June 12, 2008

Howie Meeker's Hockey Basics

Margaret Atwood. Pierre Berton. Lucy Maud Montgomery. Farley Mowatt. These authors are easily recognized as Canada's best.

We can include in that group Howie Meeker. I kid you not.

In November, 2005, the magazine Literary Review of Canada commissioned the ultimate list of Canadian literature. The top 100 titles were recognized for "Canadian importance and influence" rather than literary quality. The titles were ranked chronologically.

Howie Meeker's Hockey Basics, published in 1973, was included by the panel, the only hockey book to make the list. Here's what the LRC had to say about Meeker's text:

Meeker’s book was hugely influential in shaping the way Canadians play hockey today. A former NHL player, Meeker was a commentator for Hockey Night in Canada in the early 1970s—a sort of anti–Don Cherry who decried the goonery in the game and the lack of basic playing skills. When Meeker was a commentator for the 1972 summit series with the Soviets, his arguments were borne out when the best hot-dog talent in the NHL very nearly lost to a disciplined Russian team. The shock prompted a searching reappraisal of how hockey was taught to youngsters, and Meeker’s book, written in the aftermath of the 1972 series, became the blueprint for how to do so.

Okay, a hockey book (or 5) making the top 100 I can understand. But Meeker's instructional manual seems like an odd choice.

It's all about timing. This book came out in the aftermath of the 1972 Summit Series. Previous revolutionary instructional books, most notably Lloyd Percival's The Hockey Handbook, were dismissed as radical. But after seeing what the Soviets, devoted Percival disciples, were capable of, the country was ready for Meeker's entry. People ate up the book and the spin-off television segments.

A whole generation of Canadians grew up with the hockey drills as taught by Howie Meeker. That is why this coaching manual, one of 100s over the years, is the only hockey book to make the Literary Review of Canada's 100 most important books in Canada.

Whatever happened to Butt?

My question: Whatever happened to the two kids on the cover, Andy and Butt:


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