THE BEST GAME YOU CAN NAME: The People's Story Of Hockey by Dave Bidini (McClelland & Stewart), 296 pages, $34.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
I was really hoping Dave Bidini's latest book would offer the perfect arguments to make any woman who fell for me understand why it's perfectly normal to watch the Buds for six hours straight on Leafs TV - even 15-year-old playoff games I've already seen.
Unfortunately, this Rheostatics rocker/author makes all hockey heads look like the barbaric, insecure and obsessed louts you always suspected we were (yet somehow still love).
Taking the reader on a wildly vivid journey into the world of amateur men's hockey, Bidini lets you follow him and his team, the Morningstars, through a musicians' league tournament. Focusing on one game in particular, he details the pre-game rituals, superstitions, familiar smell of sweaty gear, bloody knuckles, nicknames and best ways to intimidate, which mostly entail commenting on the small size of one anothers' penises.
Hockey players love this shit. For them, it's a perfectly acceptable form of communication and conduct, and Bidini makes it clear that it's truly a bonding experience that allows grown men to act like snot-nosed little kids, if only for an hour.
Set against the drama of the big game are observations and anecdotes about pro hockey from the days of yore, as told by a long list of past NHL players including Yvan Cournoyer, Steve Larmer and Frank Mahovlich, who tell tales of fights, the best goals, pranks, rivalries and off-ice perks. Here, Bidini reveals another world of the pro player that's dominated by feelings of insecurity, loneliness and depression.
That is, of course, until you realize that third period is under way, the crowd is screaming and Bidini and his Morningstars actually have a chance of winning the whole damn championship.