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Book Reviews

Hockey Talk: The Language of Hockey from A–Z

by John Goldner; Ted Heeley, illus.

To the uninitiated, sports language can be a labyrinth of hermetic terminology, oddball metaphors, and outdated expressions. Of course, when talking sports in Canada, we’re most often talking hockey. That’s why John Goldner’s first book is a welcome addition to any kid’s bookshelf?

What is a “cupcake,” a “credit card,” or a “dangle”? Where is the “five hole,” the “point,” or the “back door”? Goldner covers more than 300 such terms, employing a straightforward dictionary format. His writing is clear and entertaining, and for most entries he provides examples of how the words and phrases are used.

The book is augmented by 10 two-page profiles of such notable hockey broadcasters as Foster Hewitt, Don Cherry, Howie Meeker, and Bob Cole, as well as numerous sidebar factoids and Ted Heeley’s wacky illustrations. (The image of Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry as a pig and Ron McLean as a chicken is a particular gem.)

Unfortunately, Goldner’s etymology is a tad spotty. If a term can be traced back to an individual (usually a colour commentator), he fills us in, but the origins of other key terms are left unexplained. Anyone wondering why three goals scored by one player in a single game is called a “hat trick,” or why that little black rubber thing is called a “puck,” will be disappointed.

Hockey Talk is extremely readable, and entertaining enough to hold a young reader’s attention, though it falls just short of answering every question a hockey novice might have about the sport’s lingo.