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Of Ice and Men Dominik Hasek, Chris Chelios, Steve Yzerman, Glen Sather: The Craft of Hockey

by Bruce Dowbiggin

Is the game of hockey a brutish survival of the toughest, or a well-orchestrated work of art on ice? In Of Ice and Men, Bruce Dowbiggin argues convincingly for the latter point of view.

By focusing on four men who have achieved excellence in different aspects of the game – scorer/leader Steve Yzerman, versatile defenceman Chris Chelios, coach and front office wizard Glen Sather, and goaltender Dominik Hasek – Dowbiggin makes the case that hockey is indeed a craft, a field of endeavour best practiced by those who combine the traditional skills of the body with intelligence and pride. Of the four NHL heroes Dowbiggin says, “It’s their love of hockey that binds the subject of this book. It’s their mastery of craft that led me to write about them.”

You’d expect as much from Dowbiggin, who for the past several years has been carving out his reputation as the thinking fan’s sportscaster on CBC Radio and, for a short time, the host of “Double Play” on Toronto’s all-sports station, The Fan. Although there’s enough he-shoots-he-scores action in Of Ice and Men to keep the live-action fans entertained, it’s really the in-depth material that Dowbiggin has managed to dig up on each of his subjects that is most valuable.

Great hockey people aren’t created in a vacuum, and Dowbiggin has done a fine job at explaining how these men have perfected their on-ice craft through practice and sheer love of the game. Particularly fascinating (although I’ve always had a soft spot for netminders) is his look at Hasek, who, as a European making it big in North America, has always been an enigma to NHL fans. Readers will be hard-pressed, however, to find a better look at a top-class goalie and the European and North American traditions that have nurtured him.

In all, Dowbiggin’s is an effort highly recommended for anyone interested in the personal and historical building blocks that come together to build superstars in the Great Canadian Pastime.