November 17, 2008

Habs Heroes by Ken Campbell

Who is the greatest Montreal Canadiens' player of all time?

Is it Rocket Richard, with his unbridled passion and hunger to be the best defining not only the team but a whole population? Or is it Jean Beliveau who reigned regally with class and distinction that also came to define Les Canadiens?

Or maybe it was the first superstars in Montreal, Howie Morenz or Newsy Lalonde, who set the bar high. Or was it the stylish and electrifying Guy Lafleur? Then there was the revolutionary Jacques Plante and Patrick Roy in net. Some oldtimers will still tell you Doug Harvey was better than Bobby Orr, while others quietly suggest Henri Richard was a better all-around player than his more famous older brother.

Right there I just named 10 serious contenders for the title of the greatest Montreal Canadiens player ever. And I didn't even mention Boom Boom Geoffrion, Dickie Moore, Ken Dryden, Larry Robinson or most of the 40-plus Hall of Famers who wore les bleu, blanc et rouge.

Naming the top player ever is tough enough. But The Hockey News and senior writer Ken Campbell go all out for the Montreal Canadiens centennial season and rank the top 100 players in Canadiens history in the new book Habs Heroes: The Definitive List of the 100 Greatest Canadiens Ever

I'm not going to tell you who earned top billing, but I will rave about this title's great tribute to the Montreal Canadiens and so many great players.

Campbell sought out help from a panel of experts, specifically Frank Orr, Eric Zweig, Ralph Mellanby, Scott Abbott, Louis Jean, Jacques Demers, Yvon Pedneault, Bertrand Raymond, Chrys Goyens and Michel Vigneault. Don't get me wrong, these experts all offer qualified opinion, but when I think of I think of Montreal Canadiens experts still amongst us I think of Red Fisher and Dick Irvin Jr. I'll throw in Dave Stubbs' name, too.

Regardless, the experts come through with a definitive list, leaving Campbell to document and analyze each player's contribution.

The biographies are more often than not quite brief, maybe 1000 words for each of the lesser known players. Still, thanks to the many colour photographs, the book is already 300 pages long. A more in depth profile of each player would have been an unrealistic. Campbell does a good job of finding something interesting to say in these constraints. Even the most die-hard Habs fan will chuckle at some stories and learn something new.

Also, it is worth noting that the book is of high production quality, answering complaints of recent books put out by The Hockey News. This book is full of color photography and nice layouts, all on glossy pages. The book's presentation matches Campbell's writing level, making this book extra appealing.

There are several impressive Montreal Canadiens competing for your Christmas dollars this year. You can not go wrong with Habs Heroes: The Definitive List of the 100 Greatest Canadiens Ever.


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