The best books about hockey

The Books I Picked & Why

Riding on the Roar of the Crowd: A Hockey Anthology

By David Gowdey

Riding on the Roar of the Crowd: A Hockey Anthology

Why this book?

I love this collection of writing about hockey. It includes memoirs, essays, magazine articles, book excerpts, fiction, poetry, and even a one-act play about the game. Some of my favourites are an elegantly written 1954 magazine article by Hugh MacLennan called "Fury on Ice"; Morley Callaghan’s “The Game that Makes a Nation,” an essay on Canada’s “national drama”; Hugh Hood's riveting close-up look at Jean Beliveau's artistry; and Mordecai Richler’s sad look at a retiring Gordie Howe, who sidelines as an Amway salesman. This book is so full of great reads.


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Wayne Gretzky's Ghost: And Other Tales from a Lifetime in Hockey

By Roy MacGregor

Wayne Gretzky's Ghost: And Other Tales from a Lifetime in Hockey

Why this book?

As a teenager, I read Roy MacGregor’s profiles of players such as Bryan Trottier, Borje Salming, and Bobby Clarke in The Canadian magazine and it made me want to become a writer. Since then, he’s written many great hockey books, including The Home Team, A Loonie for Luck and the Screech Owl series for young readers. Wayne Gretzky’s Ghost—the title refers to when MacGregor ghostwrote Gretzky’s newspaper column—is a collection of some of his best pieces from 1976 to 2011. Read them and I’m sure you’ll agree MacGregor is the game’s best writer.


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Gross Misconduct: The Life of Spinner Spencer

By Martin O’Malley

Gross Misconduct: The Life of Spinner Spencer

Why this book?

The night Brian Spencer first played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, his father was angry that the local TV station was airing another game. After driving to the station with a gun and forcing the staff to show the Leaf game, he died in a stand-off with the RCMP. “Spinner” played 553 NHL games, but life after hockey wasn’t easy. In 1988, a year after his acquittal on kidnapping and murder charges, he died from a gunshot during a drug-related robbery in Florida. O’Malley is an excellent journalist and this is a powerfully told story of a tragic life. 


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The Game

By Ken Dryden

The Game

Why this book?

Given that I’m a fan of the Boston Bruins and Ken Dryden, the great Montreal goalie, broke my heart many times in the 1970s, I didn’t want to like this book. But I did, which is good because no list of the best hockey books is complete without this one. It’s the story of Dryden’s last year in the NHL with flashbacks to previous years as well as his thoughts on the state of the sport. My favourite parts are when he shows us what life is like as a professional hockey player, especially in the dressing room.


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Hockey Dreams: Memories of a Man Who Couldn't Play

By David Adams Richards

Hockey Dreams: Memories of a Man Who Couldn't Play

Why this book?

This book by an award-winning Canadian novelist mixes memoir and essay. The memoir is set in New Brunswick’s Miramichi region in 1961. Richards has no use of his left arm; his best friend is going blind due to diabetes. They are in their last year of playing hockey. Woven into that story are other memories—including of distasteful meetings with people who don’t like the sport—as well as his thoughts on the game and its place in the Canadian psyche. Hockey Dreams is highly personal, so it may not be for readers, but I loved it. 


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