Book Review: The Hockey News Top 10

The Hockey News Top 10: Counting Down The Game’s Wonderful, Wild, Weird and Wacky! By The Hockey News, edited by Edward Fraser. (2012, Toronto: Transcontinental. Trade paperback. Pp. 220. $19.95. ISBN 978-0987747471.)

Review of The Hockey News Top 10 NHL
(Mark Ascione)

The Hockey News has been published since 1947 and in 65 years has established itself as probably the most recognized and leading source for hockey information. In recent years, the staff have not only published news and opinion in the magazine and website, but have also published a number of books, the most recent being The Hockey News Top 10: Counting Down The Game’s Wonderful, Wild, Weird and Wacky!

Top Ten lists are certainly nothing new (a certain late night host has been doing them for years) but the long, rich history of hockey lends itself well to the format. When fans get together, it’s almost inevitable that discussion will turn to who was the best goalie, or who scored the most, or what was the most memorable playoff moment and so on. The back cover of this book mentions great ‘fodder for arguments’ as the spirit behind this compilation of 65 such lists, in the hopes of stirring the pot and sparking debate among hockey fans.

Each list spans 2-3 pages, an introductory paragraph and then each entry in the top 10 having a short explanation. In most cases, few entries could be called surprising. Without doubt, The Hockey News people know their stuff when it comes to hockey and are bona fide fans, but in terms of sparking debate, this may miss the net.

For starters, almost 15 of the lists are really not debatable, being strictly numbers based. There is no point to arguing that among players who’ve played their entire career with a single team, Nik Lidstrom has played the most games─he actually has and no amount of saying “no he didn’t” will change it.

These will make you remember one of the ‘top 10 players who make you hungry”.

Among the other 50 or so subjects, the amount of debate will vary. It’s always difficult to find people who could speak with authority on Eddie Shore as well as on Zdeno Chara, or are acquainted with 1960s era Soviet players. And there are few folks around who could actually speak with any first-hand knowledge about who the best pre-NHL players were. These discussions are not easily had over a couple of brews at the local watering hole.

So, putting aside the notion this book is going to get hockey fans whipped into a lather as they discover how the experts saw it, Top 10 is, all in all, a fun book to read. From the somewhat frivolous “Top 10 Hockey Couples” (remember the Red Wing and the tennis ‘star’?) and “Top 10 Players Who Make You Hungry” (though the top guy is a drink actually), to more serious collections, there’s a ton of interesting things to discover. Of course, the overall focus is on the NHL’s history, but THN has included a handful of lists for international, junior and women’s hockey.

Gordie Howe Retired RW Jersey
Fittingly, Mr. Hockey makes a number of ‘Top 10’ appearances. (Schmackity/Wikipedia)

Many of the names are easily recognizable. Any collection of hockey Top 10s is bound to repeat names such as Gretzky, Howe, Lemieux, Messier, Sawchuk, and Hull. But the variety of topics means there are plenty of other players included. The panel has compiled the top 10 of each Original Six team, the best at each position (right and left wings, centre, defence and goal), the best arenas around the NHL, the best intermission events. And for some lists, the panel made a point to limit each player’s appearance to one (so that even though Wayne Gretzky owns four of the top 10 spots for most goals scored in a season in the NHL record books, only his highest total is included in this list).

The Hockey News Top 10 is not intended as a reference volume containing the definitive best of the best, nor does it provide pages of reasoned argument justifying why and where each entry is included. Instead, this is an interesting diversion for the hardcore fan and a nice introduction for the casual or novice fan who wants exposure to some of the highlights in the history of hockey.

There isn’t much that’s wild, weird or wacky about these lists really, though combined they do touch on many of the wonderful parts of the game. When NHL playoff hockey returns, leaf to the Top 10 Longest Games list and count down as the seconds tick off in overtime. While watching the World Junior Championships, check out who has scored the most points. And who knows, maybe keeping a book like this beside the television remote will prompt some of those debates when everyone’s gathered to watch the game.