Book Review: Hockey Hall of Fame – Book of Goalies
Yet another book has now been added to my goaltender-specific library and this one should not disappoint those who choose to purchase it. The chapter sequence is as follows:
ORIGINAL SIX STARS
EXPANSION AND THE MODERN ERA GREATS
CRAZY LIKE A FOX
The section on PIONEERING GOALTENDERS is very enjoyable although statistical information on these gentleman is sparse. This is likely but a reflection of the historical era in which they played and the degree to which data was kept or is retrievable. What I enjoyed most was getting to know about these men more as human beings and not merely as Hall of Fame Goaltenders. Getting to know their nicknames, for whom they played both prior to and subsequent to 1917 (when the N.H.L. was founded) was interesting to me. The obvious point should however be made that this book deals almost exclusively with the 32 men who have been elected to the HHOF.
HARDWARE HEROES discusses details related to both the George Vezina and Williams Jennings’ trophies. It recounts the historical background behind the Vezina trophy’s creation subsequent to the death of the “Chicoutimi Cucumber” and the thought process behind changing the criteria for recipient selection. A complete list of winners is present. The story of William Jennings, a man not involved in hockey until his thirties, and the trophy that bears his name is also an important story with which to become familiar.
The ORIGINAL SIX ERA arguably deals with the most famous men of the game and all those of the pre-mask era. These men played under pressure in the single goalie system with poor equipment, and an uncertain employment situation. They did not have goaltending coaches and played against curved sticks and ever-rising shots at greater velocity. This section did not provide me a lot of information about these men with which I was not already familiar; however, for those who are not particularly well-versed with their lives and careers the information is excellent yet brief. For a detailed account of their journeys one should seek out those biographies or autobiographies available. Another excellent source of information about them is at www.goaliearchive.com or www.legendsofhockey.net . This section provides complete data including both regular season and post-season statistics including wins, losses, shutouts and GAA.
The GEARING UP section initially takes the reader on a visual tour through the evolution of goaltending equipment. This section may horrify the young and bring back memories for older goalies like myself. I enjoyed the splendid photos of Johnny Bower and Bill Durnan’s chest armor which was made of nothing but felt. This is something with which the youth of today cannot relate. It makes me laugh since I wore soft felt arm pads and a catcher’s belly protector when I was a kid. The change in size and material from leather to light-weight synthetics has been of great benefit to goaltender performance and more importantly safety.
The chapter on EXPANSION AND THE MODERN ERA GREATS is identical in format to that the of ORIGINAL SIX STARS although the short-lived presence of the World Hockey Association and some of the talent temporarily drawn away is referenced for goaltenders such as Gerry Cheevers and Bernie Parent.
There is also a brief section on trail-blazing as far a technique and improvements to the position are concerned. It includes the origin of European goalies trying to make it in the NHL and that of a few trailblazing women who have advanced the respect for women’s ability to play goal, and hockey in general, through their collective efforts and accomplishments. This chapter on GAME CHANGERS includes information that has already been discussed throughout the book. Therefore, some readers may consider this a criticism of the overall product. Nevertheless, I sincerely believe the editor was trying to connect individual moments and personalities in goaltending into an overall timeline. Therefore, I do not judge them harshly.
The final chapter is written by former NHL goaltender Brian Hayward. It is an introspective / reflective look at goaltending and some of the characteristics that make goaltenders what they are. Once again, it recounts some information discussed throughout the book.
This book is not dissimilar to A Breed Apart, An Illustrated History of Goaltending written by Douglas Hunter and published in 1995. A lot of the information is the same and many photographs are identical. Hunter’s book however is different in that he presents information on certain goalies that have not been, and may never be, elected to the HHOF. Both books are worth reading and I cannot say whether one is better than the other.
One thing that always makes history more visceral is photographs. The photographs in this book are wonderful and the glossy pages add to the professional nature of the final product. You may especially enjoy the black and white photos of the PIONEERING ERA since they reveal the humble beginnings of this position we all love and of the brotherhood to which we all belong!