a monograph. For $3 plus shipping you can learn all about Boston's University Club's 1928 upset of the ultimate Olympic champions in En Route To St. Moritz Gold.

The Boston's University Club, not to be confused with the Boston University hockey team, actually played the Allan Cup champions University of Toronto Grads twice prior to U of T travelling to the Olympics and easily winning the gold medal. But the Bostonians gave U of T all they could handle in a 2 game, total goal series which ended tied 2-2, including a 1-0 victory for Boston in game 2.

Godin goes on to tell us that the United States did not ice an Olympic team in 1928, but wonders what would have happened had the Boston Univesity Club worn the red, white and blue.

Here's some YouTube footage of Godin presenting his paper at a Society For International Hockey Research meeting:



If you are interested in acquiring this monograph, please contact Mr. Godin directly. It costs $3 plus shipping.

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December 8, 2014

Tales of a First Nothing by Terry Ryan



Tales of a First-Round Nothing: My Life As A NHL Footnote
Buy The Book: Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

From The Publisher: Terry Ryan was poised to take the hockey world by storm when he was selected eighth overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1995 NHL draft, their highest draft pick in a decade.

Expected to go on to become a hockey star, Ryan played a total of eight NHL games for the Canadiens, scoring no goals and no assists: not exactly the career he, or anyone else, was expecting.

Though Terry’s NHL career wasn’t long, he experienced a lot and has no shortage of hilarious and fascinating revelations about life in pro hockey on and off the ice. In Tales of a First-Round Nothing, he recounts fighting with Tie Domi, partying with rock stars, and everything in between. Ryan tells it like it is, detailing his rocky relationship with Michel Therrien, head coach of the Canadiens, and explaining what life is like for a man who was unprepared to have his career over so soon.

Joe's Note - I wish every hockey autobiography was as open and as entertaining as Terry Ryan's. In fact it should be mandatory reading for any player who is about to write his memoirs. While Ryan's storytelling can be a little crude, a little meandering and lacking a little polish, it was a refreshingly open read that I couldn't put down. Page after page there were more great stories - stuff you couldn't possibly make up. Most jock bios just touch on all the major milestones, often without saying much at all in the entire volume. But Ryan has a fantastic hit on his hand.

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December 6, 2014

Hockey Book Review: Jean Beliveau: My Life In Hockey

Magnificent. Awe-inspiring. Compelling. Special. Honest. Classy.

Normally these words are reserved for Jean Beliveau, one of the top 10 hockey legends of all time and a man who everyone, hockey fan or not, respects and admires.

But today these adjectives, and there are never enough, are reserved for his re-released autobiography Jean Beliveau: My Life in Hockey.

Buy The Book: Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

The Beliveau story has long been a literary classic. First published in 1994 and expanded in 1995. The book was co-written with Chrys Goyens and Allan Turowetz. Now you know the always articulate Beliveau was very hands on in every incarnation of this project, but Goyens and Turowetz lend their literary prowess to make this book as strong as any book in the hockey world.

I recently review unauthorized biographies of Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe. Both were absolutely wonderful books and incredibly well written, but they both suffered from the lack of participation from the story's main character.

Now imagine a book of the same quality and of a legend of the same ilk, only this time the character is not only involved but incredibly open, personal and refreshingly frank. That has always been the magic of Beliveau's autobiography.

This magic is even more pronounced in the 2005 release, as Beliveau becomes even more reflective.

After a new foreword by Wayne Gretzky, Beliveau opens with a new chapter called "The Best Seats In The House" where it is clear he has been facing mortality for some time. He talks about his teammates who have left us, remembering lost heroes Claude Provost, Doug Harvey, Jacques Plante, J.C. Tremblay, Bob Turner, Gerry McNeil, and most importantly Rocket Richard. Just days before the Rocket's passing, Beliveau was dealt a sobering dose of mortality when hockey's ultimate gentleman was diagnosed with cancer.

Beliveau fascinates the reader just by being honest and articulate. From that point on you are captured by the book's magic.

Unlike many re-published titles, the opening chapter and new foreword are not the only new additions of the book. Most of the original chapters return in their original glory, but polished up to better connect with modern times. Beliveau enters into such topics as the 2005 lost season and the new NHL in his approach to introducing new readers to his original chapters such as "La Vielle Capitale," The Tug-of-War," "The Fantastic Fifties," "The Neglected Sixties," "The Players," "The Bobby Orr Revolution," and "The Second Floor."

Beliveau also concludes the book with two new chapters, "We Are All Fans," where he looks at his and our love of the game, and "Legacies," where he has realized his greatest legacy, after a life in hockey, may not be on the ice after all.

The original Beliveau biography is a hockey classic. But this 2005 Greystone Books re-release is so much better. I didn't know that was possible to do. It is and has been done, although its too bad one of the finest gentlemen you'll ever know had to go through so much hardship and loss to accomplish that.

Overall Book Rating: 5/5 Hall of Famer

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