Saturday, 2 May 2009

TBC: Seahawk

Teebz's Book Club is proud to bring you another fascinating book today, and I really feel bad about not publishing this review earlier. I love books that deal with history, and Bruce Valley's book, entitled Seahawk: Confessions of an Old Hockey Goalie and published by Peter E. Randall Publishing, really touched home with me. It's not unusual to find old hockey players telling stories about their hockey pasts, but Mr. Valley sets himself apart from historical anecdotes by focusing solely on his former team and teammates in the Rye Seahawks. I have read this book twice now, and I really enjoyed Mr. Valley's stories and approach in this book. It's not just about history - it's a book about life. And Mr. Valley's life is rich with history, stories, and lessons that every goalie should know, and every hockey player should remember.

Mr. Valley's bio is a pretty interesting one. Directly from his website,, "Former Navy test pilot Bruce Valley has been an amateur hockey goaltender for almost six decades. A jazz musician and poet, he is chief executive of an aerospace corporation in Alexandria, Virginia, where he lives with his wife of many years, Nancy. They have two children and six grandchildren, several of them hockey players. His poetry volume, Rye Harbor and Other Poems of the Seacoast, has been out of print for three decades." And, of course, he's an amateur historian for the Rye Seahawks hockey team.

The story of the Rye Seahawks is more of an amateur hockey team than some museum piece. Many young men from the town of Rye, New Hampshire were sent off to war during World War II as the Allied Forces looked to hold back the Nazi Germany armies who were marching across Europe. When the war ended, the young men returned home to find that they still loved and wanted to participate in a New England tradition - pond hockey. It was at this time that a young three year-old boy named Bruce Valley was exposed to the game of hockey as he watched the men play on the pond from a window in 1946. And it was here where Bruce Valley became enamored with the position of "goalie".

Mr. Valley's recount of the stories isn't told in grandiose fashion. Rather, his story-telling sounds like that of a grandfather speaking to a grandson about all of his life's experiences. It's this tone used that makes reading this book so enjoyable. You don't feel like you're reading a history textbook due to Mr. Valley's colourful stories and warmth in his tone, and he comes across as being passionate about hockey with his descriptions and understanding of every situation.

The story of the ups and downs of the Rye Seahawks is interwoven with Mr. Valley's life experiences, and how his later life after the Seahawks had disbanded continually drove him to look back on that time with fondness. He also describes the position of playing goaltender in great detail in stories, and really gives you a good perspective on what the masked men of hockey go through when they watch five men speeding down on them with one purpose: to light the lamp. In relating the stories to life, you get a great understanding of how important hockey was and is to Mr. Valley, and how his time as a Rye Seahawk really influenced his life.

A great paragraph that has stuck with me since I first finished the book was this one:

"As with everything in life, hockey is mostly about people. After five decades in a hockey goal, I now see that while the game's excitement and passion and competition lure me back onto the ice, the deeper satisfactions come from loving the game and those who play it. I know, love is strange word coming from a hockey player. But it is true. Love of each other, teammate and opponent, and of the game itself. I witness this love in every game I play."
Mr. Valley is exactly correct. Hockey is about people. The fans, the players, the media, the bloggers, the coaches, management - all play an integral part of the game. But the one thing that never dies is our love of the game, and how we marvel at the game when something truly spectacular happens on the ice.

In reading this book, I could relate to my own days of childhood hockey, played on a local outdoor rink for free in frigid temperatures with my friends. From lacing my skates up on the benches to hoping, even praying, a dressed goaltender would be on the ice, I experienced those feelings as well. Mr. Valley's talk of pond hockey and black ice brought back a flood of memories for me, and I can truly say that I understand what Mr. Valley is talking about when he describes the love of the game.

While the book might be overlooked by readers in the major bookstores, I want you to find this book and read it. While it's a mere 86 pages, no one has captured hockey on 86 pages like Mr. Valley has. If you have read Jack Falla's work, in particular Open Ice, you will love Seahawk: Confessions of an Old Hockey Goalie. This book comes highly recommended from me for all readers of all ages, and deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval for being an excellent read.

For more information on Mr. Valley or the Rye Seahawks hockey team, please check out his website here. For information on the book, please head to the Peter E. Randall Publishing website here. Mr. Valley also posted a short message about the book on Kukla's Korner, and it has been reviewed by Joe Pelletier as well. I recommend both those sites for additional info as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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