There are hundreds of hockey writers in North America, but nobody who writes hockey as eloquently as Jack Falla.
In fact, whenever I read something written by Falla, I kind of feel the same way he did when he first read a column by George Frazier of the Boston Herald: “It showed me what I could aspire to, though never attain.”
All of which brings me to Falla’s latest work, Open Ice: Reflections and Confessions of a Hockey Lifer, a compendium of a baker’s dozen of heartwarming essays, all of which center around the game, but also deliver some astounding insights on hockey, life, love, spirituality and mortality.
That there is simply no more talented hockey storyteller on the planet is clearly evident after reading Open Ice. One of Falla’s many talents as a writer is his ability to take his reader deep inside the event and experience all the same emotions he is feeling. You feel as though you are sitting in the passenger’s seat as he drives home from Maurice Richard’s funeral, that your blades are digging into the ice on the Rideau Canal beside him, that you’re going through the same angst while trying to find the perfect pair of skates.
The insights he gives you are always, always poignant. He talks about the drive back from Richard’s funeral and how he burst into tears and cried like he had only a handful of times in his life.
“I cried less for Maurice Richard and his family and the French-Canadian people than for my own losses,” Falla wrote. “For a mother loved but incompletely grieved, for a grandmother loved but inadequately thanked, for a sense of my own Frenchness – the dominant half of who I am – nearly lost in the dark aftermath of death.”
There is light even in the darkness when Falla writes, but there is also some great humor. In one essay, he talks about his angst over dropping Alexander Frolov from his fantasy hockey team while visiting the Sistine Chapel, and how awkward he felt when he fist-pumped a Kari Lehtonen shutout (worth five fantasy points) for a shutout over his beloved Boston Bruins.
Open Ice is due for release this fall and follows on the heels of Falla’s previous work, Saved, a novel that chronicles the fictional life of an NHL goaltender. To borrow a metaphor from Falla, give the guy credit for going into the literary corners. When was the last time you read a good piece of adult hockey fiction?
But Falla is all about going off the beaten path, which in and of itself isn’t all that original. But nobody in hockey writing does it with Falla’s elan. Open Ice will definitely not disappoint on that front.
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