May 21, 2010

Stole This From A Hockey Card by Chris Robinson

On a recent wet and cold camping trip I snuggled up in my sleeping bag and tried to ignore the wind by reading one of my many hockey books I brought with me. I picked the right book, as, completely oblivious to the chilling wind, I breezed right through Chris Robinson's 2005 offering Stole This from a Hockey Card: A Philosophy of Hockey, Doug Harvey, Identity and Booze.

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The book, often written in a series of vignettes, is an effortless read and very well written. It is part biography of Doug Harvey, and part memoir of our narrator, who we assume is the author Chris Robinson. He sees his life as comparable to Harvey's, and this book is in many ways his discovery not only of Harvey and of hockey, but of himself.

Harvey, of course, is one of the greatest hockey players ever, though he was doomed by alcoholism and depression. This drew in our author. Tragedies make for good stories, and we get a double dose here. Fortunately for our author he seems to have overcome his demons. That's something Harvey never seemed to have accomplished.

Now I know what you are thinking. Why would I care about the author's troubles. Well, even if you don't, this book still serves as an excellent insight into the life of Doug Harvey, at least as assumed by our author. And the majority of the book is about hockey anyways. But, like me, I think you will be drawn into the life of the author. While reading of the author's childhood love of all things hockey I certainly was left nodding, knowing exactly how he felt. I can't relate to his adult addictions, but by then I saw enough of myself to be pulling for his recovery.

Besides, in contrasting his own life with Harvey's the author thoroughly explores his philosophies, and that is what makes this book so good. He has lots to say about family and growing up, as well as hockey and, by extension, Canada. The book is very well written, with the author using very raw and often expletive language. He also seems to narrate with emotions matching his own time line - angry as a kid, drunk as a young adult, and finally with a calm clarity as a middle aged recovering alcoholic. It comes across as honest and genuine.

This is one of the most unique hockey biographies you will ever read. I highly recommend it for your own cold camping trip, or wherever else you want to read it. This book has so much more to offer than most hockey books.


Aubrey December 17, 2015 at 2:50 PM  

I know that this book has been out for 10 years and you reviewed it over 5 years ago, but having just read it, I just had to take a moment to add my endorsement of this extremely well written book. Yes, it is much different than virtually every other "hockey" book but it is interesting to travel with the writer as he narrates his own life and the life he sees of the late Doug Harvey. Harvey's battle is long over; my hope is that our author continues to win his.

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