By Rob Ficiur
There is nothing a sports fan likes more for Christmas than a good book. In the last two weeks I went to Coles Book Store in Medicine Hat and Chapters in Lethbridge. In each store I wrote down the first ten sports books I saw. Some of the books were located in sections of the store to grab the shopper. In the sports book section these were the titles that were turned so shoppers could see the covers. Marketing gurus must think will be the best sellers this year.
The following three books were in the first ten I saw in both book stores:
1. Captain: My Life and Career by Darryl Sittler – Darryl Sittler, #27, was the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the mid 1970’s. This Hockey Hall of Famer was a fan favorite for his play on and off the ice. He is remembered for scoring ten points in a game in 1976. During his term as captain, the Leafs were owned by controversial and unpredictable Harold Ballard. When enough was enough Sittler took the C off his jersey and resigned as captain. When management tried to get another player to take the captaincy they all refused, stating without the letter on his jersey Sittler was the Leafs’ captain.
2. Mr. Hockey: The autobiography of Gordie Howe – This book came out in 2015 but chances are it will be a big seller in 2016. Gordie Howe was Mr. Hockey. He retired (the first time) in 1971; yet he still remained a hockey icon 45 years later. Every year famous athletes die. The passing of Gordie Howe this year was like everyone in Canada (and every hockey fan around the world) lost their favorite grandfather. Most of us do not remember watching Gordie Howe at his prime. But most hockey fans know the stories; this book would share more of those personal insights.
3. Show Boat Life – the Life of Kobe Bryant – The controversial NBA superstar retired in 2016. Kobe won champion ships even when he did not get along with his teammates. How did he play and thrive in an era of unprecedented media coverage? This book came out in October (2016) just after Kobe’s retirement. The Chapters website shows several other books on Kobe, the titles of which highlight parts of his career: Kobe: The Story of the NBA’s rising Star (1998), Kobe Bryant the Game of His Life (2004).
The following three books made my list at one of the stores; and were on the list of Christmas books I made a year ago for this column. Either these books have been great sellers all year, or they have a whole bunch of copies left and hope they can sell some in this year’s Christmas season.
4. Canada’s Team (2015 Toronto Blue Jays) ($20) – A year ago I wrote the following about this book: “Two months ago Blue Jays fever raged across Canada. Losing in the playoffs to the eventual World Series champs put an end to fan’s World Series dreams. When fans get over the disappointment of falling short they will look back at the 2015 season with fond memories. Rarely does a .500 team turn their season around half way through the year and become a dominant team. Jays fans will enjoy reading Canada’s Team, hoping that the 2016 version of the book will have a World Series chapter.”
2016 Update: I think this (2015) book won’t be a big seller in this year because 2016 Blue Jays fans thrilling and disappointing season with their team. Where is a book about the 2016 season?
5. Bench Bosses: The NHL Coaching Elite, by Matthew Dibiase – Last year I wrote: In this book Disbiase developed a unique assessment method determines his selection of the top fifty head coaches of all time. He claims his system of ranking best coaches of all time takes away the bias and subjectivity that is too often in such rankings.
6. Hockey Towns: Untold Stories from the Heart of Canada, by Ron MacLean – Don Cherry’s partner in Coach’s Corner has hockey stories from across Canada. From the youngest skaters to the NHL stars. From the hockey mom, the local coach to the ice maker. From one end of the country to the other, Ron MacLean tells stories about the hockey and Canada.
The following are other books I saw that might be of interest to sports fans:
7. Bleeding Blue, by Wendell Clark – Another book by a former Captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That makes two hockey books about Maple Leaf captain this year – are there other teams in hockey besides the Toronto Maple Leafs?
8. Sports Heroes by Don Cherry – Don had a book on my top ten last year as well.
9. Stories of the Game by Wayne Gretzky – Another former NHL captain shares his behind the scenes stories of playing in the NHL.
10. A Life Well Played: My Stories by Arnold Palmer
11. Muhammad Ali Unfiltered: Rare, Iconic, and Officially Authorized Photos of the Greatest – These last two titles are brand new books celebrating the life of two iconic athletes. Arnold Palmer and Muhammad Ali were still living legends in their respective sports decades after their retirement. When they both passed away this year, it became a time to remember what they contributed to their sport and to the world.