... Hockey season begins!
The NHL just released the 2015-16 schedule which fittingly begins on Wednesday, October 7, when the Chicago Blackhawks will raise their latest Stanley Cup banner to the ceiling of the United Center. But how, oh how, to occupy your time between now and then and get your hockey fix (particularly since this summer in Chicago seems to be trending wet and gloomy, making us think more of dreary November than sunny June)? And since most of the other teams in Chicago are... as usual. Okay, so maybe it's not been THAT cold... but we've definitely been lacking in sunshine. And the Cubs actually are contending this year... for now. But if it rains, well, how better to while away a rainy summer afternoon than with a good book... a good HOCKEY book. So presented for your consideration, an eclectic mix of titles all about "the Fastest Game on Earth."
Behind the Net: 101 Incredible Hockey Stories
Stan Fischler, Sports Publishing, 2013
Who doesn't love an incredible factoid told with style and verve? A well-known sports broadcaster presents photos and recollections of amazing, hilarious and absurd events that took place during hockey games over the past half-century, including Bill Mosienko scoring three goals in 21 seconds,Rene Fernand Gauthier accepting a challenge to shoot the puck in the ocean and Sam LoPresti facing 83 shots on goal in one game.
Crossing the Line: the Outrageous Story of a Hockey Original
Derek Sanderson, Harper Collins 2012
Because everyone enjoys a rise, fall and rise again story... set against a fresh backdrop -- HOCKEY! Here's an eye-opening story of the life of one of hockey's greatest players of the 1970s era. At the high point of his life, Derek was playing for the Boston Bruins, he was the highest paid athlete in the world and he was a winger for Bobby Orr. His rough and ready-for-anything style helped lead his team to two Stanley Cups. But the high was not to last (it rarely does) as he plummeted so low he ended up sleeping on a park bench. This is a story about Derek's rise to fame, his fall into blackness and his struggle to pull himself back onto his feet. That may sound familiar, but the candid, engaging writing style breathes fresh life into this "fall down twice, get up three times" tale. Today, Derek is a financial adviser for young athletes to help keep them from making the same mistakes that he did.
Bob McKenzie, Harper Collins 2014
You can't miss with a book with the word "confidential" in the title! McKenzie has over 350,000 hockey fans following him on Twitter and millions more on The Sports Network TSN. He's the quintessential hockey insider with over 35 years of experience in analyzing the game. He definitely has the access and the experience to bring some juicy stories to light. In this book, he goes behind the scenes, covering the inside stories, some lesser-known personalities and the events that shape the game.
Don't Call Me Goon: Hockey's Greatest Enforcers, Gunslingers and Bad Boys
Greg Oliver, ECW Press 2013
Because I never could resist a bad boy... In professional hockey, enforcers are often as popular with fans as the stars. Called upon to duke it out with a fellow troublemaker, or to shadow an opponent’s top scorer, these men get the crowds out of their seats, the sports-radio talking heads buzzing, and the TV audience spilling their beer in excitement. This book highlights a rogue's list of mayhem-makers from old timers like Joe Hall and Red Horner; to legendary bruisers like Tiger Williams, Stu Grimson, and Bob Probert; to fan favorites Tie Domi and Georges Laraque; and contemporaries such as Arron Asham and Brian McGrattan. It also explores the issues that plague the NHL’s bad boys — suspensions, concussions, controversy — and looks ahead to the future of tough guys in a changing era.
The Boys of Winter: the Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980s U.S. Olympic Hockey team
Wayne Coffey, Crown 2005
Yeah, so you know how it ends, so what? Some things are definitely worth revisiting. The author digs deep to depict the personalities and the breathtaking action on the ice. This saga of how coach Herb Brooks motivated a roster of 20 amateur, mostly college-age young men to orchestrate victory over an established Soviet team of seasoned, professionally trained skaters may be familiar, but believe it or not, it still offers suspense and heroism. Brooks emerges as an obstinate, aloof, but savvy coaching genius who elicited perseverance, grit, and a strong ethic of teamwork. This was a team full of dreamers, rather than a Dream Team.
So there you have it, five books to enrich your hockey dreams until the boys of winter make their return...
I ate up the Olympic Games when I was a child, Winter and Summer. I was glued to ABC, entranced by genial host Jim ("the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat") McKay, who also hosted "Wide World of Sports" ("spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport"). I was fascinated by the foreign locales and host cities. I was thrilled by the displays of grace and strength in exotic sports of which I could only dream. In fact, I remember a writing assignment in 2nd grade in which I kept a journal, complete with illustrations, written under the persona of an Olympic downhill skier. Nevermind that I had never skied in my short life, (and still haven't) flatlander Chicagoan that I was, bred and born! I was enthralled by the dashing French skier Jean-Claude Killy and his trio of medals in the Alpine events in the 1968 Winter Olympics held at Grenoble, France. (I confess that I think I still have that relic of my childhood education tucked away in a trunk in the basement.)
Of course, back in the day, both the winter and summer games were held in the same year and thus came around only once every four years, so it seemed like even more of an event. Now, with the staggered schedule, there is less of an Olympic drought in between. Perhaps that is why I am a little more blasé about them as an adult, although yes, I still watch my fill.
The 2012 London Summer Olympics begin in one week, so there's still plenty of time to do a little preliminary reading and research on this mega-event which celebrates the heights of athleticism throughout the world.
How about starting with a little historical perspective?
The Naked Olympics: the true story of the ancient games (Random House: 2004)
A history of the original Olympic games depicts the events of the first competitions more than 2000 years ago, during which tens of thousands of sweltering-hot spectators watched nude athletes participate in such events as hoplitodromia, a full-armor sprint, and the pankration, a no-holds-barred lethal brawl. Travel writer Perrottet treats readers not only to a thorough picture of the games' proceedings but also to glimpses of the shameless bacchanalia, numerous (and often lascivious) entertainments and even corruption that accompanied them. Hmm, sounds like not a whole lot has changed...except the sporting goods companies like Nike and Reebok would never let their endorser-athletes complete sans apparel. How would they show off the swoosh? Perhaps a well-placed tattoo?
History of a more recent vintage...
Igniting the Flame: America's First Olympic Team (Lyons Press, 2012)
The author tells the little-known story of the first modern Olympics, the 1896 Summer Olympics, highlighting the difficulties faced by a fourteen-member American team which had virtually no support heading into the games, held in Athens, Greece. Here's one remarkable anecdote among many: an American Olympian shows up for the discus event, having never really tried it before; some accommodating Greek athletes offer to demonstrate, he practice a bit and winds up winning. Reisler skillfully weaves his story from several narrative threads: the resurrection of the Olympic Games, and the men behind their revival; the primitive means of travel and lodging (no fancy Olympic Village here with 24/7 food courts); and the stories of individual athletes and events.
Hitler's Olympics: the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games (Sutton: 2006)
The Berlin Olympic Games, which remain the most controversial ever held, will have their 80th anniversary in August 2016. Using newspapers, diaries and interviews to recreate the atmosphere during the XIth Olympiad, the author presents an account of the disputes, the personalities and the events which made these Games so memorable. Hitler, of course, used the Games as one of the largest propaganda exercises in history. African-American Jesse Owens won four gold medals in a shining moment for America.
A suitable companion or alternative to the above might be...
Triumph: the untold story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics (Houghton Mifflin: 2007)
Schaap (an ESPN host) touches briefly on Owens's life before and after 1936, including his Alabama childhood and his later work for the State of Illinois, focusing most of the book on Owens's track and field heroics. Blessed with amazing speed, he set NCAA records in numerous events. With the help of high-school mentor Charles Riley and college coach Larry Snyder, Owens qualified for the Olympics. After a debate about whether participation in the Nazi Games was ethical—a discussion that had special meaning for African-Americans, whose circumstances were indeed similar to those faced by German Jews—the U.S. elected to compete, setting the stage for Owens to show the world a true superman not descended from Aryan stock.
Rome 1960: the Olympics that changed the world (Simon & Schuster: 2008)
Whether you prefer sports, politics, or history, the author has you covered in this engaging study of the first commercially televised Summer Games. There were several other firsts in Rome: the first doping scandal, the first athlete paid to wear a certain brand, the first African-American to carry the U.S. flag in the opening ceremonies. The games fed Cold War propaganda as the Soviet Union surpassed the U.S. in the medal tally. Maraniss loads his narrative with human interest stories (the barefoot Ethiopian Abebe Bikila), personal rivalries, judging squabbles, come-from-behind victories and inspirational stories of obstacles overcome (American track star Wilma Rudolph). It might not be true that these Olympics changed the world, but they definitely showcased the changing world of that era.
A gold medal to anyone who finishes all five before the Summer Games begin!
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