Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hockey Lit 101

A book that should be on every discerning hockey fan's bookshelf is Peter Gzowski's The Game of Our Lives, and if it's already there, it could probably do with a re-reading.

It goes like this: back in 1980, Gzowski shacked up with the Edmonton Oilers for an entire season, and when he was done, he wrote a book, a book that is not only a tribute to the players and team that would in a few years go on to be one of the greatest hockey teams ever assembled, but also a loving and glowing monument to all that is great and wonderful about our game.

It hearkens back to expansion era hockey, when the scores were high and the salaries still low. I wasn't alive for any of this, so it's all fresh and exciting for me, and interesting to see how the hockey players of yesterday are the management of today. Bob Gainey, Doug Risebrough, half a dozen Sutters to choose from and many more current boardroom members crowd the Gzowski's pages. Foreigners were still soft; the Islanders were the best thing on skates; Gretzky was just twenty; Kurri couldn't speak English; Messier was just a bundle of unfocused, raucous energy; Coffey was a shy wallflower and Glenn Sather was still just as dominating as he is today. It's like a kids show that never got made. The Baby Oilers.

The book is even more so poignant and apropos these days because of the real life parallel occurring in Pittsburgh as we speak. It's impossible not to draw the parallels as you read between the Oilers of yesterday and the Penguins of today. Gretzky and Crosby, both calm and more down to earth than they have any right to be. Both are surrounded by an explosion of youth ready to burst out. They called Gretzky the Kid, back in the day. I didn't know that. The Waynderful One. They didn't call him that one, but they should have.

Read this book if you ever need a reminder of why hockey is great, why we put up with hockey teams in Florida and owners who don't care and all the other bollocks that gets in the way, why it's our game, the game of our lives.


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