One of the cool things that happens when you write a hockey book is that… hey, have I mentioned that I wrote a hockey book? I totally did write a hockey book. I probably should have brought it up on twitter or something, because I’m sure people would have been interested in hearing more information about that.
OK, I’ll shut up.
But as I was saying, one of the cool things that happens when you write a hockey book (which I did) is that other people who write them too start sending you free copies. So this fall, in between bouts of vaguely annoying spamming, I’ve been reading some excellent hockey books.
If you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping yet (and let’s face it, you haven’t), here are five titles to consider stuffing a few stockings with this year.
Journeyman, by Sean Pronger
Sean Pronger spent a decade in the NHL, including brief stints with… well, everyone. This is his story, and while it doesn’t involve the thrill of a championship or detailed descriptions of what it’s like to win hardware at the NHL awards show, that’s kind of the point. This isn’t the typical superstar’s biography – Pronger takes you the life of an NHLer who’s often just barely hanging onto a job.
I enjoyed it thoroughly, although I admit I got a weird vibe from the chapter titled “That time my younger brother strangled the blogger who kept making fun of him” that just reads “Coming in the next edition”.
The Instigator: How Gary Bettman Remade the League and Changed the Game Forever, by Jonathon Gatehouse
If you’re an NHL fan, or at least used to be a lockout or two ago, you have a strong opinion of Gary Bettman. But have you ever wondered about the facts behind the man’s story? Of course not, because you’re on the internet and once you have a strong opinion about something the last thing you want is to be exposed to facts about it. But in this case, you may want to make an exception.
Instigator is unlikely to change your mind about Bettman, but it’s still a fascinating and definitive look at the NHL’s most controversial figure. You can read an excerpt at Deadspin.
Hope and Heartbreak in Toronto: Life as a Maple Leafs Fan, by Peter Robinson
There have been more than a handful of books about the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans over the past few years, and most of them strike a similar theme: Man, what is wrong with these idiots, amirite?
Hope and Heartbreak takes a different approach. Author Peter Robinson is a diehard Leafs fan, and he’s not apologizing for it. Instead, he walks through many of the most memorable Leaf moments of the past few decades. Oh sure, it’s still mostly misery. But this time it’s coming from a Leaf fan’s perspective. Fellow Leaf fans will enjoy it, and fans of other teams will maybe, just maybe, start to understand.
Breakaway: From Behind the Iron Curtain to the NHL - The Untold Story of Hockey's Great Escapes, by Tal Pinchevsky
There’s an entire generation of hockey fans who’ve grown up in a world where European stars play in the NHL without raising an eyebrow. Of course Ovechkin and Jagr and Chara came to North America. Where else would they be?
Older fans remember that it wasn’t always that way. Up until the late 80s, Eastern European athletes had two choices: stay home, or risk everything in a daring attempt to defect. This wasn’t a case of filling out paperwork – defecting often meant a complex plot with little margin for error. As a result, Breakaway often reads like a cross between a hockey history book and an international spy novel. Definitely the most unique hockey story you'll read this year.
The Best Seat in the House: Stories from the NHL Inside the Room, on the Ice and on the Bench, by Jamie McLennan and Ian Mendes
Jamie McLennan is a former NHL goaltender who backed up Ron Hextall, Grant Fuhr and Roberto Luongo, among others. Ian Mendes is quite possible the second best hockey book author produced by Carleton Journalism’s class of ’98. Together, they’ve put together a collection of entertaining and insightful hockey stories that cover just about any subject imaginable and a few that probably shouldn’t be.
I ran an excerpt a few months ago, featuring coach Mike Milbury almost being punched into orbit by Wendel Clark.
And with that, we'll call it a wrap for 2012. Thanks to everyone who read the blog and spread the word. Oh, and also everyone who bought the book. Did I mention the book?
Happy holidays to everyone. I'll be back in the new year. Let's hope against hope that the NHL might be too.