Wednesday, 31 August 2011

TBC: Colour Commentary

This is the last of the HBIC Summer Literacy Project titles that I'll be covering since school starts next week for the vast majority of kids and teachers alike. I've covered a lot of books this summer that mostly deal with the CBC or the Boston Bruins, and today's entry will finish off that trend nicely. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Colour Commentary: My Great Hockey Journey, written by Brian McFarlane and published by Key Porter Books Limited. Mr. McFarlane goes over his 27 years in hockey and hockey broadcasting in this interesting book that has a vast number of great photographs. The information contained is interesting and very personal to Mr. McFarlane, making the stories much more endearing that just some second-hand retelling of his experiences. It is this realism and honesty that makes Colour Commentary: My Great Hockey Journey a great read and an excellent coffee table book.

From the dust jacket, "Brian McFarlane is a media member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and is one of North America's best and most prolific hockey writers. He is the author of more than fifty books, including Stanley Cup Fever, The Best of It Happened in Hockey, Hockey's Glory Days: Stories from the Original Six Era, and the books is his two successful series True Hockey Stories and Brian McFarlane's Original Six. As a broadcaster, Brian spent twenty-seven years with CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, and has also been a commentator with NBC, CBS, and ESPN."

There are some very interesting bits of information about Mr. McFarlane's life from how the spark for the passion of hockey was lit right up to the publication date. Perhaps more interesting are the photographs he has included. There are pictures of all sorts of historical figures alongside Mr. McFarlane: boxer Joe Louis, crooner Bing Crosby, radio play-by-play men Foster and Bill Hewitt, fashion icon and HNiC icon Don Cherry, and Canadian singer Anne Murray. There are also some amazing photos of all sorts of old-time hockey players, and the stories that accompany them are absolutely amazing.

One of the most interesting photos was of Alex, Ann, and Bill Barilko. Ann Barilko gave Mr. McFarlane a gripping story of Bill's unfortunate death in June of 1992 while the two were in Timmins, Ontario. Bill and Ann's mother was very unhappy about Bill going to fish in a lake so far away with a friend, Dr. Henry Hudson. She refused to speak to Bill before he left due to how upset she was that he was taking this trip. Ann told Brian,

"He peeked into her bedroom the morning he left and said, 'Goodbye, Mom, I'm leaving now.' She pretended she was asleep and didn't answer him because she was so upset. I believe she had a premonition something bad would happen and she didn't want him to go. She never forgave herself for that."
How awful is that? Bill Barilko and Dr. Hudson were found over a decade later after they didn't return from that fishing trip, a mere thirty air miles from home. The skeletal remains of both men could still be seen inside the wreckage. I really feel bad about Mrs. Barilko not having spoken to her son before he left. I couldn't imagine living with that kind of remorse.

These kinds of stories are what makes Colour Commentary: My Great Hockey Journey so interesting. It's absolutely amazing to hear some of the anecdotes that Mr. McFarlane relates, and his work in the hockey world may be unparalleled when you look at how many fascinating people he has met and befriended. While being an autobiographical account of his own life, Mr. McFarlane has written an enthralling book that takes you through three decades of hockey broadcasting as well as a number of additional years of hockey history.

Colour Commentary: My Great Hockey Journey deserves a spot on any hockey fan's bookshelf because of the amazing stories and history contained on its 240 pages. The photos themselves would be well worth the price of the book alone, but getting Mr. McFarlane's insights and stories to go along with them makes the players whose faces appear in the book come to life. There are a couple of instances of PG-rated language in the book, so I would recommend it for teenage readers and up. Colour Commentary: My Great Hockey Journey is a shoo-in for the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval due to the rich history and amazing stories that Mr. McFarlane put on paper in this book. Highly recommended!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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