CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 6 . . . .November 9, 2007
Sidney Crosby: Taking the Game by Storm. (Updated edition).
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005.
248 pp., pbk., $16.95.
Crosby, Sidney, 1987-
Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Tom Chambers.
All of this wouldn't have mattered if Sidney Crosby didn't have game, but a couple of minutes after the anthems it was clear that he had great gobs of skill. His skating was as good as any other players in the game. The same with his shot. On both counts he rated top marks. And he played not with total effort so much as with a sense of desperation, like a kid on the cut line. What raised Crosby's game was stuff that's impossible to quantify or teach. Like Gretzky he seemed to be wired differently, owning hands that felt everything, eyes that saw things on the ice that everyone missed. He made difficult plays look as effortless as breathing. No matter how a player drifted or wired a pass, he adjusted intuitively, taking it cleanly and in stride. He didn't have awkward moments. He never forgot the puck.
Every sport has its great stars whose play sets them apart from the pack. In hockey, when there were only six NHL teams, these stars included players like Gordie Howe and Bobbie Orr. After the league expanded, fans were thrilled by the skills of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Now, there is Sidney Crosby whose skills as a junior made it obvious to all who saw him play that he would probably dominate the game much as Howe had done in his prime. Sidney Crosby: Taking the Game by Storm is about this remarkable athlete's life from his early playing days as a boy with Nova Scotia's Cole Harbour Novice C's to his drafting by the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins in July 2005.
The book begins with Crosby playing for Canada at the Under-18 World Cup tournament in the Czech Republic in 2003. Crosby had just turned 16 and was considered too young to play. Never before had an under age player been selected to join the team. His membership reflected the expectation, shared by many who had seen him in action, that he was an exceptional player. The book ends in 2005 with his drafting by Pittsburgh after he had played for Rimouski l'Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League during the Memorial Cup playoffs.
Fans of hockey will enjoy Sidney Crosby because there is much more in the book than the story of Crosby's youth and early hockey playing days. A book would be short indeed if it only dealt with Crosby's talent, which, while remarkable, is not worth a book of over two hundred and fifty pages. To flesh out the book, therefore, author Gare Joyce has included details about other fine hockey players. In addition, there is considerable information about the world of minor hockey in Canada, its good points and bad points.
Joyce also gives more than a superficial image of Crosby. He tries to understand him, show how he differs from others, and in the process, explain why Crosby generated such excitement as a boy. Joyce's Crosby becomes more than just a talented player. He becomes a gifted one, but one so focused, that his talent is secondary. What really counts, according to Joyce, is Crosby's concentration and attention to detail. These are what set him apart and, without which, he would be a fine hockey player, but not one of the most exciting players in the NHL.
Some of the detail Joyce includes shows why Crosby is different. Unlike most hockey players, he honed his skills by firing "shots at a dryer in his grandmother's basement." He also seems to know no fear. In a playoff game with Rimouski up against les Cataractes de Shawinigan, "Crosby stopped in front of the slapshot" when" he "lost the draw and the puck came back to the 200-pound Desilets at the point." Crosby then beat Desilets for the puck and scored a goal.
It is natural for sports journalists to nickname athletes. Thus Wayne Gretzky became "The Great One" and Muhammad Ali, "The Greatest." Since nothing can be better than greatest, sports writers were faced with a quandary with Crosby. Lacking much imagination, they have referred to him as the "Wizard of Cros," "Sid the Kid," "Sir Sidney," and "The Next One." Joyce mentions none of this because the nicknames do not show the real Crosby. Readers of his book will realize that Crosby, himself, would prefer to just be called Sidney. He comes across as a very normal and likeable young man for whom the phoniness of such nicknames do not apply.
Gare Joyce is no stranger to sports reporting. Prior to this book, he wrote The Only Ticket Off The Island: Baseball in the Dominican Republic and a hockey column for the Toronto Globe & Mail. He has also written articles for magazines such as Canadian Geographic and ESPN The Magazine.
Sidney Crosby has eight pages of black and white photographs placed together in the centre of the book. It has no table of contents, index, or bibliography. These would all have been welcome by anyone wishing to refer later to details in the book. The style and sophistication of the writing are suitable for young adolescents, but the book will also be popular with older readers. It could be used for recreational reading.
Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.
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