November 30, 2007

Ranking the 2007 Hockey Book Titles

It is a question I've been asked commonly this hockey book season: Which of the new hockey books is the best?

Unlike in 2006, I did not feel that there was truly a must-have title that would go on to be a classic. Of course such books are rare in jock literature, but last year I felt Stephen Brunt's Searching For Bobby Orr will achieve that lofty status.

Without that clear number one, it really is tough to say which hockey book I would deem to be the best. The content should be the bottom line, and therefore any listing is really based on personal preference.

But people want to know, and Christmas shopping time is running out. So without further adieu, here's my ranking of the best newhockey books published in 2007.

#1 World of Hockey - I really enjoyed this IIHF release because I felt it offered the greatest educational experience. No matter what age or level of fan you may be, this book will wow you but not overwhelm you with information. It is also a beautifully laid out book with great historic photography. All in all, I have no second thoughts on naming this book as the best of the 2007 hockey book season.

#2 King Of Russia - From a literary stand point, this is probably as close as any book gets to the classic label. It is a fascinating look into one year of a great coach, a strange but passionate hockey land, and many characters.

#3 Gretzky To Lemieux - Another rare literary contribution. The iconic moment sells itself (has it really been 2o years already?), but a very nice job by Ed Willes here. He captures all the moments and lays them out nicely.

#4 Clancy With The Puck - It's supposed to be a kid's title, but this is probably the most beautifully produced hockey book I've ever seen. Great work Raincoast! Casey At The Bat hits the ice.

#5 Walking With Legends - A typical jock book, but from a unique vantage point. Hockey Night In Canada has been the voice of hockey for generations, and author Ralph Mellanby saw it all. He shares he memories of the players, the great moments, and the broadcasters who help make our favorite moments so memorable.
#6 Maple Leafs Top 100 - Beautiful book, interesting project. Could have been even better, but it is certainly a great addition to your collection or your coffee table.

#7 THN's Top 60 since 1967 - The Hockey News didn't put a lot of money into production quality, which was a disappointment, but the scope of their project is interesting nonetheless. And no, its not a regurgitation of their Top 50 Players Of All Time project from 10 years ago.

#8 McCown's Law - Controversy sells, and lots of hockey books attempted to stir some up this season. But no one does it better than Bob McCown

#9 Future Greats and Heartbreaks - A great author with a great idea, but no real defining moment or conclusion. The author attempts to get an inside look in the world of scouting. This book has potential to be a good read a few years down the road as we begin to look back at the draft classes of 2006 and 2007.

#10 Red, White and Blues - A real nice project here by Timothy Gassen, and a real unexpected surprise that would be a great addition to any collection. The topic of Indiana hockey is probably too small to warrant a higher ranking, which is unfair to Gassen I know. A must have for WHA fans or those curious about Gretzky and Messier's days in Indy.

#11 By The Numbers - I like this book because it is different. The topic is unique, thoroughly researched and a great conversation starter. The book is beautiful in it's layout and photography. Every hockey fan can enjoy this book.

#12 H.E.A.R.T - Cassie Campbell's juvenile entry is part autobiographical and part how-to. A great Christmas gift idea for a young athlete in your family, male or especially female.

#10 Reflections - Incredible photography, and a good cause. But no captions and no reading.

#11 Maple Leafs A-Z - I'm not a big fan of this book.

2007 Hockey Books not yet reviewed:

As the Puck Turns by Brian Conacher
Minnesota North Stars: History and Memories with Lou Nanne by Bob Showers
The Complete Hockey Dictionary: More than 12,000 Words and Phrases and Their Specific Hockey Definitions by Andrew Podnieks
Hockey's Young Guns: 25 Inside Stories on Making It to "the Show" by The Hockey News
Lord Stanley: The Man Behind the Cup by Kevin Shea and John Jason Wilson
New Game: How Hockey Saved Itself by Steve Paikin
Travels with Stanley by the Hockey Hall of Fame
Cold-cocked: On Hockey by Lorna Jackson

All in all, 2007 has been a decent hockey book season. Depending on your personal tastes, I'm certain there is at least a couple of great titles for every hockey fan this Christmas season.


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