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Canada's National Sports! Plus Curling.
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Canada's National Sports! Plus Curling.

By Andrea Routley
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Great books about our national sports -- hockey and lacrosse. Plus curling. Curling is also special.
The Best Game You Can Name

The Best Game You Can Name

tagged : hockey, sports

Bidini returns to the game he loves best

In 2004, Dave Bidini laced on his skates and slid onto the ice of Toronto’s McCormick Arena to play defence with the Morningstars in the E! Cup tourney. While thrashing around the ice, swiping at the puck and his opponents, Bidini got to thinking about how others see the game. Afterward, he set off to talk to former professional players about their experiences of hockey. The result is vintage Bidini — an exuberant, evocative, highly personal, and vivid …

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If it’s true that the best time for sports is when you’re eleven, I’ve discovered that it’s also pretty good when you’re forty. My athletic renaissance came on the heels of turning thirty-­four, which is how old I was when I lit out to discover world hockey. Later, and older, I spent an entire summer dogging an Italian baseball team up and down the Boot. One evening while I was in Nettuno — my Italian baseballing town — I paced with some agitation behind the town’s seawall, holding my cellphone and listening to my friend Ozzie from his couch in Etobicoke, Ontario. He was shouting the names of undrafted nhlers: “Thomas Vokoun? Available, I think. Comrie? Gone. Brisebois? You really wanna pick Brisebois?”

Purple waves licked the beach not twenty feet from where I was standing under the bright Roman moon, pondering the kind of quibbler that must have perplexed Marcus Aurelius or Cicero or any number of Latin thinkers who’d paced this same long stretch of sand:

“Anson Carter gives us depth, sure, but if Brian Boucher’s around, you know we can never have too much goaltending.”

Ozzie paused while a Sputnik orbiting hundreds of miles overhead ensnared our transcontinental frequency in static, then volleyed a thought about the unpredictability of a young American goaltender. Would Boucher ever supplant Sean Burke as number one in Phoenix, he wondered, and, hey, what was Italy like anyway. I told him that Italy was fine, just fine, then pressed on with the matter at hand: to draft our fantasy league team with a handful of other hockey freaks.

Arguing eggheadedly over draft picks during the sweet soft hours of an Italian evening — to say nothing of spending what should have been prime holidaying time catching fungoes — is proof that sports means as much to me now as it ever did at age eleven. Which is saying a lot. As a boy growing up in suburban Toronto, my life was a hockey card collection, a gas station stamp book, a Team Canada poster, an Export ‘A’ Leafs calender, Gordie Howe’s name scribbled in blue ink on the back of a beer mat, Tiger Williams at Kingsway Motors, a pair of Marlie greys, a front tooth knocked out by Martin Dzako’s street hockey follow-­through. I was just as obsessed as the next scamp with the gladiators of ice, but my friend Murray Heywood went one step further. When Murray was eight, his brothers would invite their friends over to watch the kid put on a show. He’d leave the room while they put a hockey card on the kitchen table, obscured except for the players’ eyes. They’d call Murray back into the room. He’d guess right every time.

The players Ozzie and I drafted onto our fantasy team were the adult equivalents of a hockey card collection. We obsessed over them as we once obsessed over the flat, sugar-­dusted squares stacked stat-­to-­stat in shoeboxes and lunch tins. A fondness for the outdoor rinks and skating ponds and scraps of ice that collect in the ravines, creeks, and parking-­lot potholes of my kid-­dom returned after a long, post-­adolescent, soul-­clearing wander into the land of art, love, dope, movies, and the strains of Killing Joke. Hockey had been drummed out of my heart, head, and hands by demanding coaches, aggressive peers, and a natural tightening of life, to say nothing of the siren of rock and roll. It had led me away from sports, but it had taken me back there again. In rinks like Bill Bolton, Moss Park, DeLaSalle, St. Mike’s, Scadding Court, Dufferin Grove, McCormick, and Wallace Emerson — each pad seated near the heart of the city — I rediscovered the game.

This rebirth of sporting love is common among youngish Canadians who, on the other side of twenty-­five, suddenly see hockey as being more than just the domain of guys in mullets weaned on White Snake and Extra Old Stock. A collection of these enlightened folk can be found every Easter weekend at the Exclaim! Cup hockey tournament, a yearly play-­down sponsored by Exclaim!, a national music magazine that is to The Hockey News what Thurston Moore is to Michael Hedges. The tourney takes place over four days and features twenty-­four musician teams whose players, like me, fell out of, then back in, love with the game. Members of the Fruit, Dufferin Groove, Wheatfield Souldiers, Victoria Humiliation, Vancouver Flying Vees, Edmonton Green Pepper All-­Stars, and all the other teams know that while the dividing line between art and sport is thick, the E! Cup proves that the geek and the goon can co-­exist, even flourish in a single body.

During the tourney, rinkside rock bands serenade the crowd with everything from “More Than a Feeling” played in twenty-­second kerrangs to the occasional hippie drum-­jam extended for as long as it takes the referee to collect players for a faceoff. It’s the Vans Warped Tour meets the Allan Cup Finals. At the evening socials (coined the “Hockey Hootenany” by the organizer, Morningstar Tom Goodwin), the teams become bands again, executing the kind of cultural switcheroo that never would have happened back in my high-­school days, not when left wingers were beating the snot out of safety-­pinners on local football fields. For their performance at the ’04 Hootenany, the Montreal entry, organized by Ninja Tune records, debuted a work by British electronic music king Amon Tobin: a remix of the Hockey Night in Canada theme. The tune — transformed by Tobin’s thunderous beats and growling industrial textures — became a celebration of hockey without the macho cruelty, art without the arrogance.

The E! Cup began as a challenge match between the Sonic Unyon Pond Hockey Squad (Sonic Unyon is a Hamilton label that’s put out records by Frank Black, Sianspheric, and Mayor McCA, who also happens to be Ric Seiling’s nephew) and my team, the Morningstars, which has suffered three straight Cup losses after winning the first three.

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Salmonbellies vs. the World

Salmonbellies vs. the World

The Story of Lacrosse's Most Famous Team & Their Greatest Opponents

In 1889, in an obscure corner of the British Empire called New Westminster, a few dedicated lacrosse players and sportsmen put together a team of world-beaters. In today's era of manufactured teams with generic names, the New Westminster Salmonbellies stand with the old guard: the Yankees, the Canadiens, the Celtics and the Packers. The Salmonbellies were known as a tough team in a tough sport, as described by the "British Columbian" in 1894: "The men on both sides played a hard, fast game — A …

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The Puck Starts Here

The Origin of Canada's Great Winter Game, Ice Hockey
tagged : hockey

Want to start a fight? Just ask where hockey was invented. In The Pick Starts Here, Garth Vaughan traces the origin of Canada's great winter game, not to Montreal, not to Kingston, but to Windsor, Nova Scotia, around 1800. Vaughan is not speculating. According to Thomas Chandler Haliburton, as early as 1800, the local version of "He shoots! He scores!" echoed over Windsor's frozen ponds as the boys of King's College School furiously hit a slice from a stick of stove wood towards the opponents' g …

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For the Love of Hockey

For the Love of Hockey

Hockey Stars' Personal Stories
compiled by Chris McDonell
foreword by John Davidson
also available: Hardcover
tagged : hockey, sports

NHL stars and legends reveal key moments of their careers.

The greatest hockey players of all time share their most vivid memories of the game they love. These stories and anecdotes are essentially joyful, occasionally heart-breaking, and always heartfelt.

Their reminiscences include:

  • Dramatic overtime goals
  • Record-breaking games
  • Team camaraderie
  • Devastating trades
  • Career-ending injuries.

Thrilling color photographs enhance the personal stories of players from such hockey legends as: …

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Lacrosse Warrior

Lacrosse Warrior

The Life of Mohawk Lacrosse Champion Gaylord Powless
also available: Hardcover Paperback

Gaylord Powless was playing lacrosse by the age of three. His father was a famous player who taught Gaylord everything he knew. But Gaylord's tremendous skill and native ancestry made him a target on and off the lacrosse floor. Gaylord learned that the best revenge was to improve his game. He became a standard for sportsmanship and skill and a pioneer in promoting equality for Canadian athletes of all ethnic backgrounds.

[Fry Reading Level - 4.5

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Canada Curls

Canada Curls

The Illustrated History of Curling in Canada
tagged : winter sports

Hockey may be Canada's game, but curling is Canada's life. Brought over from Scotland with the 78th Fraser Highlanders, the sport of curling has alleviated many seemingly endless winters, from 1759 to present day. Today, over one million people in Canada are curlers, and Canada boasts more curling world championships and trophies than any other country in the world. With archival and modern photographs as well as informative text, Doug Maxwell recounts the definitive history of curling in Canada …

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