Goalies, grinders and greats captured in hockey card stories
SPORTSNET’S Ken Reid has been a hockey card fanatic as far back as he can remember. For both hardcore or casual fans of hockey history, and especially for his kindred hockey card freaks, it’s a good thing he’s put his passion to work in compiling Hockey Card Stories. Using his insider’s connections to the hockey world to track down some of the stories behind some truly unique pieces of cardboard, Reid displays a genuine passion for his subject. And for anyone who caught the collector’s fever — whether in the ’60s, ’70s or the boom times of the late ’80s and early ’90s — this collection of stories and images are a real treat. The full-colour recreations of some of these beauties will either have you smiling in embarrassed recollection or busting a gut laughing at some of the outdated styles, especially in the late ’70s and early ’80s (see 1974-75 Minnesota Fighting Saint Mike Antonovich’s entry for a beauty of a display of Fubar- worthy mullet action, with accompanying facial hair). For some of those wild about hockey, these images will be worth the cost of admission alone. Many of the stories unearthed are also fun and, at the very least, impart a bit of behind-the-scenes insight into the game as it was back then. The stories of the WHA, which are all-too-often brushed under the rug by the current gatekeepers of the NHL’s official storyline, are especially interesting. And the grinders who toiled for years in the minors to get their “one and only” cards, like California Golden Seal Frank Spring or the Washington Capitals’ Mark Lofthouse, offer insight into how much of a struggle it was, and remains, to make it to the big leagues. To be sure, it must have been a challenge for Reid to frame the dozens of stories contained within the 11 sections of the book in fresh ways. Unlike Dave Bidini’s The Best Game You Can Name, which mines some similar territory, there’s no overarching narrative connecting these stories. But for the most part, Reid makes the most of the somewhat limited, blog entrystyle format. It must be said, however, that far too often Reid’s need to have the last word ruins what were otherwise touching insights from both forgotten and key players. The repetitive nature of the storytelling also gets old quick, though a prolonged read is likely not the best way to enjoy these “true tales from your favourite players” anyway. Rather, Hockey Card Stories is great in quick, short bursts. Jam-packed with trivia and funny stories, this highly entertaining collection of blog-length anecdotes from NHL and WHA hall of famers, journeymen and one-card-wonders will make the perfect gift for the hockey obsessed. For those with boxes of cards stashed somewhere in the basement, Hockey Card Stories is a must-read, if in short instalments only. Sheldon Birnie is a writer and editor living in Winnipeg, who still keeps boxes
of hockey cards in his basement.