July 30, 2020

Memories of the 1980 Edmonton Oilers

As I sit in Edmonton on the eve of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, I can't help but think back to the great days of the Oilers dynasty.

Though I grew up a Canucks fan, it was pretty hard not to be an Oilers fan in the 1980s. The Canucks were brutally bad most of the decade, and were almost always feasted upon by Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers. 

The Oilers were nearly unstoppable. They were cocky and tough, high flying and electrifying. They were the most entertaining team I have ever watched.

More over, they were winners. Five Stanley Cup championships in seven years, with Stanley Cup final appearance directly preceding that. Modern teams try to spin their successes as such, but the Edmonton Oilers truly were the last hockey dynasty.

Of course the Oilers were led by #99, Wayne Gretzky. There is no doubt in my mind he was the greatest player whoever played the game. Others will say Bobby Orr, or Gordie Howe or Mario Lemieux. And I will not argue that they were better players necessarily. But the best player is a different argument than the greatest player. The greatest player had the greatest career. And no one comes particularly close to The Great One.

Mark Messier deserves his due in Edmonton. I am a harsh critic of his for his time in New York and especially Vancouver, but in Edmonton he was truly a force. Gretzky's presence kept his ego in check, and coach Glen Sather knew how to unleash Messier at the right time. When the Oilers needed something to change the pace of the game, the Messier line (always with Glenn Anderson at his side) would lead the way with physical play or incredible speed or a big goal.

I could never quite figure out Glenn Anderson. Clutch goal scorer who seemed to always come through the bigger the game was, Anderson could go all night without being remarkable, too. A wonderful skater, his interest in the international game always intrigued me. Early in his career he said he would like to play for the Soviets back before the Iron Curtain came down. As a kid I wondered if it was possible for the Oilers to trade him to the Soviets and who would the Oilers receive in return.

Everyone thinks of Paul Coffey's skating ability when they think of the Oilers star defenseman. That and his reputation for being basically a "offenseman" and not playing defensively particularly well. Scott Niedermayer may be the only player in my lifetime to rival Coffey's skating ability, but when I think back to Coffey's heyday I always think of his first pass brilliance out of his own zone. I think Coffey may be the most underrated player in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Aside from Gretzky, he was so integral to the Oilers emergence.

Jari Kurri was always Gretzky's wing man, quite literally. His goal scoring totals were amazing, but it took a while for the hockey world to give Kurri recognition as one of the best two way players in the history of the game.

Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog were a fantastic tandem, with Bill Ranford arriving later on. Only Fuhr ended up in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but as a BC kid I was always a little more partial to Moog and Ranford. Fuhr played the game purely by instinct. I think he worked harder at his scratch golf game than his hockey sometimes, which is an unfair knock on my behalf. If he could play games and never practice I think he would have been thrilled.

Kevin Lowe was a key guy in the dressing room and one of the best defensive defensemen of his time. Is that enough to get him in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Well, apparently as the HHOF enshrined him in 2020. But I have to disagree. He was good, but was he better than other defensive stalwarts of the era like Brad McCrimmon or Mike Ramsay or Jamie Macoun? None of those guys were close to the era's gold standard of Rod Langway. Lowe was good but his one ice contributions were not as integral to the Oilers' success as the other enshrined Oilers. There's a bit of an "old boys network" smell to this enshrinement. 

Some of my favorite Oilers were the grinders, the role players, the supporting cast. 

Esa Tikkanen was a favorite of mine until the day the Oilers traded Gretzky to the Kings. The Oilers then used Tikkanen to shadow and annoy Gretzky and he was perhaps the most successful player in that impossible shut down role. As a Gretzky fan, I just wanted Tik to go away.

Guys like Marty McSorley, Kevin McLelland, Craig MacTavish, Craig Muni, Charlie Huddy, Steve Smith, Lee Fogolin and Randy Gregg were big and mean, and provided more defensive play than the Oilers were ever given recognition for. Yes, the Oilers were all about offense in the 1980s, but for that ten year period they were ranked 10th (out of 21 teams) defensively.  Average defensively is okay when you had the offense the Oilers had. Their goal differential for the decade was +797 in 800 regular season games after all.

(I believe it was the old coach Tom Watt who said something to the effect that the Oilers always started the game with a one goal lead because of Wayne Gretzky's presence. How right he was!)

Will there ever be a true hockey dynasty again? The salary cap structure suggests no. That is both good and bad. Good as in parity is needed so that fans of every hockey team have to believe their team has a chance to win the Stanley Cup, if not now then in the near future. But it is bad, too, in the sense that we may never see truly great teams ever again.


October 15, 2018

Book Review: Block That Shot: The Bob Chrystal Story

This is Bob Chrystal. Now I know what you're thinking - who the heck is Bob Chrystal? And, why is there a book about him in 2018?

Chrystal, born in Winnipeg in 1930, played two seasons with the New York Rangers. He patrolled the Broadway blue line in 1953-54 and 1954-55, providing a physical presence with his rugged and enthusiastic play. He also added 11 goals and 25 points in 132 total NHL games.

Before turning pro, Chrystal was a key member of the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Manitoba Junior League, twice appearing in the Memorial Cup, including in 1949 when they lost a heart-breaker to the Montreal Royals.

After his junior career Chrystal spent a year in the USHL with Denver before spending two seasons with the AHL Cleveland Barons. After his two years with Cleveland he was traded to the NHL Rangers.

After his two year stint in the Big Apple concluded, Chrystal returned to the Canadian prairie and the old Western (professional) Hockey League. After a year with the Saskatoon Quakers he returned to Brandon to play with the Regals. Unfortunately the Regals moved to Saskatchewan and later St. Paul, Minnesota, so Bob's homecoming was short though sweet.

In 1958-59 Chrystal played his final season of serious hockey in his hometown with the Winnipeg Warriors.

Now, all these years later, up and coming author Ty Dilello has helped the 88 year old Chrystal pen his autobiography.

Why do you want to read about a long-ago player you likely never heard of when there are so many other hockey books out every year?

It's because every hockey player has a story to tell. And you may discover that a relative no-name like Chrystal has a more interesting story than some. It's a story that will take you back in time, both in terms of hockey in it's golden age, and life on the Canadian prairies and even in New York City when it was a much simpler time. 

The book also features a fascinating collection of newspaper clippings from the Chrystal family collection as well as first hand memories from Emile Francis and Stan Fischler.

Don't dismiss this book about that guy you never heard of before. It might just be the best read of the season.

Block That Shot: The Bob Chrystal Story is now available.


August 15, 2018

Book Review: Kevin Shea's The Hall

The new hockey season is upcoming, and that also means a new hockey book season.

And if the first hockey book of the new season is going to be any indication, it's going to be a fantastic year for hockey book enthusiasts.

Kevin Shea writes The Hall: Celebrating Hockey's Heritage, Heroes and Home. On the Hall of Fame's 75th anniversary, and the 25th anniversary of the Hall's move to the famed Bank of Montreal building in downtown Toronto.

The book is billed as "A stunning hardcover book that features dramatic and compelling imagery and uncovers the fascinating history of the Hockey Hall of Fame." It is rare that anything lives up to that type of hype, but this book truly does.

With all the photos and features this book serves as both a page turning coffee table book. But there is enough text in here for even the most studied hockey fan to enjoy at length. By now every hockey fan should know a book with Kevin Shea's name on it will be nothing short of fantastic.

The book covers everything from the earliest visions by the Hall's founders to the ghost that haunts the bank where the Stanley Cup resides. Honoured members are front and centre, including a great story about how a kid working at the Hall tried to give Wayne Gretzky some advice on how to shoot a puck at the interactive shooting display.

You will have to wait until September 10th to pick up the book in stores and online. It is part of the National Treasure Series of books that celebrates the Hockey Hall of Fame. The first, A Century of NHL Memories, had a different aura about it that this new book exceeds.


January 18, 2018

Nine Lessons I Learned From My Father

There has been no shortage of literature on the great Gordie Howe over the many years.

But I do not think I enjoyed a Gordie Howe book more than son Murray Howe's tribute Nine Lessons I Learned From My Father.

It is a most unique look at "Mr. Hockey." Written by Murray Howe, the youngest of his three sons and the only one who did not follow his father into professional hockey. 

 “I am still in awe at the thought that Gordie Howe was my father,” he writes.

Yet he teaches us that Gordie was just like any one of us, and that we are all capable of extraordinary things. Gordie Howe's true calling was not to be the greatest hockey player ever, which many will say he was. Howe's true calling was to be "Mr. Hockey," and as such the game's greatest ambassador.

Murray Howe wanted to be just like his hero - his father. He did not want to be a hero like Gordie Howe, gladiator of the rinks. He just wanted to be like his dad - the amazing man off the ice that most of us never really knew.

It is quite the moving read. There are some great stories about Howe the hockey player, but even more about Howe off the ice and, especially, Howe the family man. His battle with health and aging are well chronicled. This is the truest look into an extraordinary life.

On a personal note I wish I had read this book before I became a step dad well over a decade ago. I spent a lot of time trying to be something the girls would be proud of - a published author who worked with Hockey Canada, the NHL and Canadian Museum of History. On top of that I tried to be a remarkable runner. It was all intended to teach them that with hard work anything is possible. But as the younger Howe tells us in this book it wasn't the fact that his dad was who he was that made him a great dad. Through the nine lessons he teaches us its far more important to be present and buy ice cream. That's what makes you a hero in your kid's eyes.

Check out this MacLean's article featuring Wayne Gretzky interviewing Murray Howe. It in itself is a fantastic read. Be sure to watch for the bookstore on shelves this holiday season.


November 30, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews: J.P. Bickell, When The Moon Comes, and Killer

J.P. Bickell: The Life, The Leafs, and The Legacy

I have to admit this one surprised me. I mean, why would I, a western Canadian hockey fan, care about the businessman who financed Conn Smythe's Toronto Maple Leafs? That was how many years ago? And, ugh, yet another Leafs book, and this one about some guy no one has ever heard of? But J.P. Bickell: The Life, The Leafs and The Legacy is a fascinating read.

It's a fascinating read mostly because, as it turns out, this is not a hockey book so much as a Canadian history book (well, maybe Ontario history). It just so happens that J.P. Bickell was an incredibly important figure and continues to be many years after his death.

Bickell was a self made millionaire mining magnate who left an enduring legacy not only on the entire industry but the many communities who benefited from such development.

That made Bickell a very wealthy person, and he spread his wealth around. He was instrumental in the founding of the Famous Players movie theatre chain - think about that when you go to the movies next time. He fought in World War II and became very interested in aviation. And he was a great philanthropist. In fact half a century after his death his foundation continues to give away his money to hospitals, scholarships, art galleries and children's camps.

Bickell was also a financier of many sports, most notably the Leafs and Maple Leaf Gardens. He also was involved in boxing, boat racing, baseball and golf.

See, this isn't just another Leafs book. Far from it.

When The Moon Comes

Author Paul Harbridge and illustrator Matt James have teamed up to bring us the fantastic new hockey-themed children's book When The Moon Comes Out.

It's about hockey at it's best - kids playing shinny on the frozen pond. Only this book takes place in the dark of the night, with only the full moon to light the way. Anyone who has ever played the game this way understands what a unique experience this is.

James' brilliant use of colour truly captures the dark and cold so that you can almost see your own breath. Okay, not quite, but it does give you the chills of the black night and really sets the atmosphere for the story itself.

Harbridge's story matches the visual sensations, taking the readers on a nostalgic journey to a simpler time when hockey was beautiful.

Think I'm wrong? Well the people who shortlisted the book for 2017 Governor General's Award for Young People's Literature are on my side.


Doug Gilmour tells all in his autobiography Killer, as told to Dan Robson. It's a story of the Canadian Dream as the hockey-loving kid makes it all the way to the big leagues. He was one of the premier players in his day, and became near-immortal as the heart and soul of the Toronto Maple Leafs for a short time in the 1990s. He was arguably the best player in the world for some of that stretch.

That Toronto connection instantly puts this book on the best sellers list, as too many of the Maple Leafs books tend to do. The endless line of Leafs fans will enjoy this book, as will many other hockey fans from Gilmour's era. He was a well travelled superstar, extending his fan base.

It's an easy read, with some good stories, but for the most part this is a typical jock-talk book. You'll get some insight into the man himself and some of the events of his career. But for the most part this is another pedestrian addition to the world of hockey literature.


November 11, 2017

Golden Boys: The Top 50 Manitoba Hockey Players Of All Time

I do have to preface this commentary with the fact that the author of this book, Ty Dilello, and I have become good friends. And he was far too nice to me with his mentions of me in his new book, Golden Boys: The Top 50 Manitoba Hockey Players of All Time.

Young Dilello is a rising young star on the hockey literature scene. When I learned he was undertaking this historical effort, I was excited to see how he tackled it. After all, hockey in Winnipeg and Manitoba goes back a long, long ways. We all know about guys like Jonathan Toews and Ed Belfour And there's no shortage of information on the superstars like Bobby Clarke and Terry Sawchuk, regardless of what era they're from. But how will he get a take on Bones Raleigh or Dan Bain?

The answer is through impressive, unending research. Dilello scoured every source imaginable, be it the written record or, where possible, talking to the player or their families.  He even scoured through military documents. The result is a true understanding that is passed on to the reader in the book.

The other thing that is passed on is the author's passion for the project. Some hockey books can seem tired or forced. Dilello's enthusiasm for the research comes through time and again as you flip the pages of this book.

The book's format is obvious. The top 50 players in Manitoba history are ranked. I won't give away the rankings other than to say that they are both accurate and sure to create debate and dialogue at the same time.

It's a good book regardless if you're from Manitoba or not. You will learn lots about all of the players involved as well about hockey in general.

The book also has this wonderful trailer on Vimeo:

Golden Boys (Trailer) from Ty Dilello on Vimeo.


November 9, 2017

25 Years of Thunder

TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today their 25th anniversary book titled 25 Years of Thunder officially goes on sale Thursday, October 12. The book will also be available this Sunday at the Lightning's 25th Anniversary Celebration at Expo Hall featuring the 1992-93 team.

Fans can purchase the commemorative book for $35 ($25 for Season Ticket Members at AMALIE Arena) at Tampa Bay Sports at both the AMALIE Arena and International Plaza locations as well as online at www.TampaBaySports.com. Additionally, the Lightning are taking orders for a special, limited edition book signed by Phil Esposito, Dave Andreychuk, Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Brian Bradley, retailing for $125 while supplies last.

The 144-page hardcover book takes fans on a journey through the franchise's 25 seasons in the National Hockey League and features iconic photos from the organization's early days, Stanley Cup run and much more. The preface of the book is written by Lightning founder Phil Esposito and forward by owner Jeff Vinik. 25 Years of Thunder also features articles written by former players including Dave Andreychuk, Vincent Lecavalier and Brian Bradley as well as current captain Steven Stamkos. Other contributors include FOX Sports Sun's Paul Kennedy, LightningInsider.com's Erik Erlendsson and the Lightning's Matt Sammon and Bryan Burns.


November 6, 2017

Forever Faithful: Celebrating The Greatest Moments of Cornell Hockey

Jim Roberts and Arthur Mintz have put together a beautiful book all faithful Cornell hockey fans - of multiple generations - simply have to have.

In Forever Faithful: Celebrating The Greatest Moments in Cornell Hockey have a stunning tribute to the Big Red. They look at the last 60 years of the hockey team's modern history - both men's and women's - and honour the great teams, many heroes and the wonderful fans.

Roberts and Mintz accomplish this by reliving 24 of the greatest games in Cornell hockey history. That includes the 1967 and 1970 national championships, including the magical 29-0 1970 season. These memories make up the bulk of this 280 page shrine which is loaded with photos.

A big reason for Cornell's success in the late 1960s was due to it's most famous graduate - goaltender (and history student) Ken Dryden. Dryden, a noted author in his own right, wrote the book's foreword. It is beautifully done, and naturally draws all hockey readers who are removed from Cornell. This glimpse into Dryden's life at that time is an excellent read.


November 2, 2017

Nine Lessons I Learned From My Father

One of the top hockey books of 2017 is Nine Lessons I Learned From My Father by Murray Howe. Yes, Howe. As in Gordie Howe was his father. Murray, a doctor, may not be as well known as his NHL playing brothers Marty and Mark (who came out with his own book, Gordie Howe's Son, in 2013) but he is a gifted writer who, perhaps because he didn't play hockey at a high level, had a special vantage point of Gordie Howe than others did.

I have not read this book yet, but it promises to be, unlike most hockey books, a true gem.

Check out this MacLean's article featuring Wayne Gretzky interviewing Murray Howe. It in itself is a fantastic read. Be sure to watch for the bookstore on shelves this holiday season.


October 12, 2017

Hockey Then To Wow

Sports Illustrated intended this book to be for kids, but I have to tell you this is a fantastic hockey history book that any hockey fan can enjoy.

In fact, my recurring thought upon the inaugural flip-through was this is the book the Canadian Museum of History or the Hockey Hall of Fame should have put out to promote their exhibits.

Aside from the choice of font and a few of the cartoony graphics, you quickly forget this was supposed to be a kids book. I would say it is an excellent introductory hockey history book for anyone, any age.

The book looks at the greatest players over the years, compares the evolution of the equipment and coaching strategies, and celebrates the records and great moments in hockey history. The women's game, some of the crazy characters over the years, and even the fans get their due, too.

While it is a great introductory hockey history book, even the most seasoned hockey fan will enjoy looking through this wonderfully presented title.

Sports Illustrated also has similar books for baseball and football. It's a safe bet basketball will get it's book next year.


Fast Ice Superstars of the New NHL by Andrew Podnieks

Andrew Podnieks is back, with an impressive lineup of research and writing help, to give us Fast Ice Superstars of the New NHL.

At first glance I was really excited about this title. Wonderfully presented throughout it's glossy and colourful pages, this book profiles more than 60 of the top young players in the National Hockey League today.

Since I'm known much more for hockey history, I have to admit to not knowing as much about the up and coming stars as I would like. Cam Atkinson was an All Star last season, and I knew nothing of him. Vincent Trochek isn't from Eastern Europe?! Sam Reinhart - now which of Paul Reinhart's kids is this?

And with Lucas Aykroyd, Rob Del Mundo and Carol Schram helping to put these biographies together, I was certain this was my chance to learn some fascinating things about today's young stars just as the 2017-18 season gets underway.

Unfortunately I found the brief biographies to be very pedestrian. Given the talent crew working on this book I hate to say that, and keep re-reading it to see if I'm being too harsh. But the profiles tend to blandly state what each player did each season. So many goals, this many points, while playing for this team that year. A quick glance at the player's stats lines can tell any educated fan this much. But the book fails to tell us more interesting stories that hockeydb.com can not.

Perhaps this book is aimed at younger fans or new fans, and it would make a good Christmas gift for them. But if you are looking for more in depth journalism about today's young players, you will have to look elsewhere.


October 5, 2017

A Century Of NHL Memories

As the NHL's centennial year is coming to a close, yet another celebratory book is hitting the stores shelves.

This may be the best one yet.

100: A Century of NHL Memories is a beautiful coffee table book full of some of the greatest photographs in the history of hockey.

There are over 150 pages of spectacular photos, both in black and white and in colour, covering the NHL's entire 100 year from 1917 to 2017.

The photos all come from the Hockey Hall of Fame collection, and are simply to be marvelled at. Accompanying the still images are the words of Phil Pritchard and Jim Hynes as they explain the importance of each captured moment. Hockey Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald provides the foreword.

Combined though the lenses of photographers and the words of our authors, the story of the NHL's 100 years is told. Sometimes coffee table books can be flipped through in no time at all, but I was enthralled by this book. It took me days to write this review because every time I picked up the book I would get lost for hours in the imagery and text.

That is the sign of an excellent hockey book.


S is for the Stanley Cup

Sleeping Bear Press is back with another strong addition to their collection of children's hockey books

Noted hockey author Mike Ulmer has teamed up with the talented illustrator Chris Lyons to give us S is for the Stanley Cup.

Not surprisingly, the book teaches kids the alphabet, with a hockey reference given for each letter. It's a tried and true formula. Sleeping Bear Press has done it before with Z is for Zamboni and H is for Hockey.

This book will keep mom and dad entertained as much as the kids. While the kids are studying the wonderful artwork with dreams of hockey greatness developing somewhere in their heads, mom or dad can read out loud about some of the fascinating stories in the Stanley Cup's 125 year history. I guarantee parents will learn something about the Stanley Cup and hockey history while passing on the love of the game to their children.

There are two things I encourage parents to do it is to instill the love of hockey and the love of reading in their children as early as possible. This book is a great way to accomplish that. It will undoubtedly be a favorite read - for child and parent alike.

The suggested interest level is ages six to nine, while the suggested reading level is grade two.


Hockey Daze by Rolf Remlinger

You may know of Rolf Remlinger and his hockey comics called Hockey Daze.

Remlinger has been capturing all of hockey's silliness, as he uniquely sees it, with his cartoons for over 25 years now. He has taken some of his favorites and compiled them in his very own book.

The book is well done. It's the kind of book you can read from cover to cover, or just leave on the coffee table and read the odd page from time to time for a good laugh. The cartoons have a certain "Far Side" feel to them.

The key to a collection of hockey comics like this is the cartoons have to a certain timelessness to it. It doesn't matter if it the actual event was from a different generation. Each selected cartoon can resonate with even the most casual of fans.

Because the collection covers so many unique situations over such a long time, it is an interesting form of a hockey history book in itself. 

What makes this more of a book than just a collection of cartoons is that Remlinger does provide background information on each cartoon to provide some real value-added content that fans will appreciate. 

That helps turn this from a collection of favorite cartoons into a true book - a true book that will leave hockey fans chuckling all the way through.

For more information visit Hockey-Daze.com or order the book at Hockey-Daze.com/Book. It's super reasonably priced making this a great Christmas buy for young kids or your beer league buddies.


September 7, 2017

The Most Anticipated New Hockey Book Of The Season

As hockey books begin hitting store shelves, a common question I've been getting is this:

Which new hockey book are you looking forward to the most?

The answer is unequivocally Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador and the Future of Hockey by Ken Dryden

Earlier this year I wondered what Dryden, hockey's most interesting man, was up to. Then came word of this ever so promising title.

The former Hall of Fame goaltender - recently named as one of the top 100 NHL players of all time - turned author/educator/Toronto Maple Leafs executive/politician has not been heard from a lot since losing his seat and federal cabinet position in 2011. He has been teaching a Canadian Studies course at McGill University in Montreal since.

But he has also been working on the new book about Montador, concussions and the future of hockey.

Dryden, of course, is noted author. He is most famous for his 1983 book The Game, which was both a commercial and especially a critical success. He also wrote Home Game and Faceoff at the Summit, as well as three non-hockey related books.

I have yet to see anything on Game Change, but this could be his most important text to date.

Obviously concussions in hockey are a big deal, and the pending lawsuit by former players threatens to change the way the game is played forever. The thing the powers that be in the hockey world need to realize is if they are not careful the lawmakers will change things instead of the hockey people.

So the hockey people need to be proactive, and Dryden looks like he will lead the way his blue print.

Equipment changes are always possible. Penalties for any direct head shot are to be enforced and strict. The elimination of fighting. These are all likely in the book.

But the ultimate game change will be in the mindset we use to approach physical play. Ultimately that may take a generation or two to achieve.

I do hope that Dryden comments on how to change bodychecking. Before the 1970s bodychecking was always condoned as long as the defending player was attempting to retrieve the puck on the play. Too often since the 1970s bodychecking is used to physically intimidate while removing the player from the puck, but leaving the puck for others to retrieve. Bodychecking should be enforced where the impeding player is still trying to get the puck while making physical contact.

This would allow for a cleaner hockey game to be played, though I do not know if it would have any result on the concussion problem itself. Presumably it would, but people far smarter than I would be able to decipher that.


September 4, 2017

Book Review: Texas On Ice

Dallas Stars are leading the league as a first class organization in many ways off the ice.

One small example - they are bucking the trend on paperless season tickets. Instead, they pamper their season ticket holders with a box of gifts as well as the traditional tickets.

One of the gifts to surprise their clients this year is the new book Texas On Ice: Pro Strides To The Stars.

The book looks at the history of professional hockey in Texas from 1942 through to 1993 when the Dallas Stars arrived. They thoroughly have it all from the Houston Apollos to the Amarillo Wrangers to the Fort Worth Texans to Gordie Howe's Houston Aeros.

The book is beautifully laid out with amazing action photography, both in color and in black and white. The text compliments the photos nicely with text that recaptures the characters, the rivalries and the Texan hockey heroes of yesterday. A statistical package completes the book perfectly.

The book is a group effort funded by the Dallas Stars, though hockey book fans will recognize the executive director of the project: Jason Farris.

Mr. Farris was a rising hockey author who was funding personal projects that put big publishing houses to absolute shame. Then he disappeared. Sort of. He moved to Dallas in 2012 and became the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the NHL Stars.

I should have been nicer to him when he was just a "nobody" in Vancouver, eh?

How does a hockey book author become EVP and COO of a NHL team? Well in his spare time he graduated from MIT's Sloan School of Management. That was after earning Political Science and Physics degrees here in Canada.

The dude is legit. The Dallas Stars - and the entire NHL - is better off for it.

Where does he find time to produce such a high quality hockey book like Texas On Ice? 

"You can accomplish a lot between the hours of midnight and 4am," he told me. I believe it!

This is actually the second book in the Texas On Ice series. Last year season ticket holders received the book Texas On Ice: Early Strides To Pro Hockey and the 1941-42 American Hockey Association Season.

The audience for this book is a lot more limited. Not a lot of people remember hockey in 1941-42, let alone the AHA which featured the Dallas Texans and the Fort Worth Rangers.

But every hockey fan should see this book, and then demand their favorite teams have such a wonderful remembrance of some significant events of the past. 

Farris' team bring back all the action and the memories exactly as they played out back then - through the clippings of the newspaper. It's such a unique presentation, where basically the past is brought back to life. I seriously love this book!

Relax, you do not have to buy Dallas Stars season tickets in order to get your hands on these books (though if you do after reading this blog, I hope Mr. Farris gives me a jersey or something). You can buy these books at the Dallas Stars team store or online at TexasOnIce.com


August 31, 2017

2017 Hockey Book Previews

Let's take a sneak peak at some of the 2017 hockey books that are hitting store shelves in the next few weeks:

And that's not even all of the hockey books!


May 22, 2015

HockeyBookReviews.com Back In Business!

Good news! The popular HockeyBookReviews.com is returning effective September 2017!

Stay tuned for exciting news about the upcoming hockey book season as well as previews and reviews of many books.

If you are an author or publisher who would like to see your work promoted at HockeyBookReviews.com, email me at teamcanada72@gmail.com about how to send me your materials!

I would like to thank the authors, the publishers, the publicists, the booksellers and most importantly the readers. These are challenging times for authors and publishers, but great hockey books continue appear on bookstore shelves and e-readers.

Let's make this a great community for all hockey book enthusiasts.


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.


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
Save By Roy
Saved! by Clint Malarchuk
Straight Up And Personal by Don Cherry
Tales Of A First Round Nothing by Terry Ryan
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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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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