Monday, December 8, 2008

12-8-08: Hockey Monday: The Game by Ken Dryden

I have a habit of reading multiple books at once, which leads me to end up taking months and months to finish one book. Sometimes I'll go months without reading a book, then sit down and read the rest of it in a day. I don't know why.

One book that is currently in the cycle, and is nearing completion, is The Game by Ken Dryden. It's a hockey book, first and foremost. But it's not about strategy or talking about the "winning mentality" or anything like that. It's about the purity of the sport: the team and the individual. Dryden wrote the book towards the tale end of his brilliant, but marvelously short, career with the Montreal Canadiens. Dryden is widely considered the greatest goaltender in NHL history, and rightly so: the Habs won the Stanley Cup six times during his eight season career. He won a Stanley Cup the season before winning the Rookie of the Year (he came in for the playoff run as a replacement). Dryden also graduated from Cornell, and retired at the age of 31 to pursue a career in law. Pretty bright guy for some one who willingly stood in the way of 90+ mph shots.

The thing about The Game that makes it special, especially for a hockey player, is how Dryden describes his teammates and how his mind worked before, during, and after a game. He described the paranoid attention paid to routine, and how frantic a professional athlete's mind is. In the book he does a stupendous job at explaining the dedication and wonder the great players, like Guy LaFleur, had for their sport. It's simply an amazing first-person story of the team and the individual. I think I almost don't want to finish it for sake of the story. It's like saying goodbye to a friend. Great, great book.

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