November 28, 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - A new series from Triumph Books

Alright, let's get down to business. There's two new books I want to talk about today, both from Triumph Books. They are identical in approach, layout and more or less cover image. And, with a little success at the cash register this season, I think we can expect future editions featuring different teams.

To kick off the series here in 2008 they asked Newsday's award winning beat writer Steve Zipay to write The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: New York Rangers. Meanwhile Adam Kimelman, a deputy managing editor of, was put in charge of writing The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: Philadelphia Flyers.

Assuming you are a fan of either team, you will enjoy this book. Others will enjoy it, too. I might have soft spots for old teams like the Rangers and Flyers, but I certainly would not call myself a fan of either. But I found both books to be entertaining and informative.

As I said earlier, both books follow the same template. Both authors look at the best and worst moments. They celebrate Stanley Cup championships and near misses, while they lament playoff collapses and choke jobs. They honour great players and great performances, while they painfully also remember overrated stars and washed-up has-beens. It's all here. The highlights and the low lights. The greats and the not-so-greats. The heroes and the goats. The wonderful and the wacky.

Interestingly, I thought anyways, the Rangers title is 120 pages thinner than the Flyers, despite having been around for 40 years longer. I really enjoyed Zipay's writing, though I found many of his player profiles, highlighted moments and especially his classic rivalries section to be a bit brief. Or perhaps a bit rushed? Despite the shorter text, I did appreciate Zipay's helmet tap to some real old timers like Alf Pike, Art Coulter and Snuffy Smith.

Perhaps the smaller page count also explains the nicer proportional distribution of the black and white photos that are scattered throughout each title, too.

Adam Kimelman offers strong writing, but that is no surprise. Before taking his current editorial job at he spent five years covering the Flyers for The Times newspaper of Trenton, New Jersey. So he definitely offers a lot to the project.

But I thought he dragged out some pieces at the expense of others. For example, while there is over 30 pages dedicated to the Eric Lindros affair, I felt full biographical features on a number of Flyers players were missing. Most of these players do get brief mentions when talking about Stanley Cup victories and long playoff runs, but they are hard to find. An index is definitely missed here.

Would these books be good for newer fans who are looking to learn more about each team's history? Yes, but not in any definitive fashion. Zipay even warns readers of his Rangers' book of that, comparing it more to a jazz tune - "sometimes sweet, sometimes discordant" - where you never really know what you are going to get when you turn the page.

I don't think either of these books will go down as a classic hockey book. But if you are a fan of either the Rangers or the Flyers, these books are certainly worth a thumb through at your local book store. There is enough here to capture the attention of a fan of either team.


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