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Top 10 Essential Hockey Books

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From novels to memoirs to books that probe the culture of the game, here's our pick of the top hockey books.

1. The Game: A Thoughtful and Provocative Look at a Life in Hockey

First published in 1983, Ken Dryden's chronicle of a career with the Montreal Canadiens set a new standard for sports memoirs. It has weak stretches, particularly when Dryden turns philosophical and gets lost in ruminations on The Meaning Of It All. But his journey inside the pro hockey world is honest and unflinching, and most of his insights are timeless. Often called the best hockey book ever, and deservedly so.
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2. Net Worth: Exploding the Myths of Pro Hockey

David Cruise and Alison Griffiths examine how the NHL shafted the players for most of the 20th century. If you want to know the source of the mistrust that led to the NHL lockout, this is a good place to start. Appears to be out of print, but was being carried by a couple of merchants at the time this list was made.
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3. The Red Machine: The Soviet Quest to Dominate Canada's Game

Published in 1990, it remains an excellent history of how the Soviets got so good, so fast. The various triumphs and defeats of the dynasty were directly linked to how the country developed players and assembled teams. Out of print, but worth tracking down.

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4. Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems

The award-winning collection by Randall Maggs will appeal to lovers of literature and hockey alike, with its examination of legendary goaltender Terry Sawchuk and the working world of pro hockey in the 1950s and 1960s.

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5. The Age of Longing

"Yes, Buddy Wheeler could skate. He could drink Old Stock Ale and Old Dominion rye too and play softball and cribbage and sell a 1935 Plymouth coupe now and then." In this novel by Richard Wright, a man looks back on his parents' failed marriage and his father's life as a smalltown hockey hero.
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6. The Good Body

"He wasn't a goon at a tea party. But he wasn't not that either." Such is the pass at which Bobby Bonaduce finds himself, a washed-up hockey goon heading home to fake his way through a college graduate program. As drawn by author Bill Gaston, Bonaduce is one of the finest characters in sports fiction.
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7. Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canada's National Sport

Laura Robinson's book is frightening and indispensable. Canadian junior hockey, the breeding ground for NHL dreams, is revealed as an insular subculture where abuse takes many forms. Teenaged players, encouraged to shed inhibitions, nurture aggression and enjoy their privileged status, sometimes turn into abusers themselves. Many teams have curtailed hazing rituals since this book first appeared in 1998, but the junior hockey culture remains largely intact.
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8. Searching for Bobby Orr

Stephen Brunt follows the career of the man who revolutionized the game, but who remains a private and sometimes dark public figure.

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9. Open Net: A Professional Amateur in the World of Big-Time Hockey

A classic from the early 1980s. George Plimpton joins the Boston Bruins' training camp as an "amateur goalie," using his perch to examine the curious world of pro hockey. His experience culminates with five terrifying minutes in net during an exhibition game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
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10. The Code: The Unwritten Rules Of Fighting And Retaliation In The NHL

An inside look at why hockey players fight, what kind of fighting is considered honorable, and when it's considered an appropriate tactic. A must-read for anyone curious about the role of fighting in today's game.
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