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Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems

With key matchups between the USA and Canada this week, hockey has been top of mind both north and south of the border. Fans from either nation are either cheering their respective teams to victory or provide compelling excuses for why things went wrong. In either case, the memory of these olympic matchups will not fade for at least a few days. But for those of us that are disappointed in the end, it may prove a good idea to take a more philosophical view of what transpired rather than let emotions rule the day.

Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems by Randall Maggs provides the perfect jumping off point for such ruminations. Brick Books has provided hockey fans of all loyalties with an insightful collection of poetry focused on a hockey legend that has played for multiple teams on both sides of the border. When talking about Sawchuk, there is no need to mince words. He is simply one of, if not the, greatest goalies of all time. His 103 career shutouts was a record that stood for 39 years and most thought would never be broken.

Night Work sheds light on the enigma that is Terry Sawchuk who Stephen Brunt of the Globe and Mail calls the “...[D]arkest most troubled figure in the history of the national game.” Brunt goes on to heap praise on the collection, saying it “...[M]ay be the truest hockey book ever written.” If truth can be measured by the emotions a book dregs up in a reader, then I could not agree more.

The unique format of this book is like no other hockey title I have come across, and if sheer blissful escape are what you’re after then this is the books for you. Reading this book will cause any hockey fan to lose themselves for hours at a time in a swirl of deep, rich imagery that you can almost smell. Night Work is magical a piece of art that will leave you thinking about so much more than just the Olympic results.

A Wild Stab For It: This is Game Eight From Russia

Not often enough does a book strike a chord like this did for me.  It is a fascinating and detailed rememberance of the final game in the 1972 Canada vs. Russia summit series, as well as a consideration of the entire series.  For the hockey fan, it is riveting and nostalgic, but what this book does beautifully is take that simple sporting event and contextualize it's significance to what it meant to Canada at the time and how it has played a role in shaping some piece of our cultural identidy. Bidini reminds us that this series served in part as a lens that allows for us Canadians to look back onto ourselves from a much broader perspective and envisioning some form of our larger cultural and politicial identidy beyond what we knew of ourselves relative to the USA.  It is a moment in time for Canadians, but Bidini also reminds us that it was a huge moment for Russians as well.  It was a window into the little known country Canada, and an alternative look into the West.  Of course, it was also a point in time when the entire planet was acutely aware of the Cold War and that overshaows all of the the drama and emotion that gets played out on the ice, but also in households, schools, offices and hockey rinks all across our nation.

This is a gem of a book and I simply can't imagine a better read for a proud Canadian, especially the proud Canadian hockey fan.

Published by ECW Press.  9781770411180.  $19.95.  Hardcover, with awesome colour photos throughout.