For the love of the game

The first time we step into the arena each season I say “I love the smell of the ice” and I really do.  I think that it smells clean and familiar and it reminds me of the happiness we have every year as our daughters play hockey. I know that some families have mixed feelings about their seasons but ours have been filled with rewards, despite the early mornings, incredibly cold temperatures, the absolutely horrible drives (on snowy roads) to arenas that seem to be deliberately hidden as you drive to the small town you are trying to find, and occasional bad behaviour in the stands and on the ice.  So, when a new book comes out that features the sport of hockey I find those hard to resist because reading about this sport just feels cozy to me even though it is a sport based on me constantly sitting or standing in a cold arena. I do skip over some of the more complicated statistics (so, I skip over all of the statistics) and focus on the story behind each book but they always provide entertaining reading, especially during the colder months.

Earlier this year we received copies of a wonderful biography of David William Bauer, known to people in Waterloo as Father David Bauer, the Basilian priest and teacher, but for so many in the hockey world he is a respected coach and hockey innovator. When I first met my husband and got to know the K-W area I would drive along Father David Bauer Drive and was fascinated to learn the story of this incredible man, born in Kitchener in 1925 to a family of eleven children, who started his hockey career as a little skater on a backyard rink. Finally, in this book written by hockey fan Greg Oliver, we have a complete history of the origins of Father David’s passion for the game and his strategy for turning his students into good people and good hockey players. It’s a chance to take a trip down memory lane – into the old arenas and traditions of the past – while you see how the first national hockey team was built.  This is a treat of a book with so many delightful mentions of streets, people and businesses in the area.  It’s worth reading twice, once for the hockey stories and once to learn more about our region.

Another hockey book published this year will take you from Jamaica to northern Ontario, then to Toronto… and then to so many hockey arenas you will lose track.  It’s written by Karl Subban, father of P. K, Malcolm and Jordan. At the moment that I am typing these words he has sons playing with the Nashville Predators, the Vegas Golden Knights and one signed and drafted by the Vancouver Canucks (but currently playing with their AHL affiliate – the Comets). With three hockey players in the family you would expect many of his examples to centre around the sport, and they do, but Karl Subban also shares wonderful memories of coming to Canada as a boy, finding his way as a novice teacher and following his path as an school administrator in the busy world of the Toronto District School Board.  It’s a quick read, with the author’s strong personality shining through, and I felt like the book was a great blend of personal story plus his perspective on parenting and the world of hockey.  I had always been a P.K. Subban fan (although never a Habs fan) and now I am a Karl Subban fan.

At WPL we aren’t just fans of books, we also have big sports fans among the staff here and it is absolutely clear where loyalties fall. Team hats or sweaters are occasionally worn and there are heated discussions after pivotal games, as the promising seasons begin, and as playoffs begin and end.  Some years library sports fans see their dreams realized and then.. there are the Toronto Maple Leafs fans.  I’ve just finished reading a book that should be required reading for those who cheer for Toronto, it has been so worth waiting for, the autobiography of Doug Gilmour. This book is such a blast to read the pages almost turn themselves. You just can’t stop reading it. From the first pages of Killer: My Life in Hockey you know you are reading a book written by someone who feels lucky that they were ever able to tie on skates. Each little tidbit he chooses to share, whether it is about his life as a player, coach or from his family life, feel genuine.  It’s like sitting down beside him in his local restaurant and having a chat. Some of his family stories made my heart ache and the risks he took as a kid and the pranks he played made me feel fortunate that he wasn’t my kid – it had a bit of the roller coaster feel for me. A fabulous hockey read and a tribute to his parents which really feels good at this time of year.

Any one of these books would be a perfect choice for someone who is sitting in a cold arena, clutching their thermos of hot tea, while their own hockey player work their hardest on the ice, occasionally shooting the puck at the boards directly where you are sitting just to scare you. Maybe that is just the players that I know?  Or, reward yourself with one of these fantastic books after you get home and enjoy a second cup of tea. If you are looking for books about hockey players, coaches, the history of hockey or maybe you need directions to the arena in that small town you can stop by the library – we are here to help you.  Even if you cheer for Montreal.

-Penny M.