Two Minutes for Reading so Good

Two Minutes for Reading so Good

Greg Oliver


When it's not just a hockey book

Posted March 20, 2018

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David Ward works on the Rickerby Hockey collection, and his two books sit nearby
David Ward works on the Rickerby Hockey collection, and his two books sit nearby

 

A couple years ago, David Ward sprung on the hockey book scene with the memorable The Lost 10 Point Night: Searching for My Hockey Hero . . . Jim Harrison. It was part personal memoir, part biography on Jim Harrison and the WHA of his era. I say “sprung” because Ward wasn't exactly on the radar of most sports fans, as he wasn't with a major newspaper, magazine, or on TV.

But he had a unique voice, an excellent writing style, and the Harrison book was compelling and illuminating, bringing to light a forgotten hockey star.

Ward's back with two very different projects, one that hits shelves on April 17, and one that suits his off-kilter lifestyle, described with his first book as “an author, teacher, columnist, and part-time lobster fisherman,” as it was a decided left-hand turn into the world of photo curating and photography.

Welcome to Rickerby Hockey (https://rickerbyhockey.net), home to the hockey photos of famed photographer Arthur Rickerby. The collection has been hidden away pretty well since Rickerby's death in 1972, which happened to coincide with his employer’s insolvency.

They came into Ward's hands like a defenceman clearing the puck, and having it bounce off two players, and a referee, and hitting the back of his own net.

“I'm a frequent Facebook user and I've noticed that my best attempts to connect with people occur when I post one of my late father's 35mm slides from the '60s and attach a few words to it,” said Ward, launching into the tale. “So I started surfing for slides for sale (in several areas of expertise) and found some guy in Newfoundland selling 101 individual Rickerby hockey slides on eBay. I wrote him and asked if he would sell me all 101 at a sizeable discount and he not only said yes, he told me he had 305 more he was looking to unload. So I bought them all.”

The transaction went down on New Year's Day 2018, and since then, Ward has been adding here and there.

Once the slides were in his possession, Ward dove in with both feet. “I'm doing all kinds of reading about photography right now, and vintage photo history. I'm reading a wonderful book right now about a single photo, by Simon Winchester. I'm not interested in taking photos, but suddenly I'm a collector and curator for the first time in my life and I'm loving it.” He's also toying with photo manipulation software, just to see what he can do.

Ward sees his blog as a way to both promote the Rickerby collection, but also for him to expand his writing world, or, as he puts it, “I've been thinking about how to create compelling content, because, eventually I want to attract readers. Plus I'm further trying to define myself as a Canadian writer.”

What can hockey fans expect? Ward can quickly rhyme off some of his favourite treasures: 56 images of a 19-year old Bobby Orr; images of Phil Esposito in a Hawk uniform.

“It's not about the stars, not at all,” he said. “One of my favourites is an imperfect image of Norm Ullman and Dallas Smith. And not that any of them are perfect images by any means. I think the majority of the perfect ones were scooped up before I got in the game and are being used as negatives in an effort to sell autographed prints. Plus, many of my slides appear similar because Arthur was experimenting with a machine drive, so I've got lots that are only 1/3 of a second different than others, but I love 'em.”

The other, more mainstream project is the about-to-be-released book Bay of Hope: Five Years in Newfoundland. Here's how it was described by publisher ECW Press: “Part memoir, part nature writing, part love story, Bay of Hope is an occasionally comical, often adversarial, and always emotional story about the five years ecologist David Ward lived in an isolated Newfoundland community; of how he ended up there, worked, survived the elements, and coped with loneliness and a lack of intimacy. But this book is also a story about David’s 78 McCallum, Newfoundland, neighbors, the unforgiving mountain and wilderness culture they call home, and why their government wishes they were dead.”

Fear not, there's hockey in Bay of Hope too, said Ward. “I wrote about having lunch at Alex Faulkner's home in Bishop Falls,” said Ward; Faulkner, of course, was the first hockey player from Newfoundland and Labrador to make it to the NHL.

 

EXAMINING FANDOM

The just-released book, Superfans: Into the Heart of Obsessive Sports Fandom (Ballatine Books), by Pulitzer Prize winning writer George Dohrmann walks a delicate line, not getting bogged down in the “science” of studying fans and not getting lost in the the colourfulness of the fans themselves. With a less-skilled writer, it could have been a mess, but Dohrmann is terrific. You'll laugh, you'll tear up, you'll question your own obsession with sports.

 

And, if you're a hockey fan, you'll be going, “How come he didn't cover any hockey fans?”

So I asked Dohrmann that specifically.

“Your question is a good one. Since the book came out I've heard from a lot of people who have asked about different sports and specific teams,” he replied in an email. “As for hockey and your question:

“I did look at some San Jose Sharks fans I know for potential inclusion in the book but they didn't make the final version. I'm a Sharks fan and would love to have gotten them in there but it just didn't happen. It was about a family I know who started their kids on the Sharks at a really young age. I ended up going with an Eagles fan for that chapter, a young boy, just because his experience better illustrated the point I was trying to make about indoctrinating kids into fandom.

“There is absolutely nothing different about hockey fans as it relates to the themes in the book. I'm hoping that hockey fans and fans of other sports not focused on in the book will see some sliver of themselves in the portraits I offered and can learn something even without the direct connection.”

You'll get a lot out of Superfans even if you don't paint your face for a game, or have a shrine to #27 in your basement.

 

A DELICATE SUBJECT

Another book, out now, that is about hockey, but isn't just about hockey is the memoir from Greg Gilhooly: I Am Nobody: Confronting the Sexually Abusive Coach Who Stole My Life.

 

By now, hockey fans are more than familiar with hockey coach and sexual predator Graham James, especially through the high-profile victims, NHLers Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury. James might be in prison, but that was only for the crimes he was convicted of; others, like Gilhooly who played minor hockey in Winnipeg, were victims too. Gilhooly, a goalie, “describes in anguishing detail the mental torment he suffered both during and long after the abuse and the terrible reality behind the sanitized term 'sexual assault.'”

Gilhooly went to Princeton and then the University of Toronto to study law, and, according to the press material for the book, “he delivers a powerful indictment of a legal system that, he argues, does not adequately deal with serial sexual child abuse or allocate enough resources to the rehabilitation of the victim. Most important, Gilhooly offers hope, affirmation, and inspiration for those who have suffered abuse and for their loved ones.”

As Ken Campbell <A HREF=”http://www.thehockeynews.com/news/article/greg-gilhooly-s-book-i-am-nobody-is-a-personal-and-painful-account-of-sexual-abuse-by-graham-james”>writes in The Hockey News</A>, “it is not a breezy, fun book to read.” But it is an important one. Kudos to Greystone Books for publishing it.

 

EDITORIALLY SPEAKING

If a pen is mightier than a sword, then what to make of a pen that can draw an image that can skewer like a sword? Editorial cartoonists are a special breed, and still have a place in today's fast-paced society.

One of the best ever in Canada is Terry Mosher, better known under his pen-name of Aislin.

When I heard that he had a new collection out in stores, From Trudeau to Trudeau: Fifty Years of Aislin Cartoons (self-published, under Aislin INC. Publications), I knew on instinct that there would be hockey involved—and baseball.

 A few of the hockey gems in From Trudeau to Trudeau
A few of the hockey gems in From Trudeau to Trudeau

Most associated with Montreal newspapers, the first time I really recall Aislin coming to my attention was the cover image of manager Dick Williams on the book The Year the Expos Almost Won the Pennant, by Brodie Snyder, which looked back at the fateful 1979 season. Since then (when I was eight!), growing up and heading into the wonderful and wacky world of journalism, it was impossible not to come across Aislin and love and respect his talent.

The new collection does have a lot of sports ties, from the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games to “Hockey and the Habs” to his beloved baseball.

Back in 1955, a young Mosher got to experience part of the Richard Riot outside on the street, and it hooked him for life. “I grew up and became a political cartoonist, but my fascination with the Habs, hockey in general and Quebec's distinct political culture was entrenched on that distant evening,” he writes in the introduction to his dozen reproduced hockey cartoons. There's one from 2003 with Red Fisher and his all-time Canadiens team that is especially poignant now that Red is gone.

In between those gems is the history of the last 50 years in Canada, including Quebec and its seemingly eternal separation anxiety, national identity, political follies and scandals, and delicate subjects such as religion and Native Canadians. And there's fun too, like his takes on the weather.

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Feedback

As always, I welcome your suggestions, notes, and feedback on other books and authors to feature here. You can email me at goliver845@gmail.com and you can follow me on Twitter @gregmep. For info on my own books, see OliverBooks.ca