Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gift Ideas for the Hockey Fan

With Christmas all but upon us, I thought I'd put up a quick list of gift suggestions for the hockey fan in your life.

It's not all about me today, this isn't altruism to get in Santa's good books. I fear if I don't post this at least one poor Leaf fan is going to end up with that middling book Leafs Abomination under their tree.

Sports Books

King of Russia, by Dave King
This book, co-written by the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek, is pretty much a diary of King's year spent as a coach in the Russian KHL. It's a really interesting look at hockey and the cultural differences King encounters in Russia. Former Leafs Igor Korolev and Dimitri Yushkevich played for King that season in Russia, as did current Leaf Nikolai Kulemin.

The Road to Hockeytown by Jim Devellano (with Roger Lajoie)
I posted a full reviewed of the book here. A very interesting look at how high school drop-out Devellano became a very successful sports executive and a key piece of the multiple Stanley Cup wins in Detroit. My full review is here.

The New Game: How Hockey Saved Itself, Steve Paikin
Steve Paikin interviews numerous players and hockey men about the post-lockout changes to the game and the impact of each. It may be a bit dated at this point, but Paikin's superlative interview skills make it worth the read. The intro contains some of the best writing on what it is to be a beer league hockey player.

Foul Ball: My Life and Hard Times Trying to Save an Old Ballpark, by Jim Bouton
Like his must-read book on the 1969 MLB Season, this newer work is a day by day diary detailing Bouton's efforts to buy a minor league ball team and restore an aging ball park in New England. Along the way he encounters corrupt small-town politics, ugly media relationships, and some rather scary eocological issues. Bouton is a great storyteller and finds humour in the least likely situations. A sad, but fun, read.

The Fix, Declan Hill
As fresh as the headlines, this book is a very in-depth look at gambling, sports betting, and allegations of match fixing in professional soccer. Hill is an investigative journalist who brings a through approach to the book. Could do with a bit better pacing and story telling but it's worth the read. The NHL has a very minor role here, touching on the ties between Russian NHLers and organized crime.

Netherland, Joseph O’Neill
This book is about sports in the same way Jaws was about fishing. The game of cricket gets a lot of play here and is central to the plot, but that's not why I'm suggesting it. I'm not much of a fiction reader, but this was one of the best, if not the best, book I read this year. A beautfiul post-colonial retelling of Gatsby.

Fun Stuff

A great idea for a stocking stuffer or a quick gift for a friend, your dad, etc. is a Toronto Maple Leafs key chain.

Wholesalekeychain has a huge huge assortment to chose from and if your dad, son, mum, brother, door man, etc. isn't a Leaf fan (hard to belive I know) there are many other types available including automotive, sports, Disney, and even game and toy keychains.

They even have the ideal keychain - a Leaf logo with a bottle opener - a perfect way to get through those annual January/February losing streaks.

Other Leaf keychains can be found here. Last year we gave my mum and mother in-law digital key chains loaded with photos of my favourite Leafs kids and they wre a big hit.

Wholesale keychains has kindly made three Leaf keychains available as a give-away. The first three people that email me the correct answer to, "Which Toronto Maple Leaf holds the team record for most career playoff points by a defenceman." get a cool Leafs key chain.

Puck Attax

Topps has come out with a new hockey game called Puck Attax. It's like a very simple hybrid of two of my favourite childhood games - stratomatic football and stratego.

The two player card game takes place on a rink shaped game board with each team selecting puck shaped cards that feature an NHL player. Each player has an offensive and defensive rating. Players take turns flipping cards, if the offensive ranking is higher than the defensive ranking it's a goal; if it's lower, no goal. Play goes through three periods with the higher scoring team taking the win. If it's tied, there actually is a shoot-out round (as my feelings on the shootout are well known, I make my kids play another period of hockey to settle the game).

Additional card packs are also available.

My kids, who are a bit younger, quite like the playing cards and will take a pile to play a version of War.

Topps has kindly made a set of Puck Attax available for a reader. First reader to email me at will get a set.


  1. Really enjoyed the Fix. Got it last christmas from Santa Wendel and enjoyed it immensely.

  2. I thought Bouton's book was called ball four.

  3. Colt - Bouton's original book is indeed Ball Four. He wrote a second book in 2004 (or so) about his efforts to buy a minor league ball team and restore an old fashioned ball park. It's an enjoyable read.