The Game by Ken Dryden, which chronicles a week in the life of the 1978-1979 Montreal Canadians. They say it’s the greatest  hockey book of all time, so I picked it up at the library, and it didn’t disappoint. He’s a great writer, rare for an athlete, especially such a good athlete, and he’s also super introspective and conflicted — which is the really interesting part considering he was the best goalie on the best team in the league and won the Stanley Cup six times in eight years. What is there to be conflicted about when you’re so awesome?

Oh, but he does ennui so well:

From the referendum on Quebec’s independence to the “son of Sam” murders, I find almost everything ‘interesting’ and if pressed for more,  I offer explanations. I show that I ‘understand’ how such things happen and I go no further. But as I hold back, giving less of myself,  I find that I am losing my enthusiasm for the game. In an athlete, it is not the legs that go first, it is the enthusiasm that drives the legs.

Easy, David Foster Wallace. And here he is, on playing at Maple Leaf Gardens in the late 70s vs. going there as a kid.

It was a period piece – elegant, colonial Toronto – perfectly shamelessly preserved from a time before glitter and spectacle came to the city; and came to sports… I don’t much like the Gardens now. Competing against a child’s memory, that is perhaps inevitable, but it is more than that. The building’s elegant touches are gone, but anachronistic perhaps, even in that other time, most deserved to go. It has been expanded and modernized for contemporary needs – more seats, more private boxes, a bigger press box – but I dislike the haphazard, graceless way it was done. There is a veneer of newness about it now that doesn’t quite fit. It has been stranded in an awkward transition; no longer what it was, it cannot be what it wants to be. Now after nearly fifty years, there is nothing special about it. It is just another rink; just another place to play.

Such a great book. Highly recommend it.


Hockey overload…

I had a very hockey-obsessed day yesterday, while everyone else was winding down from the Stanley Cup final. I wrote about the new hockey writer at Grantland, Katie Baker over at Brutish&Short  (she’s awesome). Then I blog-stalked her, and came across the HBO series from last winter 24/7 NHL Road the Winter Classic, which I had totally forgotten about. I watched all four hours of it yesterday and it was so good! The show gives a behind the scenes look at the Penguins and the Caps during the month of December, and from it I learned the following things:

  1. Sidney Crosby may be even whinier than I initially suspected. He complains at the refs nonstop.
  2. Alexander Ovechkin, surprisingly does not complain at the refs as much as I would think. I suppose this is because he grew up in the Soviet Union and was taught to fear/respect authority maybe? I can imagine the punishment over there as a child for ignoring your coach or the refs would be belt-whipping, or some kind other kind of lashing.
  3. I heart Bruce Boudreau. Big time. He’s a sweetheart with a foul-mouth — I’m pretty sure he swears more than I do. Also, I like his coaching style; when his players were all down about a losing streak he tells them “You could be anywhere. You play fucking hockey for a living. Lighten up. Having some fucking fun here.”
  4. Dan Bylsma is also an awesome coach, although significantly less profane.
  5. The Penguins seem to be a really nice group of guys, with the massive exception of Matt Cooke — now that I’ve had a glimpse behind the scenes it’s even more puzzling why/how Bylsma and Lemieux let him get away with these garbage hits. They seem like classy guys and a classy organization. Get the fuck rid of Cooke.

I really hope HBO does this again – it would be awesome/terrifying to see a Habs Leafs miniseries. Hal Gill, that beauty, would definitely invite the whole TV crew over to his place for a dinner party, and between him and PK Subban, the antics would make for some great television.

Jesus Price, anyone?

An academic at the Universite de Montreal is writing a book on the Habs culture as religion. Praise the Lord:

With the Habs religion, what is very particular is that it is a religion of Montreal and of Quebec. It’s the same as in every other sport; to make the gods play with the Habs. But it’s in a very Catholic way and in a very Quebecker way. For the Habs, the way you pray is the Catholic way because the culture of Quebec is very Catholic. For example, during the playoffs, there are people who go to the Oratoire St. Joseph and they [kneel] because it is the Catholic way to ask for something from God. It takes a Catholic face because we are in Montreal. But probably if you are Jewish or Protestant or atheist you can have another kind of a relation [to the sport].