Here are some other books that will be of interest to the sports fan on your list:
Canada’s Other Game: Basketball from Naismith to Nash
By Brian I. Daly
Dundurn 296 pp, $26.99
The Island plays a leading role in this comprehensive and engaging history of Canadian hoops. It’s all here, from the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics silver medal won by Victoria players Doug Peden and Art and Chuck Chapman to the top-six finishes at the 1984 L.A. and 1988 Seoul Olympics by University of Victoria greats Eli Pasquale and Gerald Kazanowski. The legendary dynasties — Victoria Blue Ribbons and Dominos, Windsor V-Fords, UVic Vikes and Carleton Ravens — all get their due. As do the famous coaches from Jack Donohue to UVic’s Ken and Kathy Shields. Oh, and of course, there’s some guy from Almonte, Ont., named Naismith who just happened to invent the game and some guy from Victoria nicknamed Captain Canada who was twice NBA MVP. This is a good read for followers of Canadian basketball.
Orr: My Story
By Bobby Orr
Viking 290 pp, $32
Bobby Orr, in my opinion the greatest hockey player of all time, has been one of Canada’s most elusive sporting greats and largely unknowable. Self-effacing and humble almost to a fault, he has largely shunned the spotlight since retirement. That’s why the last book about him, in 2007 by Stephen Brunt, was titled Searching for Bobby Orr. We’ve all been searching for Bobby in our own way. Orr now finally weighs in with his own words. It’s largely what one would expect — a PG-rated sort of bland look at his life that doesn’t go too far beneath the surface. That is until the chapter on Alan Eagleson, an issue which he could hardly avoid addressing. That section is revealing and biting as Orr lays bare Eagleson as “driven by greed” and the “worst kind of bully.” But Orr writes he does not want to be defined by Eagleson. Nor will he be. Orr will always be the most commanding presence ever to skate on the ice and a true gentleman.
At the end of the book, Orr has some sensible insights about the current state of the game and has advice for young players. He gives back through the Chevrolet Safe and Fun program, which brought him to Bear Mountain Arena in 2006. After Orr opened at the Bear with about a five-minute talk telling the kids that hockey should be played for fun, a hand went up among one of the five- to eight-year-old players in the camp and the kid asked: “When does Bobby Orr get here?” Orr laughed good-naturedly and said “He’ll be here in a couple of days.” It was a lovely vignette that will always stay with me.
End Zones & Border Wars: The Era of American Expansion in the CFL
By Ed Willes
Harbour Publishing 208 pp, $19.95
Province newspaper sports columnist Ed Willes has a knack for poking into curious little nooks and crannies of the sporting world. His previous book, The Rebel League, looked at the seat-of-the pants history of the old World Hockey Association. He follows up with End Zones & Border Wars, chronicling the Canadian Football League’s quirky and ultimately doomed foray into the United States. For every Baltimore Stallions semi-success story there was a disaster waiting to happen like the Las Vegas Posse, Shreveport Pirates and Memphis Mad Dogs. It’s a colourful read. How can it not be with one chapter titled: Half The People Here Couldn’t Even Spell Saskatchewan.
League of Denial
By Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru
Random House 399 pp, $32
There is a chilling anecdote in League of Denial, one of many in perhaps the most important sports book of the year, in which former quarterback Troy Aikman is in hospital concussed after leading the Dallas Cowboys to victory in the NFC championship game and not able to remember why he was there and if he had even played in the game just hours before.
The concussion epidemic goes beyond just the NFL and highly paid big-league athletes. It is an issue at all levels through all contact sports. In this book, former long-serving neurological consultant to the Pittsburgh Steelers Joe Maroon said: “If only 10 per cent of mothers in America begin to conceive of football as dangerous, that is the end of football.” Could that be ditto for hockey in Canada and other contact sports? It’s not a small question for officials in those sports to contemplate.
Even if you only have children in sports, you should read this book.
Backspin: 120 Years of Golf in British Columbia
By Arv Olson
Heritage House 432 pp, $28.95
OK, we’re a year late with this, but it is still a must-have for B.C. golfers interested in the history of the sport in their province. It is written by the former Vancouver Sun sports writer Arv Olson and there doesn’t seem to be a detail he doesn’t know about the umbling game in this province. The stories are both funny and engaging. The Island plays a huge role in these pages, as one would expect from a place that has produced some of the best golfers in Canada and which is one of the few regions in this country where the dimpled ball can be hit and chased almost year-round if you don’t mind it a little wet.
— Cleve Dheensaw