January 12, 2009

Seahawk: Confessions Of An Old Hockey Goalie

I have a confession to make.

When former US Navy pilot Bruce Valley told me about his personal hockey memories, I was not expecting a whole lot. His book reminisces about his lifelong love affair with the game of hockey, but more specifically his youth playing with the local team in small town New Hampshire.

Who is going to want to read that, was my silent question. The answer turns the answer is every real hockey fan and then some.

The book is called Seahawk: Confessions Of An Old Hockey Goalie. Remember that name because it is an early 2009 release, but it will get a lot of attention in hockey circles, not to mention serious consideration for the 2009 HockeyBookReviews.com Hockey Book Of The Year Award.

Upon receipt of the book I was shocked to see the ringing endorsements on the book's back cover and opening page. Dave Bidini, author of Tropic of Hockey and The Best Game You Can Name, not to mention one of few true literary geniuses in the world of sports literature, absolutely raves about this book.

"With Seahawk, the author rescues a great and moving hockey story from oblivion and, in the process, creates a world where sport and the lives of players are explored in exquisite detail with assured, writerly poise."

But Bidini takes his praise to a much higher level when he compares Mr. Valley's efforts to that of two legends of the hockey book world.

"A fine literary descendant of Jack Falla's "Home Ice" and Peter Gzowski's "The Game of Our Lives." Like any good hockey book, it teaches us more about the world than hockey itself."

Wow. With an endorsement like that, I had to dive into the book right away.

The book is a compelling and intimate read about hockey and life. Valley is a life long goalie, still basking in glow of his greatest hockey moment, even though that came back in the 1950s.

Valley was a teenage goalie for the home town Rye Seahawks, a team made legendary, at least locally, by grizzled veterans of the second World War. Valley grew up dreaming of playing for the Seahawks. They were his NHL, his Boston Bruins.

Valley is amazing at recapturing his youthful love of hockey and of the Seahawks. He is a gifted writer, beautifully sharing his insights in a most enjoyable read. Though he is writing this book in reflection, he speaks with great exuberance that it is as if his youthful innocence never left him.

But of course it has. He is now in his 60s. He flew planes in the US Navy for years before starting his own aerospace company. He had a family. He explored his love of jazz and poetry. Yet he continued to play hockey. Hockey keeps him young. Hockey keeps him alive.

In reading his passionate words, we the reader rediscover our own childhood lust for hockey. It is a great experience. Depending on how old the reader is, we can all relate as Valley moves on from his youth through his life. We all take different journeys, but hockey is always with us.

An obviously sentimental and reflective man, a reader will quickly realize that Seahawk is not so much a history of a hockey team in New Hampshire, but a tribute to the game in it's purest form, a thank you to the World War II veterans, and a revealing coming-to-grips account of getting older.

In fact, the aging theme reminded me very much of another New Englander, the late Jack Falla, who wrote about hockey and aging in Open Ice: Reflections and Confessions of a Hockey Lifer, the HockeyBookReviews.com Hockey Book Of The Year in 2008. Both have similar stories about outdoor rinks and, more importantly, life.

What was it that Dave Bidini said again?

"Like any good hockey book, it teaches us more about the world than hockey itself."

Seahawk: Confessions of an Old Hockey Goalie is a very good hockey book.

A note about the book's release - Seahawk is scheduled for general release in June, but has been available in parts of New England since before Christmas, 2008. Early success has prompted publisher Peter E. Randall Publishing to make the book available through Amazon.ca and Amazon.com early. You can also get copies from the author's website.


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