Hockey Book Review: Black and Gold

Black and Gold: Four Decades of the Boston Bruins in Photographs
(Revised & Updated).  Photography by Steve Babineau.  Written by Rob Simpson.  (2012, Mississauga, Ontario: John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd. Hardcover. Pp. 290. CAN $39.95 / US $34.95. ISBN 978-1-118-17278-0.)

 

When I look at the cover of this book, all I hear is Ken Casey and the Dropkick Murphys:  “Go Go Black and Gold!  Old time hockey, bar the door!…Light the lamp, throw a hit. Black and Gold never quit!”*

In Black and Gold, Four Decades of the Boston Bruins in Photographs, Steve Babineau and Rob Simpson captured the enthusiasm of Bruins fans.  This is the second edition of Black and Gold, recently updated from the 2008 version to include the B’s recent playoff runs as well as their 2010-11 Stanley Cup run.

Babineau, known affectionately around TD Garden simply as “Babs,” and former NESN ice-level reporter Rob Simpson (who is currently an MSG Network Rangers reporter) took on the task of relating the portions of Bruins history that they lived through during the past four decades.  Babineau’s tenure photographing the Bruins began in the early 1970s (he has since passed the torch onto his son Brian).  He captured many of the greatest Bruins, as well as many of the greatest hockey players, during his almost half-century in the corners of the Gardens (Boston and TD).

From Bobby Orr to Cam Neely to Zdeno Chara, many of the most memorable images of modern Bruins in action have been snapped by Babs.  His extensive collection of hockey photos (over 250,000 images now in the possession of the NHL) has been published on and in everything from programs and posters to trading cards and The Hockey News.  Babineau became a fixture around the Bruins and, quite often, many of them let their guard down around him.  In addition to the usual action shots, Black and Gold featured rare smiles and showed the Bs having fun on the ice.  The text, well written by Simpson, combines Babineau’s memories with interviews of players and coaches who interacted with Babs throughout the years.

The book’s structure started with a Foreward by former Bruins head coach Don Cherry.  He praised Babineau’s photography of his “Lunch Pail Gang” generation of Bruins with the compliment that Babs “was there to catch the excitement” – quite the accolade for a photographer.  (Many of us amateur photographers attempt it, but often fall short of actually capturing the feeling of the moment.)  Babineau’s eye for knowing what and when to shoot was apparent throughout the book.

The bulk of the text was broken down into seventeen chapters and a scrapbook.  The book began and ended with Babineau.  In between readers will find chapters on everything from the arenas to the coaches to the Winter Classic between Boston and Philadelphia and onto the Stanley Cup.  Cherry’s Lunch Pail Gang got their own chapter, as did each of the following legends:  John Bucyk, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Terry O’Reilly, Ray Bourque, and Cam Neely.  The remaining chapters were broken down by position – coaches, goalies, defensemen, scorers, enforcers, and grinders.

Although interesting to read, the photographs remained the overwhelming highlight of the book.  Babs captured pre-game anthems, practices, and important moments like Ray Bourque taking off #7 to wear #77 the night of Phil Esposito’s jersey retirement.  In the final scrapbook, Babineau showed off a few more personal images, including some of the Bruins legends posing with Babineau’s four children.

Bruins fans, and all hockey fans really, are lucky that the Babineau photography legacy will continue with Steve’s son Brian at the helm.  Brian has inherited his father’s eye for capturing the game and we should all hope Brian’s career will match Steve’s in both longevity and creativity.

Rebecca Dobrinski

 

* From “Time to Go” by the Dropkick Murphys.