Sports Illustrated Scores With 'The Hockey Book'
SI's latest pictorial book about sports is "The Hockey Book," edited by SI senior editor Kostya Kennedy with help from designer Steven Hoffman. Senior writer Michael Farber wrote the introduction for the book.
This is not the magazine's first rodeo with pictorial books.
"SI has done this for various sports," Farber told FanHouse. "There's pro football, college football, basketball, baseball. It was natural at some point the magazine would do this. Just a question of when. I guess the timing was right."
There are pictures in the book everyone would know, like Bobby Orr's famous Cup-winning goal, Team USA's Miracle on Ice, and Sidney Crosby's overtime goal-medal goal, among others.
Instead of the traditional historic book, which ranks players and teams, SI went for more of a general look at the sport's past.
"This book tries to capture the heart of hockey," Farber said. "On that level, it's on a fairly high plain. Rather than 'Let's have an argument over who was the better right wing' -- not that that isn't fun, too -- we decided to go with a more global look at the sport."
"It's not quite an encyclopedia," Kennedy told FanHouse. "There are a few things we didn't either have the right picture of or we didn't feel obligated to hit. We wanted to give a sweep of hockey history."
Along with reprinting some old SI articles that note great moments or players in hockey, the book also breaks down the best players by era in the sport's history.
"Hockey had many distinct eras, because of expansion and most recently the lockout," Kennedy said. "It seemed better to have those periods rather than decades. The photos are not all chronological, but the eras take the story one step further."
For each established era -- most recently the years since the lockout ended -- "The Hockey Book" looks at the top players.
"That was difficult," Farber said. "I never chose Howie Morenz as one of the three stars. You're relying on statistics and reputation. It's always an inexact science. I think one of the really good things we did was not rank the players by position. We picked 25 defensemen, and that was difficult enough in itself.
"Once we got to the 50s and 60s it became a little easier."
It also breaks down statistical leaders, the best teams, great moments, and great nicknames.
"It's the one part I'm not terribly comfortable with," Farber noted. "For example, Brett Hull was called 'The Golden Brett,' but that was the media's invention. Everyone in hockey called him 'Hully.'"
As interesting as the stories are contained within the book, the pictures make it go.
"We started looking at pictures in the fall into winter (of 2009)," Kennedy said. "We probably looked at more than 10,000 pictures. We started going in earnest around the start of the new year."
No, the book's pictures don't have any chronology to them, but that doesn't take anything away from the quality. Whether it's Detroit's Bill Gadsby cross-checking Chicago great Stan Mikita high, or a wide shot of the outdoor KHL All-Star Game from 2009, the photography is stunning, riveting, and just a lot of fun to page through.
For Kennedy, the process of pouring through -- literally -- thousands of photographs for the book was a laborious one, even if it was enjoyable at the same time.
"It was terrible. It was great, and it was terrible," he said. "We absolutely left some beautiful pictures on the cutting room floor. We were ultimately better for the process. Only the best of the best made it. It was the balance of a beautiful picture and the subject of the photo ... the content."
Kennedy went through a similar process in trying to line up stories for use in the book.
"Some were a no-brainer, beautifully written or touched on a great moment," he said. "There were a lot of great stories that we didn't include.
"We wanted to tell the story of hockey. We wanted to have pieces about different eras. Needed a piece on the Zamboni, and on Gretzky and Lemieux."
"The Hockey Book" is available Tuesday at most retailers.