We won’t know if the 2012/2013 hockey season is officially called off until January but, as long as the powers that be continue to deliberate, may we suggest that you fill the puck-shaped hole in your heart (and the Saturday nights that would otherwise be devoted to Hockey Night in Canada) with these hockey-related books? From bad-boy memoirs to a thought-provoking young adult novel, there’s something for hockey fans of all types and ages.
1. Crossing the Line: The Outrageous Story of a Hockey Original by Derek Sanderson and Kevin Shea
Derek Sanderson is perhaps as famous for his life off of the ice as he is for his stint with the Boston Bruins, having helped them to win two Stanley Cups in the early 1970s. Recounting the glamorous years during which Sanderson was the world’s highest paid athlete, and cataloguing his eventual descent into a life of addiction, homelessness and despair, Crossing the Line is the oft humorous, sometimes disturbing but always human portrayal of a man that has been both mythologized and demonized by the media. While this is a must-read for any hockey fan (whether he or she was alive during Sanderson’s glory days or not) its touching accounts of both his relationship with his father and life-saving friendship with fellow hockey legend Bobby Orr transcend the genre of sports biography and make Crossing the Line a worthwhile book for any fan of reading.
2. Power Play by Eric Walters
Inspired by the infamous Theo Fleury story, and providing a fascinating look into hockey subculture, Power Play tells the story of a young NHL hopeful whose power-hungry, manipulative Junior A coach becomes sexually abusive towards him. On the verge of making his dream come true, Walters’ protagonist, Cody, is caught between achieving the only life he’s ever wanted for himself and the devastating consequences of a physically and emotionally painful relationship. Technically labeled a young adult novel, Power Play addresses the much ignored issue of sexual abuse among athletes, especially taboo among males, in such a thoughtful and measured way that it becomes comprehensible for young teenagers but is no less important for adults.
3. J.R.: The Fast, Crazy Life of One of Hockey’s Loudest, Most Colourful Personalities by Jeremy Roenick
From the man who has never turned down a single autograph in his life comes an outrageous and completely engrossing tell-all that any contemporary hockey fan has got to read. Charting J.R.’s journey as he crisscrossed North America as a teenager, played for five different teams across his twenty-year-long NHL career and then landed his current gig as a boisterous hockey commentator and magnetic on-air personality, Roenick’s autobiography details a much publicized career from his own unique perspective. If you’re looking to get inside the life and mind of one of hockey’s greatest players—with 513 goals and 703 assists under his belt—then this is the book for you!
4. Cornered: Hijinks, Highlights, Late Nights and Insights by Ron MacLean
If hockey is a kind of religion then Hockey Night in Canada is its church, wherein Don Cherry and Ron MacLean serve as the high priests. Hailing from the mouth of this duo’s better dressed half of this famous duo, Cornered is an insider’s account of the backstage politics, hockey industry mishaps and personal triumphs and tragedies that have marked MacLean’s career, from when he was a small town broadcaster in Red Deer, AB right up to becoming the CBC legend he is today. Told with the same warmth and wit that makes MacLean such a pleasure to watch every Saturday night, his autobiography reads like a casual conversation with a good friend over a few beers and is a must-read for anyone who has ever enjoyed the tradition of Hockey Night in Canada.
5. Tough Guy: My Life on the Edge by Bob Probert
Bob Probert died suddenly and tragically of a heart attack in 2010, at age forty five, while hard at work on what would eventually become this book, with the help of coauthor Kirstie McLellan Day. He is succeeded by a cultish devotion to his no-nonsense, hard-hitting playing style as well as a notorious reputation for being an addict and all-around troublemaker. But despite having been jailed for smuggling cocaine once, suspended from the NHL twice and checked into rehab ten times, Probert remained a fan favourite due to his unwavering loyalty to his teammates, never hesitating to defend them both on and off the ice, and fearless demeanor. Despite all the booze and drugs that litter its pages, Tough Guy is a sobering story about the destructive power of substance abuse, no matter how talented its victim. It also serves as a hockey history lesson, transporting readers back to a time when fighting on the ice was encouraged, rather than penalized, and drug use was much more prevalent among players.
Whichever you decide to read this hockeyless season, we hope that these books help to get you through the long and frustrating lockout!
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