Off the Shelf: Books for the hockey lover in your life

Hockey books feed the enormous appetite for just about anything related to our national winter sport.

Adam Proteau's book

Adam Proteau's book

Hockey books hold a special place in Canadian publishing. Year after year a new selection of titles appears, feeding the enormous appetite for just about anything related to our national winter sport.

Over the past decade, about 40 to 50 hockey titles have been published in Canada each year, with the majority appearing in the fall, targeted to holiday shoppers.

Here is a selection of titles receiving the most attention this season:

–– Cornered:  Hijinks, Highlights, Late Nights and Insights by Ron MacLean and Kirstie McLellan Day.

Described as the holy grail of hockey books, this memoir by Don Cherry’s Hockey Night in Canada sidekick is full of inside accounts—some inspiring, many hilarious—from his early days as a part-time radio announcer and weather forecaster in Red Deer, Alberta, to his time hosting HNIC and the Olympics.

–– The Lives of Conn SmytheFrom the Battlefield to Maple Leaf Gardens:  A Hockey Icon’s Story by Kelly McParland.  Hot-tempered, outspoken and controversial, Smythe not only constructed a dominant hockey team, but was critical to the growth and shaping of the NHL itself.

By building Maple Leaf Gardens and hiring Foster Hewitt to fill Canada’s living rooms with weekly broadcasts, he turned Saturday night into hockey night, an institution that remains with us today.

Smythe’s story is much richer than the tale of a cantankerous hockey owner however. He fought in both world wars, fighting at Ypres and Passchendaele in the first war and landing at Normandy in the second. He was wounded in both and spent two years as a POW in a German camp after being shot down in 1917.

–– Georges LaraqueThe Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy by Georges Laraque.

Known as one of the game’s toughest enforcers, off the ice Laraque was engaged in battles of a different sort.

This memoir describes his role fighting racism in Quebec’s minor leagues, as a committed vegan and PETA spokesperson, and as deputy leader of the Green Party.

–– Hockey Hall of Fame Treasures, edited by Steve Cameron.

This lavish, fully illustrated coffee-table book, published in partnership with the Hockey Hall of Fame, unearths a trove of the most interesting, unique, famous and rare artifacts from the museum’s archives.

If a trip to the hall in Toronto is not in your future, this book is the next best thing.

–– Fighting the Good FightWhy On-ice Violence is Killing Hockey by Adam Proteau.

Veteran sports writer Proteau (The Hockey News) tackles the timely subject of violence in hockey, arguing that its transformation into a thuggish blood sport is ruining the game.

With the link between head shots and depression under media scrutiny, the book is sure to be a conversation-starter.

–– The Devil and Bobby Hull: How Hockey’s Original Million-Dollar Man Became the Game’s Lost Legend by Gare Joyce.

In his prime, few could dispute Hull’s athletic brilliance—the first to have five 50-goal seasons, the highest scorer on the 1976 Canada Cup team, the first to use the slapshot as a scoring weapon, and the first hockey player to sign a million-dollar contract.

But with his publicized marital troubles and his defection from the NHL to the WHA, Hull’s star began to fall, leaving him broke and in exile from the game. Joyce’s book finally gives this once great hockey player and pioneer his due.

–– Based on a recent column in Quill & Quire.

–– Maureen Curry is the chief librarian at the Vernon branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.