Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Off-Season Project: Help a Girl Out

The hockey season is almost over. Yeah, there’re still a few more games to be played, and yeah, they’re big, important games, but the last of my personal interest pretty much died with the Sabres, and very, very soon there will be no more hockey to be seen, interesting or otherwise. What a terrifying prospect. So, like all hockey bloggers, I’ve been wondering: what do I do with myself, when there’s no more real-life hockey to think about?

Fortunately, this is yet another instance when my ignorance will serve me well. I’ve decided that it’s time for me to finally learn about hockey history. It seems there was hockey played in the world before October 14th, 2006, and I don’t know hardly anything about it, tabula rasa. What better way to assuage my off-season hockey longing than by trying to fill in some of that vast blank space?

My vague plan is to spend the summer blogging hockey history, writing about the things I learn and/or the process of learning them (interspersed, of course, with the Habsy bits). It’ll be useful for me, since I’ll go into next season better informed, and maybe it will be somewhat interesting for some others out there, insofar as it’ll be something hockey-related to read about when there’s not much else going on. But mainly, it’s just because I’ve recently realized that if I don’t blog at least semi-regularly, I get the most terrible withdrawal headaches. I’d rather feed the addiction than go into months-long detox.

So I’ve got a request for whatever straggling readers are still coming by this blog: recommendations. What should I know about hockey that I don’t, and how should I learn it? What books, movies, particular games/series, fights, websites, video games, television shows, gummy candies, interpretive dance recitals, etc. developed your hockey-knowledge? As I said, my primary interest is history, but I’m open to wider topics: strategy, business, culture, whatever. I’m not asking for a comprehensive list- I know there are there are resources beyond number out there, but I'm really, really lazy, and I'm not aspiring to perfect knowledge. So not everything, just some of the things that have interested you or mattered to you most- whatever taught you something about hockey you wouldn’t have otherwise known, or showed you some facet of the sport in a new way.

Khayli mamnun, in advance.


She was called Victoria, because she had beaten us in battle, seven hundred years before, and she was called Gloriana, because she was glorious, and she was called the Queen, because the human mouth was not shaped to say her true name.

- Neil Gaiman, “A Study in Emerald”

Somewhat belated. Hope everybody who could took full advantage of the opportunity to sleep until noon.


Teebz said...

My suggestion is to watch any and all old hockey games. Look for things out of the ordinary. Read blogs. Read websites. Hit YouTube. Ask the people who comment (like you have).

From what I've read, you have a good grasp on the game. You're much further ahead than you think. :o)

Julian said...

Well E, my reccomendations (beyond what i've already told you) would be dependent on what exactly you want to learn about most. I mean, do you wanna start with the NHL or hockey in general? That sorta thing...

Back in the fall (you may have watched some of it even) the CBC did a 10 hour doc called "Hockey : A People's History" which is as good a starting place as any. There's a good sized book out by the same name, released at the same time that you could also check out. If you're interested in the documentary, I could help you out maybe.
Another book on the early NHL by the same author as A Peoples History is called Putting A Roof On Winter (Michael McKinley) which deals with the really early stuff, including the start of the NHL.
Then you've got a multitude of hockey books dealing with specific eras of specific teams, which you can find at any decent sized library.

As for "hockey culture" books, obviously Ken Dryden is as good a place to start as any. Reading The Game will tell you alot about names you've heard of but don't know much about. And if you wanna watch any games from that era, i might be able to help you out with that as well. I'd suggest reading the stories first though, so that when you watch them play, the names and their stories will resonate all the more.
Peter Gzowski's The Game Of Our Lives is a very well written account of the very early days of the Edmonton Oilers and Wayne Gretzky. Read that one and see how much what he writes about 99 sounds like people talking about Crosby. Definitley one of my top five hockey books.

Fiction wise, there's a great book I read last year called Understanding Ken, about a ten year old in BC in the mid-70's who can't understand why Ken Dryden would take a year off from hockey and hurt his team, all while his family life is being torn apart. I believe it's by a guy called Pete McCormmick or something close to that.

Movie wise... hockey has a pretty short list. Slapshot is... well, it's Slapshot. You watch it and decide for yourself how much of it you think is(was) true and see what sort of effect its had on the game all in all. \
The movie The Rocket was pretty decent over all.

I'd suggest the Hockey : A Peoples History (book or documentary) as good starting point as an "all-encompassing" intro (though it obviously focusses on hockey in Canada rather than the NHL, of course the NHL plays a big role), and see what interests you from there.

And if you have any questions or want more recommendations, or want to give some recommendations to someone else, you know where to go.

Matt D said...

I second the recommendation of The Game. It may be the best sports book I've ever read, with the (possible) exception of Moneyball and Friday Night Lights. Dryden really is/was unique. The book is a great example of the kind of participant/observer journalism that talented journalists write, only the "participant" element happened to be as a star member of possibly the best team of all time.

The CBC doc is good as well.

Doogie said...

Slapshot is definitely a reflection of what hockey once was. Exaggerated? A bit, yeah, but probably not as much as many would like to admit, especially in the minor-league level. Certainly, a lot of characters are based on actual players (the Hanson brothers, Ogie Oglethorpe, etc.) But stay away from Slapshot 2, from everything I've heard, that movie is crap.

Classic games/series? There were a lot of great series in the 80s, coming out of the old divisional format. The Battles of Quebec, the Battles of Alberta (especially '91), anything Montreal-Boston...I'm sure someone can highlight the two or three best ones to persue. More recently, some of the underdog struggles (Edmonton-Dallas '97, Montreal-Boston '02 and '04) certainly stand out to me. In terms of games, Game 7 of the '79 semifinals (the too many men game), Game 6 of the '84 Adams Division finals (two-part bench-clearing brawl followed by a five-goal Habs comeback to take the series), Game 2 of the '86 finals (Skrudland's goal) and '93 finals (McSorely's penalty, Desjardins' hat trick), Game 7 of the '97 Western Quarterfinals (Cujo saves, Marchant scores)...yeah, that's a bunch. Actually, if you have satellite/digital cable, order the NHL Network and ESPN Classic Canada if you haven't already, and just start watching. I did that a lot when I was at my grandparents', and it was great fun reliving some old memories and seeing some old games I wasn't around for.

Books? A couple of particular favourites of mine are When the Lights Went Out (about the '87 Canadian World Junior team that was tossed from the tournament for a bench-emptier with the Soviets -- it changed my attitude towards the circus element of the game to some degree) and Rebel League (about the amusingly warty yet somehow endearing WHA).

Matthew Macaskill said...

I get a lot of info from my dad... anyone like that who could help ya? :D

Also, not sure anyone else has mentioned it yet, but "The Game" by Ken Dryden is a must read.

Best find what you can on the old Habs-Nordiques rivalry.

DarkoV said...

I can only offer you this link as a poor excuse of a suggestion. The writer suggests, as have previous commenters, Ken Dryden's book and also Don Delillo's book Amazons. I can't comment on DeLillo's book as that particular one is not one of the novels I've read. He doesn;t even use his real name for this book, but rather Cleo Birdwell (the heroine of the story)
I doubt it would give you the info you're seeking. If it's liek any of his other books, hockey is just the platform he builds his stage on.

Anonymous said...

Couple of books worth looking at. Total Hockey is a big freakin' thick thing, with a billion or so stats, which are all useful to a certain degree. But more important are the numerous essays on hockey history, international hockey, the Allan Cup, women in hockey, and a ton of other topics. While I loved the stats, many of which could be termed "new", the essays were the highlight of the book.

As well, as far as history goes, try to find a copy of "Hockey Night in the Dominion of Canada" It was written by Eric Zweig. It isn't the best writing ever, but it takes the period around 1908-1910 when pro hockey was really getting started, and ties the real life characters together in a novel which includes a plot to kill the PM. Go figure. Like I said, no Pulitzer Prize, but fun, and it gives a taste of hockey in the early years.


E said...

multi-thanks, one and all. dryden, of course, i pretty much knew i was supposed to read, so that's as good a starting point as any. i'm actually a bit intimidated by the idea of starting out with that giant coffeetable book- i'm sure it's great, but i think it might be better for me to start with the details and work my way up to the big picture.

some of the rest of the books might be a bit difficult to get my hands on- apparently hockey-literature has a tendency to go out of print and then get stolen from libraries. but i'll do what i can. that's the blessed thing about movies, they're easy to find, and old games, which can indeed be readily found on espn classic (although half the time i don't really know what the hell i'm watching).

and matt, unfortunately, my father is still so new to hockey that he looks to me for explanations, poor guy. i'd give a crate of cupcakes for an older, hockey-knowledgable relative to ramble on to me about various obscure topics, but it's not to be- one of the many disadvantages of being born american.

anyway, i really, really appreciate all the recommendations, and please, if any of y'all think of any other suggestions, do pass them along via comment, email, or semaphor.