Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Review of "A Team of Their Own"

When I ride the train to a sporting event, I like to read a book about the sport that I will be seeing. I picked this book up to read on the train to a hockey playoff game between the Islanders and Hurricanes, and while the game was excellent, this book was even better.  Here is my review of "A Team of Their Own."

“A Team of Their Own: How an International Sisterhood Made Olympic History” by Seth Berkman
Ice Hockey, Winter Olympics, politics, women’s sports

Publish date:
October 1, 2019
352 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

During the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, some of the most memorable moments were made by a hockey team that didn’t win a medal or even a single game, but made the most powerful statement of unity that could be made.  The Unified women’s hockey team of North and South Korea, together for just over two weeks, showed the world what a unified Korea can look like. The story of this team and many of the inspirational women playing on this team is told in this excellent book by Seth Berkman.
The women’s hockey team of South Korea had been struggling to compete in international competitions.  After years of losing by scores that were more common in American football instead of hockey, South Korean sports leaders decided to open up spots on the team to players who are of Korean decent but live elsewhere. Players such as Randi Griffin, Danelle Im and Marissa Brandt, who were American citizens through either emigration or adoption but of Korean descent, were added to the team. Sarah Murphy, a Canadian woman, who was the daughter of a legendary NHL and Team Canada coach, had the formidable task of integrating these players with the veteran players of the team such as goalie Shin So-Jung, who was in net for many of those blowout losses but was clearly the most talented player on the team.
Berkman does a wonderful job of portraying these players, the coach and others as the team prepares for the 2018 Winter Olympics, in which they had to prove they would be competitive in order to receive the spot in the tournament that is given to the host nation. This included games in the United States against high school and college teams in which the team grew closer, both in terms of chemistry and scores on the ice.
Then, two weeks before the start of the Olympics, with a berth in the tourney secured, the government of both North and South Korea along with the International Olympic Committee, announced that players from North Korea would also be joining the women’s hockey team and they would play as a Unified Korea team.  This led to even more confusion and frustration for the players who have already trained and played together.  For veterans like Shin, this meant they would now have to acclimate to new players twice, having already accepted the “imports” like Griffin, Im and Brandt.  They somehow made it work and even though the team did not win a match during the Games, they were the main story of the Olympics with the support they drew from all Koreans and the emotions they left both on the ice and through their interactions with the fans.  Berkman shines in this portion of the book, making the reader feel like he or she is right there with the team, not only on the ice during the games, but also when they are receiving all the support and adulation from the Korean fans.  At times, it may make readers get emotional themselves.
This book was just as good as was the story of the Unified team.  Any reader who likes hockey, especially Olympic hockey, will need to read this book.  One will feel quite inspired after reading the adventures of these young women.
I wish to thank Hanover Square Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

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