FIRST. CBC launched Canada Reads 2012 last week with a raft of five non-fictional books we’re all supposed to read so we can be ready in February to decide, as a country, which is the best of them. With actor Alan Thicke carrying the torch for Ken Dryden’s The Game (1983), it’s time to cue the disembodied voices to remind us that it’s the Best Hockey Book Ever. Not to be quibbling, but is it, really? It’s so sharply thoughful and well-written that it may well be — though is it possible, too, that this is a case of a book reviewerly blurb being having been repeated so often, year after year, that it’s cured into something that looks like a fact? It will be good to hear the discussion. And maybe Thicke and the Canada Readers can get at, too, if they have some time on the radio, what it is about the phrase hockey book that can seem so reductive and dismissive, describing a distinctly lesser literary organism? Or is that just me?
SECOND. Bruce Gamble had a 14-year career as a goalie in the NHL with four teams, including the 1966-67 Toronto Maple Leafs, for whom he played 23 games, none of them in the playoffs, which meant he didn’t get his name on the Stanley Cup. Playing for Philadelphia in 1972, he beat Vancouver 3-1 despite having a collapse midway through the game. It was the last one he played: he’d suffered a heart attack in the crease. Another one killed him in 1982, at the age of 44.
This is all in a new biography, Gamble in Goal (River Rocks), by his cousin, the Thunder Bay writer David Nicholson. For those of us who collect Eddie Shore lore, there’s some of that, too. In the 1960s, before he got to the Leafs, Gamble served a sentence with Shore’s Springfield Indians. New to me is Shore’s strict ordinance on how players should be taping their sticks. Gamble:
You tape from the toe to the heel, never heel to toe.
You go around three times with the tape at the heel if
you’re a defenceman, and twice around if you’re a forward.
You are allowed to wind the tape seven times around the
knob of the stick.
If you broke your stick, you had to salvage the tape for the new one. Shore also insisted that players washed their skatelaces on a regular basis.
THIRD. Note for the book I’m going to write, eventually, about the sociology of hockey booing: sometimes it’s respectful. Sidney Crosby was in Montreal on Saturday, playing his fourth game since returning to the ice with his new and improved brain. From the Canadian Press report:
The Montreal crowd roared when the announcer called out
Crosby’s name before the game and when he assisted on
But he got little love from the fans for the rest of the night.
Boos echoed in the Bell Centre a few times when he touched
the puck early in the game — a greeting Canadiens fans often
deliver to top players on an opposing team.
The other times he touched the puck, the crowd had no
reaction at all.