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

4 comments:

Robert September 26, 2007 at 4:55 PM  

Hello Joe,

Thanks for your review and for the site as such. Lots of good stuff, especially for people like me who experienced the "golden age" as described in Beliveau's book. I don't know if you know of it, but a very good book on Beliveau was written in 1969 by Hugh Hood, a novelist, called "Strength Down Centre". It's really well done, describing the "family" that the Canadiens organisation used to be, and includes a detailed description of the 69 season and the Canadiens' playoff victory over the Bruins. He also plays a bit of pickup hockey with Jean and offers some amazing insights. I suppose the book's out of print now.

Keep up the good work and thanks again!

Robert

Dennis,  December 5, 2009 at 12:59 AM  

I have yet to read the book, but I recall seeing a quote by Beliveau (maybe in article about Beliveau in Maclean's magazine) that the Golden Age of hockey was whenever you were 12. Does a quote like this appear in the book?

If it exists, it is similar to Ken Dryden's quote about the Golden Age of hockey being when you are young.

Any help appreciated.

Dennis H

Dennis,  December 5, 2009 at 1:03 AM  

I have yet to read the book, but I recall seeing a quote by Beliveau (maybe in article about Beliveau in Maclean's magazine some time ago) that the Golden Age of hockey was whenever you were 12. Does a quote like this appear in the book?

If it exists, it is similar to Ken Dryden's quote about the Golden Age of hockey being when you're young.

Unknown December 8, 2014 at 12:10 PM  

Would you still recommend the book? And would you recommend Doug Harvey book too?

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