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A Review of Stole This from a Hockey Card
(Night Wood Editions, Vancouver, CANADA, 2005)
by Chris Robinson
I`m crushed. Seriously. The Hockey season is back in full swing, a maritimer is being touted as the Next One and books to review, that I actually enjoy reading, are few and far between these days.
So. Um. How to say this.
Somewhere on Thursday October 20th, 2005, Stole This From A Hockey Card by Chris Robinson is making its' way along the Jubilee Line to Willesden Green or Wembley Park where it will assume a new English life of its own. Stole This From A Hockey Card might well be snatched up by a homesick London Racer, (hockey player who didn`t make the show) or pinched into the purse of an attractive 52 year-old mother of four. Or it might be reshelved in the stacks at Lower Marsh Market Library in Waterloo. All I know is that this book is gone!
So while my ever depleting memory is still fresh I had to hurry home to get this down, today.
Stole This From a Hockey Card: Reviewed.
I like old jock, Doug Harvey and the character depicted in Stole This From A Hockey Card by Chris Robinson. I like Harvey`s natural hockey talent, his perceived laziness around the hockey net whilst playing games with the Royals and the Montreal Canadiens. I like Harvey`s resolve to help with the burgeoning NHL Players Association in the 1950`s and his weakness for a drink.
But left this book in The Tube?! More on this in a moment.
The character of Doug Harvey reminds me of Major League Baseball`s The Georgia Peach - Ty Cobb. Also the narrator Chris Robinson(?) is an ornery type who doesn`t get along with his parents and drinks a lot in the nations`s capital: D`Ottawa. This might be a good reason why the poor lad likes Harvey so much as Doug Harvey comes across as an anti-establishment hero. Harvey likes to play his way, baffle and befuddle the fans with his unpredictable nature. He is strong and hard shooting one minute, awkward and unpredictable the next. So Harvey`s personal life story, mixed with quotes and memoirs of countless Montreal Canadiens Hockey heroes - Dick Irvin, Danny Gallivan, Boom Boom Geoffrion, Ted Lindsay etc. is the stuff of folklore and it has probably been done to death in books like The Original Six or in books about Montreal Canadiens defensemen. However what stands out about STFAHC is the philosophical core. Admitting that we have a habit of mythologizing the past - the 1950`s Montreal Canadiens, the 1970`s Flying Frenchman - Robinson is saying is that we are not living in uninspiring times now. There have always been let downs. There is a quote in STFAHC about the world always having been filled with idiots, there`s just more of them now. It is as if Robinson is assuming Doug Harvey`s world view. There is a lot of this type humour and philosophy in the book.
The book reads - at times- like a comic book. That is not to say that the writing is cartoony, it is very good. The book opens with a series of vignettes: Harvey going to visit the old practise rink in Montreal, visiting the grand kids. Then the story shifts to Robinson. You can just imagine a little caption above the narrator's head when he wades in about his own troubled upbringing in Ottawa. This sudden switch in story could be off-putting if it was just an excuse for the narrator to talk about himself. But we are treated to the slightly out-of-frame narrator. Perhaps a slightly beer-goggled Chris Robinson?
I especially like the philosophy part. Despite attempts by the narrator to seem like an uncaring, disinterested-in-anything-but-hockey type, the philosophical part of the book is what makes this book stand out. The narrator has lots to say about family and growing up, how parents do their best, impart their personalities but the kids eventually find their own way. This - in a hockey sense - reminds me of Canadian rocker Neil Young`s biography: Shakey. Jimmie McDonough has a good time picking away at ol Neil. And so Robinson does with Harvey. And this is where I get to the sad part of this review. Just as I was getting into this part of the book, the philosophy of the game, the meat and guts of the human experience as purveyed through the narrator and intriguing character of Doug Harvey, I raised myself from my seat on the 7:50 Tube to Waterloo station. And as I raised myself from the seat, I left the book on the tube. (This is typical of me as I have been through several pairs of glasses and keys in the last year or two and I`m damned mad about it but I`m not so mad that I don`t wish to give this book a review.) So, the good news is that STFAHC is getting reviewed for the quality book it is and it might and probably will get an additional read by a distracted, overworked Londoner. The bad news is that I did not get to finish this book and so I will forever wonder what Harvey and the narrator did next. However this is a question that is not entirely a depressing one. I hope that readers will find this book and have a go through it. If you want to let me know what you think just do it.