Almost a decade ago the website www.hockeyology.com was founded and ever since then I have been reviewing hockey books. Having since written one of my own called “100 Ranger Greats”, see www.rangergreats.com, I’ve been providing some insightful reviews and now I offer my first-ever top-ten list from the very beginning!
This list is hard-hitting just like the coolest sport on earth! And I do have one surprise that I will divulge later. So taking the first shift is #10 – The Enforcer.
Everybody knows the Enforcer; he is the fan favorite for a few minutes of every game. He gets all the cheers when the spotlight is on him and gets no mention when the game is over. It takes a special breed to take on this job and that’s what the book entitled Enforcer by Valerie Wood is all about. This was the first e-book that I ever read and you don’t have to be a big hockey fan to appreciate this book. You don’t even have to be a sports fan- you just have to want to read a compelling story that takes you on a journey.
#9 is Remembering Phil Esposito published by Raincoast Books. This is the unauthorized biography and that was part of the charm. When he was traded to the Blueshirts along with Carol Vadnais fans wanted a Stanley Cup and almost got one. Read about this colorful player through the pen of Hall-of-Fame writer Frank Orr among other notable writers.
#8 is Tales From the Rangers Locker Room by Mike Shalin on Sports Publishing LLC. I have to admit that I liked Ed Giacomin a bit more than Gilles Villemure (who co-authored the book) when I was a youngster but since they shared duty I know I’m not alone with that opinion. The fact that both of these great goaltenders shared a Vezina Trophy in 1970-71 is amazing. Both legends were also the first and only tandem to make the All-Star team and they did it twice in 1971 and 1973! Gilles had the ugliest mask in the business but was one of the first to wear it so I've cut him some slack. This is a very honest book!
#7 is Counsel in the Crease by Bob Swados published by Prometheus Books. The author, Robert Swados has had a lot of jobs over the years including serving as the Secretary of the NHL Board of Governers for more than 15 years under three leaders, Clarence Campbell, John Ziegler and Gary Bettman. His law career spans 60 years. The forward gets your attention right away since the great Scotty Bowman wrote it. The book then quickly delves into Swados career starting as a public servant in Massachusetts. He was a private first class in the US Army and then he went on a quest to get a baseball and hockey team in Western New York. This book covers the drafting of Gilbert Perrault as well as Alexander Mogilny. Mr. Swados had an amazing professional career that made him a hockey legend. He also dealt with a lot of the deep-pocketed sports owners of the era including major league baseball and the NFL.
#6 is a real crowd pleaser. Black and Gold by Rob Simpson and Steve Babineau published by Wiley. When you look at the cover and you see Ray Bourque and Cam Neely you realize that this book has some amazing photography thanks to legendary photog Steve Babineau. He has been doing his job for 35 years and not many people can say that in any line of work. This book covers four decades of this storied franchise and former coach and current hockey luminary, Don Cherry, wrote the foreword! John Wiley and Sons have put out a gem here that not only has breathtaking photos but some great inside stories penned by Rob Simpson.
#5 is Tropic of Hockey by Dave Bidini published by The Lyons Press. This book is author Dave Bidini’s search for the game in unlikely places. One thing is for sure after reading this book you will see that hockey is played all over the globe. This book has some salty language but will keep you in stitches. Bidini is a regular guy that enjoys playing a game that he enjoyed as a kid. The book is honest and is truly a one of a kind. I guarantee that you have never read anything like it.
#4 is Pelle Lindbergh, Behind the White Mask by Thomas Tynander and Bill Meltzer published by Middle Atlantic Press. If you are a hockey fan and you are looking for a book that you know you can finish in a few days, and you want to be entertained, then pick up Pelle Lindbergh: Behind The White Mask. This book is very compelling and addictive and you won’t be able to put it down once you’ve started it. Lindbergh was one of the best goaltenders in the NHL at the time and in Flyers’ history. Authors Bill Meltzer and Thomas Tynander have done a terrific job here with a tome that is very detailed and it covers every aspect of the backstop’s life and times.
#3 is Kings of the Ice by a multitude of authors published by NDE Publishing. In the book Kings of The Ice, A History of World Hockey you will have access to your favorite players no matter what country they are from. That makes this HUGE (over 1,000 pages) book the perfect hockey bible for the hockey fan in your household. See Mark Messier with hair; check out Gordie Howe in his Team Canada uniform! Read about the ’72 Summit Series and the Dynasties. Use this book as a reference. It will literally take you months to finish this book because you will pour over the pictures before you read the information.
#2 was in a shootout with #1 and lost by a hair. New York Rangers 75 Years by John Halligan published by Tehabi Books. This book is the one that set the bar very high for any books on the New York Rangers that would dare to follow it. I didn’t have the website at the time but I couldn’t leave this gem off the list. The pictures are exquisite and the storytelling is top-notch. Don’t forget to look at the full-color pictures of the masks that make up the centerfold.
#1 is the book entitled The Code, by Ross Bernstein published by Triumph Books. Ross Bernstein's The Code opens with a famous quote from the 1999 movie "Fight Club," which sets the tone right from the get-go… For The Code, Bernstein interviewed over 50 enforcers. He takes the reader through the evolution of fighting on the ice and also the courtroom battles that ensued as a result, a hot button topic if ever there was one. And he even addresses salary cap issues and the effect that the new rules have had on the roster. A book on hockey fighting wouldn’t be complete without a chapter on divers, and it's in there, too. This book covers every aspect of fighting and the psychology behind it. Why it happens. Why it’s needed to protect players. What happens when players agitate but don’t drop the gloves and much more. It reports on fighting in a responsible way, and it contains some pretty amazing photos of the greatest enforcers in NHL history.