Books: SI on Hockey

Orr, Gretzky and Crosby are all covered in SI’s Hockey Talk
Although not the catchiest of titles, the new hockey anthology from Sports Illustrated, Hockey Talk, outpaces its name on the interior.

Michael Farber’s opening piece, Eight Seconds, recounts Sid Crosby’s Golden Goal that gave Canada its 2010 Olympic hockey title. It’s a second-by-second telling that Keith Hernandez used (sometimes to distraction) in his 1994 baseball book, Pure Baseball. It conveys an insider’s view of that final goal, without carrying said view longer than 13 pages. For US and Canadian hockey fans alike, it’s a thankful reminder of just how meaningful a game can be for professional athletes even without a paycheck in the offing.

From there there’s a look at the ever-enigmatic Bobby Orr by S.L. Price. I had a Bobby Orr table hockey game in early 1970’s NY Rangers-country as a kid, and anyone who saw it, even the grown-ups, let out a low whistle followed simply by “Bobby Orrrr,” when they did. He transcended rooting interests in sports, and teams, as few of those low-whistlers cared much about hockey, and none at all cared about the Bruins. “Bobby” will always be a compelling topic, and Price has the good sense to both pick Orr as his and to handle it well.

As with all collections – watches, beer cans, or here, hockey stories – the pieces vary in quality. Kostya Kennedy’s foreword can best be described as hockey-indifferent, not a great intro to an anthology on the topic. He takes what feels like a requisite swing at the sport’s violent side and his subsequent praise for hockey feels like a well-worded necessity the SI editors pried from him.

True to the general Sports Illustrated standard of hockey writing, however, Hockey Talk is an exceptional rink side read.