Review: Sports Illustrated’s “The Hockey Book”

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If there’s a legacy that Sports Illustrated magazine has developed over its history, it’s that you can always count on them for having some of the most incredible and visually stunning photographs of the game you’ll ever see. When given a copy of SI’s latest release, “The Hockey Book” edited by longtime SI writer Kostya Kennedy, the first thing you notice just when glancing at the cover is a sampler platter of some of the great action portraits of the NHL’s greats. If that little taste was enough to make you pick it up and begin leafing through it, your curiosity was rewarded in the best way possible if you’re a fan of the game.

In the 256-page hardcover book, what you’ll be raving to those you know and to other fans about (kind of like what I’m doing right now I suppose) are the photos. Not an era of hockey is missed and for that we can be thankful for that as seeing photos from the days of no helmets and no masks for goalies in vivid black-and-white photography (some in color too) is like taking a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame from the comfort of your living room. You’ll find yourself losing a lot of time just flipping page by page checking out photographs from all eras of the NHL seeing rugged photos from Stanley Cup finals battles in the 1940s to incredible action shots of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

I know I’m going a bit fanboy-ish over the photographs, but it wouldn’t be an SI production without healthy sampling of the great writing over the years we’ve experienced from the numerous writers on their staff. Getting to re-read classic pieces like E.M. Swift’s, “Eleven Seconds” about Boston University’s Travis Roy who was paralyzed because of a terrible accident during his first shift for the Terriers or George Plimpton’s classic take on trying to be an NHL goalie with the Boston Bruins provide retrospective in such a range of emotions on moments both heart-crushingly terrible and humorously enlightening. Getting other great pieces from SI’s wonderful writer Michael Farber could help win over anyone who was on the fence about becoming a hockey fan.

My secret enjoyment of the book comes from the quick sum-ups they’ve done of each era choosing who would make up their all-star teams of each era from the foundations of the NHL, to the Original Six era, to the Expansion era in the 1960s, and beyond. Key moments and even getting to learn nicknames of some of the NHL greats. Let’s just say that nicknames from anytime between 1875 and 1950 are a lot more fun than what they are now. I doubt you’ll find anyone getting called “The Chicoutimi Cucumber” the way Georges Vézina did back in the day, now. I would give anything to have a current NHL’er nicknamed “Pig Iron” the way Bert Corbeau was though. What do you say Anze Kopitar?

All told, SI’s “The Hockey Book” is a gorgeous thing to have and an instant conversation piece when put out on your coffee table. Anyone who’s a hockey fan in the room won’t be able to resist checking it out and even if they’re a fan of photographs, it’s an irresistible piece of work. The amount of love and care that’s gone into this shows through and for this hockey fan’s heart it’s a beautiful thing.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”