Friday, 3 February 2012

TBC: Hockey Talk

In trying to keep up with my goal of reading 50 books in one year, Teebz's Book Club is back with another entry that I have to admit was much better than I expected. I have been promoting the Sports Illustrated online archive for a while now on this very site as an excellent resource for old hockey stories and information. While SI's hockey coverage has waned in recent history, there is no doubt that they have had some very talented hockey writers under their employ throughout their history. A perfect example of this is Sports Illustrated Hockey Talk, published by McClelland & Stewart, Limited. This compilation of hockey stories throughout SI's history shows off why the sports magazine was one of the best sources of written hockey news on the planet, and the vast range of stories compiled here shows the range of abilities of the writers featured in Sports Illustrated Hockey Talk.

Kostya Kennedy, one of SI's senior editors, wrote the foreword for the book. His accomplishments as a journalist are vast. From his website, "Before joining SI, he was a staff writer at Newsday and contributed to The New York Times and The New Yorker. He earned an M.S. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, from which he received a Pulitzer Fellowship. He has taught in the graduate journalism programs at Columbia and at N.Y.U. He edited Sports Illustrated's best-selling The Hockey Book, published in 2010.

"Kennedy grew up on Long Island, where he lived in a house, which he wrote about for The New York Times in an article. He has written for Details, Attache, The Daily News and other places. Before Columbia, he graduated with honors as a philosophy major from Stony Brook University where he played exactly one game in the school’s rogue bloodsport, pit hockey. Kennedy also used to play bass guitar in the specialty rock cover band Rychyrd Prychyrd (the specialty: The band played songs by Kiss and Lynyrd Skynyrd). He now lives with his wife and children in New York."

Honestly, I have to admit that I wasn't expecting a lot from Sports Illustrated Hockey Talk because SI hasn't really produced anything overly impressive in the world of hockey in a while. There are a lot of good articles written by former writers found in the SI Vault from years past, and that's what this book is: a collection of excellent articles by those men.

From the Ryan Miller, Sidney Crosby, and Jarome Iginla being interviewed about Canada's gold medal in 2010 to why good teams always seem to have the most fights to the look at Montreal helping teams in order for them to draft Guy Lafleur, there are stories from several different eras that cover a number of different topics in hockey. The best part is that all of the articles are well-written, intelligent, and present the information very logically.

Some of the names who penned articles for Sports Illustrated that appear in Sports Illustrated Hockey Talk include Michael Farber, Mark Mulvoy, E.M. Swift, and Jeff MacGregor. All four of these men, and the others in the book, have extensive careers in sports journalism, have accumulated a number of awards and honours, and continue to produce high-quality sports pieces for a number of publications. In short, the collection of writers in Sports Illustrated Hockey Talk are the best of the best that Sports Illustrated has had to offer.

While I won't lie in telling you that you can hit the SI Vault online to find these stories, the fact that you can take this book anywhere where there may not be internet to search through the archives. And, to be frank, these stories will not disappoint you in terms of their quality.

"What tough guys have trouble accepting is being ordered onto the ice to fight, as almost every enforcer has been at least once in his career. That slap in the face is almost as hard to take as a haymaker. Says veteran enforcer Stu (the Grim Reaper) Grimson of the Whalers, 'Nobody wants to sit for two-and-a-half periods, have your team down three or four goals, and have the coach send you out there and expect you to make it all right. That's demeaning and dehumanizing. I've gone, but after the game I've told coaches, 'Don't ask me to do my job. I know what's expected of me.' You don't order a goal scorer to go out and score a goal. I don't need someone tapping me on a shoulder, winding me up like a robot.'" - Michael Farber
Articles like that is what makes this book a joy to read, especially when reading about topics that are still relevant today. There are a couple of articles about violence in hockey, Don Cherry gets examined, and a look at the men who became larger-than-life legends who are still revered today.

I really enjoyed Sports Illustrated Hockey Talk despite my preconceived notions that I would be disappointed at what was contained on the 352 pages. The articles chosen for this compilation were great, and I learned a number of things about the players and personalities featured that I hadn't known before. Being a hockey history kind of guy, these articles were right up my alley. Because of the excellent writing and the solid choice of articles contained within the covers entitles Sports Illustrated Hockey Talk to the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

If you're a hockey fan of any age, this book is a great addition to your bookshelf as it contains a lot of great information. Look for it at your local bookstore!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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