Sunday, February 13, 2005


Reflections on a trip to Barnes & Noble:

-It's an incredible relief to be able to go into the Current Affairs section and no longer be confronted with 50 books titled "I Hate George W. Bush and his Evil Chimp-Like Smirk", or some variant thereof.

-Ken Dryden's The Game is quite simply the best, most thoughtful book about hockey ever written. Originally published in 1983, the book is a snapshot of the NHL as it stood 25 years ago. Dryden was a legendary goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, playing 8 seasons between 1971-79, winning the Stanley Cup in six of them. He retired in 1979 after leading the Canadiens to their fourth straight cup.

The Game reads almost like a stream of consciousness. Dryden was not your typical "jock". He graduated from Cornell, and attended law school while playing in Montreal. Dryden writes about everything from the Canadiens and their various rivals, the nature of being a professional athlete, life in the Canadiens locker room, to the origins and nature of hockey itself. His account of a game against the Detroit Red Wings, for example, offers a fascinating glimpse into the psychology that unfolds when a great team plays a bad one. For those who only know the Red Wings based on their success of the last decade, it will no doubt come as a revelation that the team of Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Chris Chelios was once the team of Dennis Polonich, Nick Libbett, and Willie Huber.

The new edition has a superb afterword discussing how the NHL has changed from 1979 to the present. Anyone wishing to understand the league's current plight should read it. Overall, I highly recommend The Game.

-Finally, I also recommend The Boys of Winter, a terrific account of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" by New York Daily News sportswriter Wayne Coffey. The book is very similar in format to Geoffrey Douglas's The Game of Their Lives, which tells the story of the USA's unbelievable 1-0 victory over England at the 1950 World Cup. Like Douglas, Coffey builds his story around a minute-by-minute narrative of the game itself, in this case the historic USA-USSR medal round game in which the Americans shocked the heavily favored Soviets 4-3. Interspersed within this account are the stories of the individual players and coaches. Coffey also does a great job of giving the Soviet side of things and putting the game into the overall context of the times.


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