Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: Hockey's Greatest (2015)

Edited by Bill Syken

You have to give Sports Illustrated credit. They sure know how to put out a good-looking, coffee-table book.

They also sure know how to put their photography file to good use.

Those are two easy conclusions at looking through "Hockey's Greatest," the latest in a series of books covering the major North American sports. Baseball, football and basketball are done, and now it's hockey's turn.

My guess is that the formats are pretty similar. Come up with a bunch of categories, have some experts come up with a ranking, and print them with illustrations - big, glorious illustrations. The pictures are displayed in a book that measures at 10 3/4 inches by 13 inches - big enough to show them off to their best advantage. There are explanations of the picks, with comments from the selectors and/or quotes from stories and personalities involved.

The categories go as expected. Best players by position. Best coaches. Best enforcers. Best rivalries. Best teams. There are a few reaches (best shootout specialists, best franchises). Most of the choices are rather conventional; the biggest surprise might have been Ted Lindsay as the third-best left-winger ever. He beat out Alex Ovechkin, Frank Mahovlich, Valeri Kharlamov and Brendan Shanahan, among others. 

Sometimes - one per major section - the items come up a longer print treatment. For example - spoiler alert - the best game in history from an American perspective is the U.S.-U.S.S.R. game in the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid. I'm not sure if some or all the story from a 1980 article about the game is reprinted, but it's still fun to read about that particular game. It always will be too.

One extra bonus is that Michael Farber contributes a witty, interesting forward to the book, as well as some good comments and a few of typically interesting stories. Sometimes I read Farber's work and think I should have gone into plumbing instead of journalism. He sets a high bar.

One drawback comes from the format. It's mostly a picture book, which means you can plow through it pretty quickly - a couple of hours. I'd prefer a few more words for my $32.95. Speaking of that, the concept reminds me of the type of magazine that The Hockey News puts out as a special edition every so often. It doesn't look as good, but it's also one-third the price.

Still, the pictures from "Hockey's Greatest" will lure many in. It's not called Sports Illustrated for nothing, and their photographers are some of the best in the business. For those looking for a fine-looking gift for the holidays, you've come to the right place.

Four stars

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1 comment:

  1. I have this book and it's great. I have Baseball's Grestest as well, which I also enjoyed quite a lot. But take a look at the Pitcure they have for Brendan Shannahan as the #7 left winger ... After taking one close look you'll quickly see that it's not Brendan Shannahan, but rather Steve Yzerman. You have to wonder how many people went through the book and still missed something that big. To make it even more unbelievable, they have a long excerpt from Sports Illustrated written right beside the Shannahan page. There are so many amazing pictures in the book, which makes it a real shame that they missed something this big. A very solid book, but extremely surprising that Sports Illustrated could be unaware of something this important to the book.