by Mike Conway
Between the Pipes: A Revealing Look at Hockey’s Legendary Goalies, as its title explains, briefly looks at the lives and careers of 12 of the greatest netminders that ever played the game. The books author, Randi Druzin, explores the careers of Terry Sawchuk, Glenn Hall, Jacques Plante, Gump Worsley, Johnny Bower, Bernie Parent, Ken Dryden, Ron Hextall, Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour, Dominik Hasek and Martin Brodeur.
I am always on the lookout for new sports books, especially hockey. What really drew me into this book was the lineup of goalies prominently listed on the back cover. I had heard of almost every goalie there, everyone knows about Plante’s mask, Hextall’s temper and Roy’s messy breakup with the Canadiens, but it struck me that I knew almost nothing about a lot of the goalies on the list. I had completely forgotten Johnny Bower’s name until I saw it on the book, so I picked up the book and began reading.
Through reading the book you get 12 really great stories told to you about 12 remarkable men. The author really excels at storytelling; she describes the goalie’s lives in a compelling manner while also being able to include statistics and small details that really give character to these men. A problem I’ve found in many sports books is that through the books players become numbers and statistics; the higher the numbers, the better the player. This book really allows you to see the goalies as human beings, faults and all, who could stop pucks better than anyone else.
In addition to learning about the people who stood in the net, the book also gives a great overview of the evolution of the position itself. While you can’t write about goalies without including Plante introducing the mask, I enjoyed how the author included more about how goalies changed over the years. I can honestly say that I didn’t know that Glenn Hall pioneered the butterfly position before reading this book. Which brings me to what I believe is the book’s biggest strength, how much it actually teaches you about goaltenders. After reading this book I feel as if I could at least hold my own fairly well if I was attacked by trivia buffs. I may not know exactly Jacque Plante’s GAA in his rookie year, but I can tell you that he went to the cup finals with the Blues.
Unfortunately nothing is perfect and there are a few issues I had with the book. The goalies included really were great but I feel as if they were skewed towards older goalies. 5 of the 12 goaltenders featured played during the same original 6 era, whereas the 1980’s were almost completely skipped over. I know that scoring was never higher than during the 80’s which instinctively would make you think that there were no fantastic goalies, but I find it hard to ignore Grant Fuhr’s 4 Stanley Cups in 5 years. I already know the counter argument to that point as well, Gretzky et al carried those teams, but in response I would point out that Ken Dryden played in front of a juggernaut squad as well and that didn’t discount him. All in all it’s a minor point as the book wasn’t trying to rank the goalies by any means, it was writing about some of the best ever.
Between the Pipes: A Revealing Look at Hockey’s Legendary Goalies, by Randi Druzin, is an interesting read that doesn’t drag on and that I’m sure will teach you something about goalies that you didn’t know before reading. I would definitely recommend picking up at a local bookstore or on Amazon.