September 13, 2007

Hockey Book Review: A Canadian Saturday Night

The hockey book writing machine better known as Andrew Podnieks churned out another gem with the 2006 Greystone Books release A Canadian Saturday Night: Hockey and the Culture of a Country.

The author of nearly 50 titles takes a look at how tightly connected hockey is with all aspects of Canadian culture. He examines how hockey, which began as "a geographic and meteorological fact," developed into such a significant part of our everyday lives. Even those Canadians who do not enjoy the sport can not escape it. Hockey is the quintessential Canadian experience.

Podnieks does not approach this book with any grand thesis or encyclopedic chronicling. Instead he provides an admittedly subjective history of random things that have transcended the game itself to shape us culturally, socially, politically and mythologically.

Podnieks goes on to dedicate a full page of text and unique and beautiful color photos of great Canadian experiences such as yelling "car," humming the Hockey Night In Canada theme song, collecting hockey cards, and driving by piles of Zamboni-left snow on the hottest day of summer while munching on a donut from Tim Hortons.

Other subjects include the game's language (hat trick, chiclets,) the game's celebrities (Stompin' Tom, Peter Puck, Don Cherry and the Hanson brothers), the game's defining moments of different generations (1972, the Richard riot, Gretzky's wedding) and the game in its simplest form (puck, stick, skate, outdoor ice).

The book can be read from cover to cover but it is best served as a brilliant though small coffee table book. With the museum-like archiving of how the game has become part of the fabric of daily life in Canada, the book is just dying to be flipped through.

It is written with obvious personal reflection, attempting to be at times heart-tugging and at times funny. Once or twice that humour fails as Podnieks jabs at American hockey fans, many of whom would love to read this book to better understand how the game can be a nation's unofficial religion.

As a coffee table book, I really liked this offering. The pictures are intoxicating while the subjects will touch various readers on an individual basis. That being said the coffee table book also begs to be expanded into a literary masterpiece that it is not.

Perhaps that is another project for the extremely busy Mr. Podnieks.

Overall Book Rating: 2/5 Role Player


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