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Book Reviews

How Hockey Works

by Keltie Thomas, Greg Hall, illus.

Hockey books are to publishing what sitcoms are to television – though few are worth a second look, every year there are more and more. Keltie Thomas’s How Hockey Works distinguishes itself through an original approach to the game – a scientific one. Thomas is a former editor of Owl magazine and the author of CyberSurfer: The Owl Internet Guide for Kids. Her association with Owl is evident here. How Hockey Works is endlessly enthusiastic, generously informative, and completely without condescension.

Most hockey books fetishize the game, treating players like demi-gods, games and seasons like mythic campaigns. But Thomas keeps the tone light and breezy, with a clear appreciation for hockey’s eccentrics, such as the nervous goalie who vomited before every game and player Bucko MacDonald, who happily obliged a fan offering to pay him $5 for every bodycheck he gave in a 1936 game. The book contains a great deal of technical hockey history (for example, the history of the puck, stick, goalie mask, and Zamboni) with almost none of the who-scored-what variety. We also get the physics of body checking, detailed cross-sections of professional rinks, and a surprisingly frank discussion of concussions and blown knees.

The book’s glossary of hockey terms is concise and useful (though a definition of ice was hardly required). The layout of the book is similar to that of Owl magazine, with lots of colour and plenty of interesting factoids crowding the page. One small disappointment: the illustrations by Greg Hall. Though his technical drawings are serviceable, his cartoon hockey players are goofy and visually flat, and crowd out the book’s few photos.