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Thursday, 14 October 2010

TBC: Hockey Greats - Awesome Centres

Teebz's Book Club is coming at you today with a book that presents three men who could certianly have an argument made about being "awesome centres" in the annals of the NHL. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Hockey Greats - Awesome Centres, written by Mike Leonetti and published by Scholastic Canada. Mr. Leonetti's books have appeared in TBC before, and he always produces an excellent book with his writing and insight. The three players that Mr. Leonetti looks at in his book will be discussed below, but one of the three men is a curious choice at best. I do know that the first two men that he profiles within the covers of Hockey Greats - Awesome Centres are legendary, and certainly were awesome centremen. Without further adieu, let's get into the book!

Mike Leonetti has written a number of hockey-centric books, including Canadiens Legends, The Rocket, and The Mighty Tim Horton, all of which were reviewed right here on Hockey Blog In Canada. Mr. Leonetti lives in Woodbridge, Ontario, with his wife, Maria, and their son, David.

Mr. Leonetti looks at three players in his new book. The first player is a Montreal Canadiens legend, and certainly was an awesome centreman. Jean Béliveau played in the NHL from 1950 until 1971 with the Montreal Canadiens, and was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972. In 1125 regular season games, Béliveau scored 507 goals and added 712 assists, but was also the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, leading the Canadiens to eight Stanley Cups over his career, and won a number of individual awards while playing in the NHL.

Mr. Leonetti's second awesome centreman is a man who rewrote the NHL record books while playing for four NHL clubs. Wayne Gretzky is undoubtedly an awesome centreman, and his accomplishments are well-documented. Gretzky played in the NHL from 1979 until 1999, ammasing 894 goals and 1963 assists over 1487 regular season games. Gretzky captained the majority of the four teams he played with, and led the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cups. He, of course, has a trophy case full of NHL awards, and is seen as the best player all-time in NHL history.

Mr. Leonetti's third selection as an awesome centreman is a more curious one. While both Béliveau and Gretzky have a number of honours amongst them, the choice of Vincent Lecavalier is certainly debatable when looking at the current crop of NHL centremen. While Lecavalier won a Stanley Cup in 2004 and has been a captain with the Lightning, there is far less evidence that he will be considered one of the elite centremen ever at this point in his career. Is he good? Absolutely. Is he awesome? I'd say there might be other men playing the game right now who rank above him in terms of accomplishments. However, Lecavalier's story is told by Mr. Leonetti, and he is the third awesome centre chosen by the author.

What makes this book interesting are the background stories told by Mr. Leonetti on each of the three players. He includes photographs from their early days, showing the players in uniforms rarely seen outside of major hockey circles. There are pictures of Jean Béliveau in a Victoriaville Tigres sweater and a Quebec Aces sweater that I had never seen before. Wayne Gretzky is shown as a seven year-old on outdoor ice and in an Ontario Major Junior Hockey League All-Star jersey in 1978. Lecavalier is pictured in the 1998 CHL Top Prospects Game and at the NHL Entry Draft. By using these pictures while explaining how these players became the great players they are and were, you instantly have an idea of why these three men are awesome centres. The images are excellent, and they really give you a great view on some hockey history as well as a few rarely-seen uniforms.

Overall, Hockey Greats - Awesome Centres was a very good look at three players whose history before they hit the NHL may not be known to younger readers. This book is geared towards a more advanced young reader and adolescents, but the 110-page book is nothing that should cause too many problems for the up-and-coming reader. Mr. Leonetti presents all of the facts clearly and concisely, and the three men he profiles should be an inspiration to young hockey players. Because of his excellent writing and the photos he chose to use, Hockey Greats - Awesome Centres is certainly worthy of the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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