CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 5 . . . . October 6, 2017
Right from the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, through his playoff runs, Stanley Cup victories, and his game-winning goal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Sidney Crosby has been a household name in both Canada and the U.S. It takes a special talent to capture the attention of the U.S. sports market where hockey has had significant trouble making inroads. In Sidney Crosby: The Story of a Champion, Paul Hollingsworth covers not only Crosby's years as the face of the NHL but also the developmental years of the star centre's life in Cole Harbour, NS.
Hollingsworth's central point in the book is that Crosby is not just another gifted NHL player. Rather, Crosby's early years, his time playing Junior in the QMJHL, his experiences playing for Team Canada at various levels, and his NHL career as a Pittsburgh Penguin all show that Crosby is a cut above even the top players in hockey.
The author does an admirable job of writing concise, entertaining chapters as he goes through Crosby's life chronologically. Readers feels like they get a clear picture of each particular stage of Crosby's development; however, the chapters are not weighed down with cumbersome, irrelevant details and tangents that make some sports biographies difficult and boring to read. In addition, the chapters strike a great balance between text and visual content. The pictures are all in colour, and each one enhances readers' understanding of, and engagement with, the material. I often ask my own students to ensure the visuals they include on a PowerPoint or Prezi are actually relevant to the slide and enrich the reader's understanding. I tell them, don't do a simple Google Image search and include something random. The publisher has succeeded with the visuals here. The sidebars, too, are worth commenting on. They contain interesting stats and stories that are relevant, but whose inclusion make the overall narrative a little choppy.
The writing style of Sidney Crosby: The Story of a Champion is appropriate for a YA audience ranging from grades 9-12. While some of the content in the book is written at a level students might struggle with to some degree, reading the book would force them to employ helpful strategies like putting together the meaning of a word based on its usage and so forth. While I can't say I would hesitate to recommend the book, I have some reservations about the obvious bias Hollingsworth has toward Crosby. Hollingsworth states that, like Crosby, he is from Nova Scotia and because of this he believes that Crosby "has at times offered [him] a little more texture in his interviews and a tad more access" (p. 2). Perhaps it is this special relationship he has as a sports reporter with Crosby that makes Hollingsworth come across as something of a "homer" (a term for a sports reporter that means he inappropriately roots for the home team). The book offers nothing in the way of criticism towards Crosby. In chapter 2 , Hollingsworth calls Crosby "a handsome young English-Canadian" (p. 17). Do readers really need a commentary on Crosby's attractiveness? Even when there is room for criticism, Hollingsworth shies away from it. For example, Crosby played very poorly for the first half of the 2015-2016 season. The superstar was not scoring and, by all accounts (except Hollingsworth's), looked entirely disinterested in playing hockey. Hollingsworth does address this period briefly; however, the focus of it is almost entirely on how well Crosby dealt with the media, how he held himself accountable, and how he pulled himself out of this extended slump. While I understand Hollingsworth is making a point about the greatness of Crosby, I found it tiresome to read the constant heaping of praise onto number 87.
Nonetheless, Sidney Crosby: The Story of a Champion is an exciting, well-organized account of the greatest player in hockey today (sorry McDavid). While Hollingsworth presents a very one-sided account of the superstar's life, the narrative reads quickly and smoothly, and I would recommend purchasing the book for any high school library.
Joe MacLachlan is a high school English teacher in Brampton, ON.