Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Over-Educated Hockey Fan: A Book Review

Over the winter break, I suckered my parents into buying not only my school textbooks, but also a few other things for the sake of thesis research. One of these extras was "The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL" by Ross Bernstein, which I then proceeded to demolish on the plane on the way home.

I'm giving him a 6 out of 10. Stars, pucks, I don't know, but 6 out of 10. Overall, it was at least a semi-informative book, but it felt like over and over and over he was saying the same thing. From what I got out of it, I could boil the whole book down to this: Hockey fights have always happened, and usually come from escalating on-ice issues. Ross Berenstein dislikes Todd Bertuzzi, and would babysit Wayne Gretzky's kids if Gretzky asked.

Honestly, there's a reason the Code is unwritten, and it probably should have stayed that way. As this book proved to me, there's no good way of actually detailing all the little things that go into each and every situation and the individual player's decision to fight. Contact sports are like that, and if I had to account for every big hit I'd ever laid on an opposing rollergirl, it'd probably come out a lot like this.

It also struck me how bizarre the cast of characters was. Although it's copyright 2006, the only mention of Crosby is a quote from the Shattuck St. Mary's coach saying "Yeah, we trained him here" and nothing about the Penguins using Laraque and Rutuu to keep his head attached. In fact, at the time of writing, this still has Laraque as an Oiler and Brashear as a Flyer. And granted, I haven't been around hockey for a long time at all, but I only recognized about one out of every five enforcer names Bernstein dropped. No Parros, none of the current brand of Flyer morons (just the historical ones) no Rutuu or Avery as agitators, and Avery's not even MENTIONED in the section on diving... it's quite odd for a book started during the lockout and published in 2006.

What else, "Longtime St Louis Blues enforcer Tony Twist" needs his head checked if he really thinks that "Chris Pronger...and Steve Yzerman... are very well respected finesse players." (p 80) The last time I checked, Pronger's finesse was located in his elbows.

Overall, a decent read if you want something hockey-related to steam through quickly, but honestly, a real fan's probably figured out most of his "secret revelation" on how the fighting code works a already anyway.