Friday, May 15, 2015

Review of "Mr. Hockey"

One popular question when having a debate on great hockey players is "Who was better, Gordie Howe or Wayne Gretzky?"   Without tipping my hand, let's just say that when I found this particular audio book at the library, I wanted to obtain more information so I could make an informed decision.  Here is my review of "Mr. Hockey"

“Mr. Hockey: My Story” by Gordie Howe, narrated by Don Hagen

Ice Hockey, memoir, autobiography, audio book, Red Wings

Publish date:
October 14, 2014

256 pages

3 1/2 of 5 stars (good)

Gordie Howe is one of the few athletes who is recognized by people who are not fans of the sport in which he or she played.  He was the first player to have played in the NHL during five decades and held all career scoring records at the time of his retirement in 1980.  While these may have been broken by Wayne Gretzky, Howe remains as popular as ever and the release of this autobiography was a much-anticipated book.

While he tells of his tales growing up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan with reverence and also how he became an NHL player at the tender age of 18 without sounding too self-serving, this book doesn’t really reveal any great new details about the man, nor does it stray away from the tried-and-true format for sports biographies. This doesn’t mean it is a boring book or one that should be avoided – it just didn’t have anything that lived up to the hype.

There are some touching moments when he talks about his personal life.  I especially enjoyed when he included letters that he and his wife Colleen wrote to each other – both when they were courting and when he was away at training camp or on the road. There are also letters written by his sons included in the book and they helped the reader picture the man off the ice.

Plenty of the book does deal with his career on the ice and about the business of hockey.  Most of his career took place when the NHL had only six teams and both the game and the business was vastly different than it is today.  Howe’s stories paint a good picture of what those times were like, and he is careful not to criticize either the game at that time or today’s players. 

The best section of the book when he talks about his playing days is late in the book, when he played alongside his two older sons, Marty and Mark (the latter joined his dad in the Hockey Hall of Fame).  It is obvious he was beaming with pride when he had the chance to do this, even if his body was not cooperating.

The narration provided by Hagen is also good.  Like the content of the book, it was solid but not spectacular.  But then, it matched the tone Howe had when he played.  He was mostly a gentleman but when he had to be tough, he was.  Overall, this was a good book to listen to while commuting and one that hockey fans will enjoy as long as they are not looking for something spectacular.

Do I recommend? 
While it wasn’t much different than other sports biographies, this book will be one that fans of either Howe or the Red Wings will enjoy. Readers who also like celebrity biographies will enjoy it as well, especially the stories of Howe and his sons.

Book Format Read:
Audio book

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