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.