Pro goalies’ sto­ries quirky, fas­ci­nat­ing

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - Re­viewed by Gil­bert Gre­gory

IN The Goal­tenders’ Union: Hockey’s Great­est Puck­stop­pers, Ac­ro­bats and Flakes, Greg Oliver and Richard Kam­chen look at one of sports’ most ex­clu­sive fra­ter­ni­ties: the Na­tional Hockey League goal­tender. A fol­lowup to Win­nipeg­ger Kam­chen and Toron­to­nian Oliver’s 2013 ef­fort Don’t Call Me Goon: Hockey’s Great­est En­forcers, Gun­slingers and Bad Boys, the au­thors of­fer read­ers pro­files of men who will­ingly throw their bod­ies in the paths of vul­can­ized chunks of rub­ber that at times travel faster than 160 km/h. The book traces the his­tory of the goal­tend­ing po­si­tion from be­fore the es­tab­lish­ment of the NHL to as re­cently as the 2014 Olympic Win­ter Games in Sochi. Need­less to say, many of the play­ers pro­filed ap­pear to have a screw or two loose, while at the same time com­ing off as in­sight­ful and in­tel­li­gent. Be­gin­ning with the early days, read­ers are of­fered brief pro­files of leg­ends such as Ge­orges Vez­ina and Turk Broda as well as ob­scure goalies such as Ri­ley Hern and Bouse Hut­ton. The sec­tion on Orig­i­nal Six ’keep­ers ex­am­ines the rigours of play­ing at a time when teams car­ried only one goalie and play would of­ten be de­layed while he was stitched up after tak­ing a shot or a stick to the face, all the while know­ing there was a ready sup­ply of goal­tenders toil­ing in the mi­nor leagues wait­ing for their shot. The Goal­tenders’ Union of­fers end­less ex­am­ples of how tight the goal­tend­ing com­mu­nity is, whether of­fer­ing each other tips on the art of stop­ping the puck or words of en­cour­age­ment when one of their brethren is go­ing through a rough spell. It would sur­prise most hockey fans to find out Billy Smith, who had an on-ice rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing mis­er­able and vi­o­lent, would visit an op­pos­ing team’s rookie goalie — after he had just been shel­lacked by Smith’s New York Is­landers — to help re­build the rookie’s con­fi­dence after a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat. A book on flaky goalies would likely fill vol­umes. While The Goal­tenders’ Union doesn’t have a spe­cific sec­tion on the wacky be­hav­iour for which goalies are known, it doesn’t shy away from men­tion­ing the quirky habits of play­ers such as Gary “Suit­case” Smith, who would re­move his gear and take a shower be­tween pe­ri­ods, or the wack­i­est of them all, Gilles “Gra­toony the Loony” Grat­ton, who skated around the rink be­fore games wear­ing only his skates and com­plained about in­juries suf­fered in past lives. While the player pro­files in The Goal­tenders’ Union of­fer in­ter­est­ing de­tails about goalies, there are some glar­ing omis­sions. When the story of Terry Sawchuk and his iras­ci­ble de­meanour is told, for ex­am­ple, there’s no men­tion of the fam­ily tragedy that led to him be­com­ing a goalie (his older brother died of a heart at­tack and Terry in­her­ited his equip­ment and po­si­tion). Hockey fans will find The Goal­tenders’ Union an in­ter­est­ing read for its tales of old-time hockey as well as its de­scrip­tion of how the most dan­ger­ous po­si­tion in sports has evolved — from the days when goalies weren’t al­lowed to leave their feet to make a save to the present, where they are cov­ered in body ar­mour and as likely to make a blind save from their back as they are to snag a slap­shot from the point with their trap­per. Gil­bert Gre­gory is a Free Press copy ed­i­tor who be­lieves there is no greater goalie mask than Gilles Grat­ton’s lion.

The Goal­tenders’

Union: Hockey’s Great­est Puck­stop­pers, Ac­ro­bats and Flakes

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.