Tuesday, 6 October 2009

TBC: The Best Of HNIC

Teebz's Book Club makes another return with a book that legitimately is a visual spectacle. It's not often that a book can be described as "visually impressive", but today's book offers up glimpses into hockey's rich tapestry of history through both story and photos. TBC is proud to present The Best of Hockey Night in Canada, written by Stephen Cole and published by McArthur and Company. This book cannot begin to described in words. If a picture is worth a thousand of those words, then this book is infinite in its descriptors. Stephen Cole does an excellent job of pulling together 80 years of hockey history through anecdotes and history, and combines them with pictures that stand the test of time in terms of their hockey memories.

Stephen Cole has written two other hockey books: The Last Hurrah: A Celebration of Hockey's Greatest Season '66-'67 and Slapshots. The latter is not to be confused with the movie. Cole has written several other books documenting history including one on the CBC itself. He works for the Globe & Mail and the National Post newspapers in Canada, writing on movies and television. He currently resides in Toronto with his wife, Jacquie McNish, and his two sons.

Any hockey history that concerns the CBC in Canada has to include both the radio and the legendary Foster Hewitt. From what grew out of a conversation on a golf course about making money on the radio with hockey, that is the institution that we now call Hockey Night In Canada. Mr. Cole takes us back to 1931 to start this look back at how HNIC started.

The first section deals strictly with the radio telecasts up until 1951. As Mr. Cole works through the highlights of each era in HNIC history, the photos presented from the archives of the CBC are simply amazing. There are pictures in this book that I've never seen before in my life. There are some exception photographs of some of hockey's most infamous moments: the Richard Riot, Ace Bailey shortly after his career-ending injury, an image of Bob Baun being hauled off the ice on a stretcher after fracturing his leg, the Montreal Canadiens' Jean Beliveau pouring champagne into the Stanley Cup amidst a post-game Stanley Cup party, and the Summit Series.

Of course, all of the HNIC personalities are highlighted in this book. Foster Hewitt, the man whose voice turned Saturday night into "Hockey Night", is remembered vividly throughout the early part of the book. Dave Hodge, Ron MacLean, Don Cherry, Danny Gallivan, Dick Irvin, and Brian MacFarlane all have their own special mention in this book. There is an interesting piece of history on a lady by the name of Juliette Agustina Cavazzi who occupied the timeslot after HNIC from 1956 until 1966. Her musical show received great fanfare and viewership from hockey fans as they stuck around to watch her show after the "big game" until her show was taken off the air. It's this kind of history that makes this book so interesting.

Mr. Cole digs deep into the CBC history books as well, finding all sorts of documents that kept HNIC running on time and in step with the speed of the game. There's a musical score from very early on, a predecessor to the famous Hockey Night in Canada theme song. There's also a look at what was happening behind the cameras as announcers and commentators changed, giving rise to new voices that a nation came to love.

This book is a fascinating look at Hockey Night in Canada, and the pictures contained within the covers alone are worth the price of this book. Mr. Cole doesn't delve into hearsay and speculation in the stories he tells. Rather, he simply brings forth the history of the moment, and allows the images to paint a picture in the reader's mind. Without a doubt, The Best of Hockey Night in Canada shows exactly why HNIC is the Canadian institution that hockey fans turn to on Saturday nights. The Best of Hockey Night in Canada certainly has earned the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval, and I applaud and commend Mr. Cole for putting together this amazing look at one of Canada's most respected and memorable television broadcasts.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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