The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association by Ed Willes
The Rebel League paints a picture – for both good and bad – of the now-defunct World Hockey Association. Ed Willes goes in great detail to explore the league which introduced us to NHL greats such as the Howe family, Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Hull, and Barry Melrose.
It’s also a fantastic look into how the WHL opened the doors for European players.
“I just picked up the puck in the corner, and these two guys sprang from the other side,” says Hull. “Then it was bing-bing-bing and in the net and I just said, ‘What the f*** have we got here?’“
A Guy Like Me: Fighting to Make the Cut by John Scott
The fighting aspect of hockey is quickly fading away – as it should – but it’s a part of the game that tends to be entirely misunderstood. I’m a 90’s kid who grew up with Tie Domi: What it Takes stuck in my VHS player. I was watching with my dad when Marty McSorley two-handed Donald Brashear in the head.
The game today is vastly different than the one I grew up in.
It was always easy to get caught up in the action but I never took the time to look into these fighters as hockey players – at their true love for the game and desire to succeed.
John Scott does just that.
From growing up in a trailer park in Edmonton, Alberta to scoring two goals and being crowned MVP of the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, John Scott is as raw as it gets. He loves the game of hockey and idolized star defensemen.
“That’s why Bourque inspired me so much—he played defense the way I wanted to play it. He had a world of skill and could move the puck really well. To this day, he has more goals, assists, and points than any defenseman in league history. But he also took care of his own end as well as anyone… That was my kind of player.” – excerpt from Chapter 1.
The Game by Ken Dryden
The Game may very well be one of the most interesting books ever written about the sport of hockey. NHL Hall-of-Famer Ken Dryden is arguably one of the greatest goalies to touch the ice and is on the list of 100 Greatest NHL Players’ in history.
Featuring legends such as Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe, Serge Savard, and coach Scotty Bowman, the book supplies us with an in-depth look into the reality of life on the road of a professional athlete. It’s a very personal memoir which makes it difficult to put down at times and is one of those books that you could read over and over again – taking in the things you missed prior.
A new edition was released to celebrate the book’s 20th anniversary that contains an additional chapter from Dryden – touching on the growth of the game since its first publication.
The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team by Wayne Coffee
The story of the 1980 Olympic gold-medal winning hockey team is well told through the movie Miracle which was released in 2004. The Boys of Winter pushes the story to new heights as Wayne Coffey takes us inside the mind of legendary coach Herb Brooks.
It’s no secret that Brooks was a student of the game who never feared taking an uncommon path to get the most from his players. The legendary coach used questionable psychological tactics and innovative systems to lead a group of college kids on a path to Olympic gold.
It’s a larger than life story which created unity during the time of the Iranian hostage crisis and the Cold War.
Both the Disney movie and earlier documentary are great, but neither supply the details found within this book.
Home Ice: Reflections on Backyard Rinks and Frozen Ponds by Jack Falla
This last book, from who I personally believe to be the greatest sportswriter of all time, is one that I hold very close to my heart. Simply put, the book consists of a collection of essays on backyard skating rinks and frozen ponds.
If you have ever spent a cold winters night skating around in an endless game of shinny until all depth perception was taken by the dark, this is the book for you.
If you haven’t? It is one of hockeys greatest gifts.
The author, Jack Falla, had a way with words that would pull nostalgia from your soul. He was also a journalism professor at Boston University (Go Terriers!) and had a very successful career writing at Sports Illustrated.
There are no words I could mold together which would do his writing justice, so I’ll just include this little bit from one of his essays.
As January pushes into February and the sun, daily rising toward the vernal equinox, hits the ice at ever-higher angles, I can’t help wondering which skating session will be my last for that season. Even on the coldest late February days the midday sun reflecting off the south-facing boards will soften and often melt the ice at that end of the rink. I think it was this curiosity about what would be the final skating day of the season that led Barbara and me to start recording the season’s final skate in our rink’s guest book. . . . We had to do so days after the fact because with natural ice you never truly know what skate will be the final one. But in late February and early March I often get a feeling similar to the one I get when Barbara and I walk off the beach on Cape Cod on the last weekend in August. I just know in my bones that we won’t be back again that year. I cover it up with a lot of talk about how September is the best month on New England’s beaches and about how we live so close to the Cape we can zip down to the beach any time we want to. But summer’s over and I know it. It’s just too sad to say out loud.
As I look in our guest book I see that I have taken the final skate in three of the six seasons we’ve been keeping that record. Twice by myself. Once with Barbara. And all three times I knew intuitively that it would be the final skate. And, even when I wasn’t the last skater off the ice in a given season, I still knew when I was taking my own last skate, and on those days I stayed out longer and skated harder. Of course I didn’t skate any better, I just did what I’ve tried to do ever since I took those first shuffling strides with my mother — skate as well as I can. Because life is different from a skating season, and in life you never know which skate will be your last. Only that one of them will be.you can read more at the Boston University website.