October 24, 2014

Larry Robinson: The Great Defender with Kevin Shea


The Great Defender: My Unexpected Hockey Odyssey by Kevin Shea. Fenn/MS. Buy The Book - Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

Joe's Note: Hockey fans are so lucky to have Kevin Shea as part of our literature world. He has a real gift for finding his subject's voice and then presenting it to the reader in such a welcoming way. From the moment I cracked the spine of Larry Robinson's autobiography I was eager to read more and more. The pages turn so fast when Shea is writing. It is a breezy, fun read about one of the greatest hockey players of all time.    

From The Publisher: Legendary Canadien and Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Larry Robinson takes readers rink-side in this highly anticipated and poignantly told memoir. 

Larry Robinson spent 20 seasons playing in the NHL -- seventeen with the Montreal Canadiens and retiring from the game after his final 3 seasons with the LA Kings. His great size gave his teams an incredible presence on the blue line and a tremendous defender in front of their net. But he was more than just big. He was agile, he could score and he played a style that provided both offensive and defensive strengths. 

For his effort, Robinson was twice recognized as the NHL's top defencemen and his contribution helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup six times during his tenure with the team. Never afraid to drop his gloves and play a physical game, Robinson is and will forever be regarded as one of the NHL's greatest defencemen. 

In The Great Defender, Robinson relives his road to the NHL and the unexpected NHL journey that has lasted over 4 decades. He has enjoyed the good fortune of playing with greats, including Ken Dryden and Guy Lafleur to coaching the greatest of all--Wayne Gretzky. His successes as a player and coach are well-documented and in his memoir, hockey fans will now enjoy the opportunity to experience the odyssey of this legendary player as seen through his eyes, lived through his emotions, and told through his voice. Robinson's story is one of triumph and will leave readers cheering for the man fondly nicknamed "Big Bird." 

In the process of writing this book, bestselling sports writer Kevin Shea interviewed many of Robinson's teammates, colleagues, players and family members and spent countless hours with Larry himself to capture a fascinating picture of one of hockey's greatest careers.

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October 20, 2014

Changing The Game by Stephen Laroche



Changing the Game: A History of NHL Expansion by Stephen Laroche
Buy The Book: Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

From The Publisher: The complete history of the growth of the National Hockey League. Changing the Game: A History of NHL Expansion by Stephen Laroche celebrates an often-overlooked aspect of hockey history. The book provides comprehensive coverage of the NHL’s spread across the North American market in the 1920s along with the memorable expansions that began in 1967. Relive some great and painful moments from the debut seasons of forgotten teams such as the Montreal Maroons and California Seals along with fan favorites like the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. Every first-year NHL roster is covered and nearly 100 players share their memories of playing for hard-luck clubs.

Joe's Note: The book surprised me a bit in that it focuses more on the original expansion rosters rather than the process and story behind the establishing of the franchise and the market. It lacks a true comprehensive history (Laroche gives each team about team about a brief three page summary) but let's not forget the hope and magic of every new sports team lies in the cast of cast-offs who become local legends. Think Michel Briere in Pittsburgh or John Vanbiesbrouck or Scott Mellanby in Florida or Orland Kurtenbach in Vancouver. Stephen Laroche does a real nice job of capsulizing each player's first season, often highlighting a key goal or play in that team's inaugural season. Laroche includes as much commentary as he can from the many interviews with the players as possible, giving this book a real personal connection.

Stephen Laroche (follow him on Twitter) is known as a hockey card expert. He currently is an editor and author of Beckett Hockey magazines (and basketball, too) and previously co-authored the neat book Got 'Em, Got 'Em, Need 'Em: A Fan's Guide to Collecting the Top 100 Sports Cards of All Time with Jon Waldman. Laroche is a skilled writer but also a very interested hockey historian. I hope this book does well and helps him branch out in the hockey writing world. Plus with lots of talk of the NHL expanding by as many as four teams sometime this decade, it is a timely read.

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October 6, 2014

Duck With The Puck by Greg and Quinn Oliver



Greg Oliver has been emerging as a new and prolific hockey book writer in the last couple of winters. Now he's got his young son writing hockey books, too.

Here's a quip from the About The Author section: The life of author Greg Oliver and his wife Meredith changed dramatically once their son, Quinn, came along in November 2006 to mess up their Toronto home. Ever since he learned to read by age three, Quinn has wanted to write a book like his Dad. Well, here is the result.

Dad and son have combined to create Duck with the Puck. I have been reading A LOT of children's books lately - hockey related and otherwise. Having two year old twin nephews allows you to enjoy such treasures in life. Duck With A Puck will definitely be in my nephews over-grown library the next time I see them.

It's about a duck named B.D. who is happiest when winter arrives. Then he becomes the greatest hockey star in his wild world. He outskates raccoons, dekes snowmen and scores on bears. B.D. is a star not just of the pond but of pages. Kids are instantly drawn to him.

Dad and son, with the happy stylings of illustrator Annette Balesteri, have come up with a wonderful book. I suspect this is not the last time we will hear from Quinn Oliver, either.

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

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October 3, 2014

The Last Hockey Game by Bruce McDougall



The Last Hockey Game
Buy The Book: Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

From The Publisher: On May 2, 1967, Montreal and Toronto faced each other in a battle for hockey supremacy. This was only the fifth time the teams had ever played each other in the Stanley Cup finals. Toronto led the series 3-2.

But this wasn't simply a game. From the moment Foster Hewitt announced "Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States," the game became a turning point in sports history. That night, the Leafs would win the Cup. The next season, the National Hockey League would expand to twelve teams. Players would form an association to begin collective bargaining. Hockey would become big business. The NHL of the "Original Six" would be a thing of the past.

It was The Last Hockey Game.

Placing us in the announcers' booth, in the seats of excited fans, and in the skates of the players, Bruce McDougall scores with a spectacular account of every facet of that final fateful match. As we meet players such as Gump Worsley, Tim Horton, Terry Sawchuk, and Eddie Shack, as well as coaches, owners, and fans, The Last Hockey Game becomes more than a story of a game. It also becomes an elegy, a lament for an age when, for all its many problems, the game was played for the love of it.

Joe's Note: Ripe with description that brings many of hockey's characters from the past back to life, McDougall's book The Last Hockey Game is an interesting look at how hockey has changed through the lens of just one hockey game - the final game of the 1967 Stanley Cup final.

It's an interesting undertaking by McDougall. This book, which is in part play-by-play of one game but in part a history of an era gone by and a study of the after-effects to this day, feels more like a baseball book. That is a huge compliment. Everyone knows baseball is blessed with great literature. Hockey books get a bad knock, but there certainly is a gap in the number of quality books out there. Bruce McDougall closes that gap a little bit with The Last Game.

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The Hockey Saint by Howard Shapiro



The Hockey Saint by Howard Shapiro
Buy The Book: Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

From The Publisher: The Hockey Saint is a graphic novel about friendship, fame and what we sacrifice for ambition and success.

Twenty one year old Jeremiah Jacobson is the world's best hockey player, but he wasn't prepared for the frenzy and scrutiny that came with that title. Tom Leonard is an average college sophomore - just a guy trying to find his place in the world as he sorts through issues that are both very real and seemingly insurmountable.

Through a chance meeting, these two strike up an unlikely friendship. Their bond is tested when Tom discovers that his idol isn't as perfect up close as he seems from afar. With Jeremiah living a little too much in the moment and with his past catching up to him, will Tom be able to help him before it's too late?

Joe's Take - This is a neat project in that I don't think I've ever seen a hockey book in the form of graphic novel before. Keep in mind it is more novel than hockey book, thus hockey is not the centerpiece here. Instead it focuses on the relationship between college student/fan Tom Leonard, our protagonist, and the world's best hockey player Jeremiah Jacobson. Despite not having much in common it would seem, they inexplicably are drawn to each other by a chance meeting and form the quickest of friendships. However that friendship is ultimately put to the test.

I won't reveal any more of the plot than that. There are a few good messages in the storyline, such as showing a superstar such as Jacobson as a human being, and that not everything is always as it seems. And sometimes friends have to make tough decisions to help each other out.

It's a little squeaky clean in regards to how quickly the characters' relationships develop so quickly, but it is a good read for the teenager in your family. I can see a series developing here so if this book sells well I wouldn't be surprised to see a spin-off or a sequel in the future.

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October 1, 2014

Old Timey Hockey Tales Is Back!

It's taken far too long, but freelance illustrator Rob Ullman is back with another edition of Old Timey Hockey Tales!




Hockey Tales is a brilliant concept. Ullman tells the story of hockey legends, but presents it it in comic strip-style print. this time around he looks at Rocket Richard vs. Killer Dill, Gilles Gratton, Bill Masterton, Gerry Cheevers, Frank "Uclers" McCool, Barry Beck, Alfie Moore and the Miracle on Manchester.

He keeps his biographies short and to the point, but somehow captures the legacies and legends of the said players perfectly. He combines that with expert illustration, making for a most unique project. Think of it as GreatestHockeyLegends.com meets the comic book pages.

I'm a huge fan of his work and I'm glad he's catching on in the hockey literature world. He was also hired by The Hockey News to do illustrations for their new book, The Big Book of Hockey Fun

Old Timey Hockey Tales is only available through his website.

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It's Our Game by Michael McKinley



It's Our Game: Celebrating 100 Years of Hockey in Canada
Buy The Book - Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

From The Publisher: If every hockey player’s dream begins on a frozen pond, it reaches its pinnacle in a packed arena facing off against a bitter international rival. Could be the mighty Soviets. Could be the vainglorious Americans. Doesn’t matter, as long as the guys, and more recently, the women, who come from the farming villages, logging towns, and bustling cities of Canada show up to play the game the way we invented it to be played. That’s the way it’s been for a hundred years.

No game matters more than the one that pits our best against the world’s best. From the earliest days of the past century, when milkmen still did their rounds in horse-drawn carts each morning, to the Sochi Olympics, where both the men and women stood on their blue lines with gold medals around their necks as the Canadian flag was raised.

This beautiful book, with rare archival images, celebrates a hundred of the greatest moments from Hockey Canada, the organization that has given Canada its most cherished hockey memories. It’s Our Game is the definitive account of a century of Canadians working to be the best at the sport they love most.

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Facing Wayne Gretzky by Brian Kennedy



Facing Wayne Gretzky: Players Recall the Greatest Hockey Player Who Ever Lived
Buy The Book: Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

Joe's Take - There are a zillion hockey books out there on Wayne Gretzky, but author Brian Kennedy finds a new angle with his book Facing Wayne Gretzky. The author interviews Gretzky's peers - players, some are superstars and some are role players, about what it was like to play against the greatest player of all time. It is fascinating to read the first hand stories and the various strategies and tactics attempted to stop Gretzky.

The author essentially just transcribes all the various interviews, and does not attempt to present the book in any sort of organization of themes. The interviews, at times a bit raw, are just there for your consumption and it is up to the reader to search for conclusions as to why this unlikeliest of superstars went on to become the greatest player ever.

Still, there is a lot to like about this book. The strategies tried, often to no avail, by the likes of Steve Kasper, Denis Potvin and Neil Sheehy, among so many others, is the kind of inside information hockey fans crave. It does not only give us a look at Gretzky, but each of the interviewees themselves.

This is a very interesting project by Brian Kennedy. I suspect it will fly under the radar a little bit so don't forget to check this out when you see it on store bookshelves. It is fun page turner that will take you back to hockey of the 1980s and 1990s.

From The Publisher: Wayne Gretzky holds the records for the most goals, assists, and points scored in a career, in addition to about 60 other records. These feats, in tandem with his exceptional on-ice performances, earned him the nickname “The Great One” as well as the immediate retirement of his number (99) across the NHL at the end of his playing days. During his 10-year career with the Edmonton Oilers, Gretzky led the team to five Stanley Cup Finals appearances and four wins. After moving on to Los Angeles, he also led the Kings to the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals. Gretzky ended his career with the New York Rangers in 1999.

Far from a conventional biography, Facing Wayne Gretzky offers perspectives and testimonials from opponents and teammates alike, including Denis Potvin, Kelly Hrudey, Rob Blake, and many more.

Never has another hockey player achieved what “The Great One” did on the ice, and it is unlikely that one will soon. This book details what it’s like to face the best player who ever skated, illuminating his passing ability, his deceptively effective shot, and his inventiveness both with the puck and without.


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Save By Roy by Terry Frei and Adrian Dater


Save by Roy: Patrick Roy and the Return of the Colorado Avalanche
Buy The Book - Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

From The Publisher: In 2013, the Colorado Avalanche announced that Joe Sakic, a franchise legend and Hall of Fame center, would be promoted to become the new executive VP of hockey operations. Soon, Sakic was instrumental in the hiring of Patrick Roy, the greatest goaltender in NHL history, a man crucial to the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup victories in 1996 and 2001, as Colorado’s new coach. This book, a collaborative effort between seasoned sports writers and authors Terry Frei and Adrian Dater, is an opinionated, interpretive, and in-depth look at Patrick Roy’s first season as a National Hockey League coach, and the Avalanche’s surprising 2013–2014 season.

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2014 Hockey Books




Bench Bosses
Boy On Ice: The Life And Death of Derek Boogaard
Changing The Game: A History of NHL Expansion
Conversations With A Rattlesnake by Theo Fleury
50 Greatest Detroit Red Wings
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
The Hockey Saint
Ice Storm: Rise And Fall of Vancouver Canucks
Mr. Hockey: My Story by Gordie Howe
Saved! by Clint Malarchuk
Straight Up And Personal by Don Cherry
The Ultimate Cookbook for Hockey Families
Warriors On The Ice

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