It’s the middle of the summer and you’re a hockey fan jonesing for some puck talk to get you through to the fall. Unless you’re an NHL development camp obsessive, it’s not going to be easy. But there is a way to immerse your mind in hockey at this time of year. It’s through an ancient, time-honored method called “book-learnin’”. There’s never any shortage of quality hockey books worth reading, but here’s a short list of a few that ought to be at or near the top of your list:
– The Game, by Ken Dryden. Still the hockey book by which all other hockey books should be judged, Dryden’s masterpiece makes clear that the Hall of Fame goalie was an even better writer than he was an athlete. It teems with incredibly insightful hockey observations and exquisite use of the language, and is an absolute must-read for any fan.
– Journeyman: The Many Triumphs (And Even More Numerous Defeats) Of A Guy Who’s Seen Just About Everything In The Game Of Hockey, by Sean Pronger with Dan Murphy. If there’s one thing you learn covering the NHL, is that there are tons of players who aren’t superstars, yet who are far more engaging and hilarious than many of the marquee names that garner most of the spotlight. In his 10-year on-ice career, Pronger – older brother to all-time great Chris Pronger – was just such a player and he’s assembled a hysterical collection of stories from his time in the pros. You’ll laugh hard and often, but you’ll also gain a better appreciation for the foot soldiers and worker bees of the game.
– Game Misconduct: Alan Eagleson And The Corruption Of Hockey, by Russ Conway.. If you want to know what created the deep and lasting sense of mistrust between NHL players and team owners, Conway’s brilliant book – in which he chronicles the utterly shameful actions of former NHL Players’ Association kingpin Alan Eagleson and a league only too willing to conspire against its athletes – is your best bet. By the end of it, you’ll never look at the NHL the same way again.
– Tough Guy: Life On The Edge, by Bob Probert with Kirstie McLellan Day. The legendary enforcer passed away before his book was published in 2010, but he thankfully had time to relay riveting stories of his memorable peaks and brutal valleys as the most feared man in the sport. Parts of this read like the autobiography of a wild rock-and-roller, and in many respects, that’s precisely the life Probert led. But more importantly, it also humanizes him.
– Home Ice: Reflections on Backyard Rinks and Frozen Ponds, by Jack Falla. Falla, a former Sports Illustrated hockey writer and Boston University journalism professor, was a master of capturing the essence of the sport before his untimely passing in 2008 at age 64. He was a wonderful guy I was fortunate to know, and I can’t recommend enough all of his books. But this one in particular – on the game, his backyard outdoor rink, and his family and friends – is especially touching.