Tuesday, August 21, 2012



You want to get more than a general feel for hockey? Want to dig into every aspect with a microscope, but, in an easy to read way? This is the book.
Dryden takes what you might think is just a hockey story to a completely new level. To the level of literature, in my opinion.
The writing is amazing...it really is.
Dryden writes from his point of view, the strange view of a goalie. The player who is on the ice the entire game, but, only directly involved in the play for a few minutes. His view is of a much larger scale. He sees the entire game. He has time to think about things. Things outside of hockey too.
The book starts with the day Ken meets with the general manager to confirm he is going to retire at the end of the season. He questions if this is the right move. He wants to move onto something else - being a lawyer. He questions if this is what he really wants. He questions if he is at his peak. How long will this last? He questions his team. The Canadians of the mid 70's, winning three Stanly Cups in a row. Are they becoming to complacent? He questions the toll hockey is taking on his family life and his health. That feeling of uncertainly is not only limited to Ken, he comments on the politics of the time. The uprising of separatism in Quebec and the big question - should Quebec separate from Canada. He even manages to question Canada's place in the world, tieing in hockey with the Cold War.
This wide ranging view, all connecting, is wonderful to read. Educational too. Really, it should have won this years Canada Reads.
On that note, What made me pick up this book was Alan Thicke, you know from Growing Pains? Ya, he's Canadian eh? Well he was championing this book on Canada Reads 2012 and made it sound like a book all Canadians should read. I will back up Alan's arguments. This book gives us an inside look at 'our' national game from someone at the highest level while also providing a broader perspective on Canadian society at the time. There are many pages devoted to play by play hockey moments, but, for the most part Dryden talks about his teammates. The quirks and personalities of the other players are endless. From these descriptions he goes off on small tangents talking about a vast variety of topics; cities, family life, drinking, humour...again, seemingly endless, yet fascinating how easy it was to relate to these 'stars' and their celebrity life. There were also more serious forays into his criticisms of hockey that still seem to be going on thirty years later - the role of fighting, how hockey has been corrupted by big business, and the touchy subject of how Canada is losing it's domination of the sport internationally. On a personal note, I found his discussion on how children were being raised at the time still very very relevant.
He starts off describing Guy Lafleur's creative genius on the ice. How he spent hours just fiddling around with the puck, just like when he was a kid. This let him invent and master new moves to deke out defenseman and score. It brought something new and exciting to the game. But, Dryden comments, nowadays kids are so scheduled with activities such as piano lessons, hockey practice, soccer games, etc. that they do not have the hours of free time to just play outside, to not kick a ball at a tree five hundred ways in an afternoon. That was in the early 80's. I hear the same comments to this very day!
Another theme throughout the book that really came close to home was his work / family life balance. Which would not have been called that back then. He talks about being a ghostly figure in his house from October to June (Hockey season). He is either gone on the road, coming home late from games or traveling home from the road, or sleeping late to get ready for the nights game. He realizes he does not have any genuine interaction with his kids for months at a time. The summers are different, but, for the most part he just accepts it and tries not to feel too guilty.

His brief tangent into his childhood strikes me as being so Canadian, at least little boy Canadian. His backyard had a paved section to it, bordered by fence and gardens...making the ideal 'rink'. It was a little lopsided and on a bit of a hill, but, that didn't stop him and the neighborhood kids from spending every available spare minute playing road hockey with an old tennis ball. His life was school in the day, road hockey at night (and all day Saturday and Sunday). I'm sure there was a bit of hockey card trading thrown in there, but, he didn't mention it.
So, to wrap it up, this book should have won this years Canada Reads...since they were looking for the most Canadian non-fiction book.


Getting back to my dewey decimal countdown challenge, this book was found in the 700 section of the library. 700's down, now onto 600. I have an environmental book on the go. Sounds exciting eh? It is one of those do-something-for-a-year-and-blog-about-it type of deals. Sleeping Naked is Green, that's the title. Sounding better?

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