Quill and Quire

Canada's magazine of book news and reviews

Faceoff! Hockey Games, Facts and Fun

by Jeff Sinclair

As any hockey fan knows, the game doesn’t end on the ice. Statistics, details, weird stories, and generally obscure trivia constitute a large part of any fan’s arsenal. Knowing which NHL player has won the most Stanley Cups or which goalie had the most regular-season shutouts can be very useful information during a long post-tournament bus ride.

Young hockey fans will find no shortage of information, activities, and entertainment in these three quite different books. Author Paul Romanuk, well-known in professional sports circles for his work as a broadcaster, has written more than 20 sports books for kids. His latest, the Scholastic Canada Book of Hockey Lists, offers trivia ranging from familiar statistics (“Most Penalties in a Single Game”) to behind-the-scenes glimpses of obscure details (“Ten Things You’ll Find in a Trainer’s Medical Kit”).

 Taking a different approach to the trivia game is All-Star Sports Puzzles: Hockey by Jesse Ross. The 21-year-old author, whose All-Star Sports Puzzles series includes basketball and soccer, had co-authored books (with his parents) even before he graduated from high school. He merges his own youthful sports enthusiasm with hands-on activities such as crossword puzzles, trivia challenges, and word games built around hockey facts and names.

A third choice in the hockey trivia stakes is B.C. writer Jeff Sinclair’s colourful Faceoff! Hockey Games, Facts and Fun, his fifth illustrated activity book. With its larger format and stronger emphasis on illustrations, this is perhaps the most kid-friendly book of the three and is likely to appeal to the younger hockey fan.

Despite their different approaches, each of the three books is highly entertaining in its own way. Romanuk uses much of his own notes and research in compiling his lists, and the result is a collection with some obviously personal tastes and comments. One can’t help feeling sorry for the former players he lists – and dismisses – in “First Round Flops.” This first-person slant is a strength, though, and young fans will benefit from Romanuk’s knowledge of North American and international hockey events and people, much of it gained firsthand in his career as a sports commentator.

Ross and Sinclair don’t have the same personal experience to draw on, but that doesn’t affect the appeal of their books, both of which focus on the activities aspect of hockey trivia. Both books are filled with quizzes, word games, fill-in-the-blanks, and more. Ross’s book is laid out simply, with fairly small print and lots of white space. In contrast, Sinclair’s bright cartoon-like characters and flashy lettering jump off the page and will likely draw younger readers to his book.

Romanuk’s Book of Hockey Lists will generate lots of discussion, verbal quizzing, and, in many cases, laughter (“Great Mustachioed Players”), but the approach of the other two books is obviously to motivate kids to get reading, writing, and problem-solving while indulging their passion for hockey. Anything that encourages them to put down their electronic games and pick up a pencil will score big with parents and teachers. And although a strong background in hockey lore is useful, it’s not a prerequisite. Faceoff!, in particular, devotes pages to hockey facts that will educate the uninitiated in painless fashion, and some of its puzzles include the always-popular “What’s wrong with this picture?” and mazes that have a more universal appeal. Also, the two puzzle books include answers at the back to satisfy the quiz-takers and resolve any disputes.

One flaw that all three books share is a general lack of attention to women’s hockey, which is a shame, but probably not enough of a weakness to turn girls away. In fairness, the women’s game doesn’t have the same prominent history extending back into the early days of the National Hockey League, which is the source of much of the data used in the lists, quizzes, and puzzles. But it was disappointing to search all three books in vain for more than a few references to Hayley Wickenheiser (included by Romanuk in his list “Hockey Players Who Are Good At Other Sports”) and Manon Rheaume (mentioned as “the only woman ever to play at the NHL level” in one of Ross’s quizzes). Still, the captain of the gold medal-winning Canadian women’s Olympic hockey team, Cassie Campbell, is in good company: All-Star Leaf captain Darryl Sittler doesn’t appear anywhere in the Book of Hockey Lists either.

Books that are easy to dip into and revisit are always a good bet, and these three certainly meet that criterion. Kids of all ages – and their parents – will find hours of hands-on entertainment and opportunities to learn some unexpected facts about our national game.