As I mentioned in a board post a while back, I have never been much of a “hockey guy.” But since I know that many of our members are, I thought it was high time I took a look at what this sport and it’s game used collectables are all about. I must admit that this was not an easy thing for me to do, because as a 10 year old, I learned first-hand what a violent sport hockey could be. This was long before I learned that the jerseys or “sweaters” came with something called a fight strap.

Growing up, we lived across the street from a creek that froze over every winter. The older kids (12-14 year olds) would play hockey using a smashed beer can (they were steel back in the day) and large sticks or branches that could found handy along the creeks bank. Most people had skates, including me…yet was I considered “too little” to play. That all changed a week before Christmas, when my mother decided to clean the curtains in the house. At that time, the curtains in our home where hung with white two-piece aluminum rods. Each of these sections was about three feet long and featured a pre-bent end…sort of like a hockey stick…see where I’m going with this.

To garner the favor of the “Big Kids”, I worked out a deal where I would be permitted to play if I furnished everyone with a hockey stick. While first incredulous at my proposal, that all changed as I came over the bank with my arms full of these metallic beauties with plenty of spares to boot.

Although I was regulated to playing goalie, I was in the Saturday Game (If you have not seen Russell Crow in Mystery Alaska, then you probably aren’t that big of a hockey fan). The fun lasted for what seemed like a life-time until I heard my mother calling my full name (when parents use your middle name, that when you know your in trouble) from the area above the creek. I was directed to collect all the curtain rods and come with her straight to the basement. The violence of the game was to become all to clear.

To begin my re-association with hockey, I thought I might be worth while to invest in some reference books for my library. I made a quick trip to the local used book store and picked up seven titles that where heavy with photographs and illustrations. I would like to share those with you in a less painful manner than I shared hockey sticks over some 30 years ago.

20th Century Hockey Chronicle. Forward by Gordie Howe with Stan and Shirley Fischer, Morgan Hughes, Joseph Romain, and James Duplacey. Publications International, Ltd. 1994. Retail price at time of printing $59.95. Book store price $15.00. 575 pages with probably over 400 photos with color images becoming available for the time period of the following the 1956-57 season. The images in the book, be they black & white or color are clear, clean and sharp. The book is broken down by season highlighting notable players and seasonal highlights. Although I am not sure if each picture within a season is actually representative of that season, the chronological nature of the book does permit you roughly trace the evolution of team uniforms and player equipment over time.

A Breed Apart: An Illustrated History of Goal Tending. Douglas Hunter, A Viking Book. 1995. Retail price at issue not listed. Book Store price $12.50. 208 pages with well over 100 black & white as well as color images. The title of the book says it all. While focus of the effort is largely confined to one position, there is a wealth of valuable information contained within the images. Two sections, with a total of 14 pages, are devoted to nothing but the evolution of goalie mitts and masks. Many of these items come to you via the Hockey Hall of Fame. In addition to these, there are another some 27 pages spread throughout the text that feature additional color images of other artifacts such as jerseys, skates, sticks and trophies.

For the Love of Hockey: Hockey’s Stars Personal Stories compiled by Chris McDonell. Firefly Books. 1997. Retail price at issue not available. Book Store price $12.50. 200 pages with roughly 180 photographs almost exclusively in color. The book offers insights from some 80+ players, each done typically with one posed shot as well as one in action. Not being a hockey guy (yes we’ve been through that already) I am sure that all of these names will mean something to the hockey purist. The ones that came easy for me to recognize included Cheevers, Fedorov, Gretzky, Howe, Hull (Booby and Brett), Lemieux, Lindros, Neely, Orr, Richard (Maurice), and Patrick Roy. Truth be told, I had hoped that my hockey heroes from the Cincinnati Stingers would have been included: Dennis Sobchuck and Rick Dudly.

Cold War: A Decade of Hockey’s Greatest Rivalry 1959-1969 by Mike Leonetti. Harper Collins Ltd, 2001. Retail price at issue $39.95. Book store price $12.50. 216 pages with over 150 color images. The book follows the season by season battles between the Montreal Canadians and the Toronto Maple Leafs. One of the nicer features are the various team photographs sprinkled through the book. The images are clear and shot in such a manner that things such as stick manufacturer and models are easily seen. If you follow either of these two teams, this one comes highly recommended.

Great Book of Hockey: More Than 100 Years of Fire on the Ice by Stan and Shirley Fischer. Publications International Ltd. 1996. Retail price at issue at listed. Book store price $15.00. 368 pages in the form a large coffee table sized book with over 350 black & white as well as color images with almost a third of those coming from the Hockey Hall of Fame. The majority of the non-color images have a sepia tone quality to them. The book is broken down roughly by decade and makes for easy reading and interesting content even for non-hockey fanatics. For all you Red Wings fans, I actually found out the origins of throwing an octopus on the ice. As with “A Breed Apart,” this book also features a very nice selection of memorabilia from the Hockey Hall of Fame. The one thing I especially enjoyed was that on about 2/3 of the pages, there is a small column dedicated to a particular player of hockey notable. Nice book that you can just picked and read at your leisure without having to start at any one particular place.

Inside Hockey: Players, Pucks and Penalty Boxes by Gary Miles. Metro Books. 1997. Retail price at issue not listed. Book store price $9.50. Another larger coffee table sized book of some 160 pages in length. Over 130 color and black & white images. Since the theme of this book is to have an appeal to the overall game and hockey experience, some of the images are of fans and of course…a Zamboni machine. The strength of this book as compared to the others is that it is s bit heavier on shots of the more modern day players.

Without Fear: Hockey’s 50 Greatest Goaltenders by Kevin Allen and Bob Duff. Triumph Books. 2002. Retail price at issue $29.95 (US) & $49.95 (CAN). Book store price $12.50. (Got to love that exchange rate) 279 pages with roughly 100 images in both black & white and color. The title of the book tell you exactly what it is and thus I would be excluded on both accounts. I enjoyed one line at the begging of the book that says “Trying to explain why a man would play goal in the NHL is like trying to explain why a police officer would aspire to join the bomb squad.” The authors work well with their photograph selections to try to make this come alive to the reader. Because the focus of the book is narrow, similar to “A Breed Apart,”, it permits you to track certain evolutions in the game through what the goalie took with him to the ice each night. The book lacks the memorabilia and artifacts that sets “A Breed Apart” in a class all by itself. Knowing nothing about these great men in terms of my being able to rank them, my vote clearly goes out to “Gump Worsley” because he looks and sounds like and old time net tender. Very enjoyable book.

Over time I am looking forward to learning more about this game, but obviously as a researcher and spectator…Too much white aluminum in the game then and now for me.