Widely acknowledged as the best hockey book ever written and lauded by "Sports Illustrated" as one of the Top 10 Sports Books of All Time, "The Game" is a reflective and thought-provoking look at a life in hockey. Intelligent and insightful, former Montreal Canadiens goalie and former President of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ken Dryden captures the essence of the sport and what it means to all hockey fans. He gives us vivid and affectionate portraits of the characters—Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe, Serge Savard, and coach Scotty Bowman among them—that made the Canadiens of the 1970s one of the greatest hockey teams in history. But beyond that, Dryden reflects on life on the road, in the spotlight, and on the ice, offering up a rare inside look at the game of hockey and an incredible personal memoir. This commemorative edition marks the 20th anniversary of "The Game's" original publication. It includes black and white photography from the Hockey Hall of Fame and a new chapter from the author. Take a journey to the heart and soul of the game with this timeless hockey classic.
Kenneth Wayne "Ken" Dryden is a Canadian politician, lawyer, businessman, author, and former NHL goaltender. He is an officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Dryden was a Liberal Member of Parliament from 2004, also serving as a cabinet minister from 2004 to 2006, until losing his seat in the 2011 Canadian federal elections to Conservative Mark Adler.
“The game,” in Canada, is ice hockey. I was reminded of that ineluctable fact of Canadian life the last time I was in Quebec City, when I walked through the historic downtown section of the walled Québécois capital and observed that the shopping district was home to two sports-memorabilia stores – one for hockey, and one for every other sport.
In Canada, you see, other games are fine and important games, but hockey is the game. And the reader who wants to get a strong sense of the strategic and tactical intricacies of hockey on the players’ level, and of the importance of hockey in Canadian culture, should make a breakaway straight toward Ken Dryden’s 1983 book The Game.
Author Dryden will need no introduction to National Hockey League fans, or indeed to most Canadians. During his eight years as goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens, from 1971 to 1979, the team won six Stanley Cups, and Dryden himself was a five-time winner of the Vezina Trophy that is awarded to hockey’s best goaltender. While he was at it, he also won a Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable NHL player (1971) and a Calder Memorial Trophy as best first-year player (1972). His jersey number, 29, is one of only 15 that have been retired by the Canadiens, one of the most successful franchises of all time in any sport.
And Dryden’s achievements extend beyond the hockey rink. Drawing upon the McGill University law degree that he earned during a one-year break from his career with the Canadiens, Dryden served in the Canadian Parliament from 2004 to 2011, including two years as a cabinet-level minister in the Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Paul Martin. Along with all of these other Renaissance-man qualifications that helped make him an Officer of the Order of Canada, he is also a brilliant writer, as The Game amply demonstrates.
Early in The Game, Dryden looks back to his growing-up years in the Toronto suburb of Islington, Ontario. There, Dryden and his friends would play pick-up hockey in the Dryden family’s big asphalt-paved backyard. While playing all those games with his friends, the young Dryden, like many another Canadian boy from Halifax to Victoria, would find time to indulge his own dreams of future NHL stardom:
I would stand alone in the middle of the yard, a stick in my hands, a tennis ball in front of me, silent, still, then suddenly dash ahead, stickhandling furiously, dodging invisible obstacles for a shot on net. It was Maple Leaf Gardens filled to wildly cheering capacity, a tie game, seconds remaining. I was Frank Mahovlich, or Gordie Howe, I was anyone I wanted to be, and the voice in my head was that of Leafs broadcaster Foster Hewitt: “…there’s ten seconds left, Mahovlich, winding up at his own line, at center, eight seconds, seven, over the blueline, six – he winds up, he shoots, he scores!…My arms and stick flew into the air, I screamed a scream inside my head, and collected my ball to do it again – many times, for many minutes, the hero of all my own games. (p. 56)
Unlike most Canadian boys, Dryden would get to live out his dreams of NHL stardom – although, ironically enough, he would play not for his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, but rather for the Leafs’ archrivals, the Montreal Canadiens. And he would not be the fast-shooting wing or centre on the breakaway, but rather the goalie trying to stop that player on offence from scoring.
Nowadays, when many parents of promising young prospects monitor every detail of nutrition, education, and (most of all) practice in hopes of producing a future star for the Calgary Flames or Vancouver Canucks, it can be salutary to reflect that Dryden’s own rise to NHL success did not follow any such trajectory. Indeed, it all sounds rather like a bit of a lark. “Coming to Montreal as a part-time goalie with the [minor-league Montreal] Voyageurs while completing law school, I thought the Canadiens would simply take over from my parents for a time, paying my tuition and books, my room and board and little else until I graduated. Then, after giving them one more year as I was obliged to do, I would merely stop playing and they would stop paying. But I was better than we both thought” (p. 154).
Looking back on a long career in hockey – two years with major-junior teams in the Toronto neighbourhoods of Humber Valley and Etobicoke; four years as a goalie at Cornell; one year with the American Hockey League Voyageurs, and then nine seasons with the Canadiens – Dryden tots up the stitches, muscle pulls, broken bones, cartilage tears, and other injuries he has endured, and then gives the reader a strong sense of the price a hockey player pays for a career of being the cynosure of all eyes on Hockey Night in Canada:
[W]hile I am well protected, and know I’m unlikely to suffer more than a bruise from any shot that is taken, the puck hurts, constantly and cumulatively: through the pillow-thick leg pads I wear, where straps pulled tight around their shins squeeze much of the padding away; through armor-shelled skate boots; through a catching glove compromised too far for its flexibility; with a dull, aching nausea from stomach to throat when my jock slams back against my testes; and most often, on my arms, on wrists and forearms especially, where padding is light and often out of place, where a shot hits and spreads its ache, up an arm and through a body, until both go limp and feel lifeless. Through a season, a puck hurts like a long, slow battering from a skilled boxer, almost unnoticed in the beginning, but gradually wearing me down, until two or three times a year, I wake up in the morning sore, aching, laughing/moaning with each move I make, and feel a hundred years old. (p. 116)
One also learns to appreciate the psychological pressures facing an NHL goalie, and particularly one who plays in hockey-mad Montreal, with its knowledgeable and demanding fan base. Dryden recalls a home game at the Montreal Forum, when a Detroit Red Wings player scored a goal that Dryden knew he should have stopped. He leaned nonchalantly on his stick for a moment, as had become his habit after either an excellent save or a bad goal that he should have stopped – “In a quietly defiant way it reminds fans and opponents, ‘You’ll never get to me’” (p. 198) – but inside he was seething: “Pacing, sweeping, caged in my crease, I scream at myself.” And after a teammate, defenceman Larry Robinson, offered a word of comfort and then skated away, “I hear the crowd, this time a loud grumbling buzz. I’ve lost them” (p. 200).
With hockey stardom, Dryden explains, things often seem unchanged in terms of everyday life specifics like his home, his car, his clothes, the food he eats. In those aspects, he could be any 30-year-old Torontonian living and working in Montreal. Yet Dryden has more money, and a team of finance professionals to help him manage it, and money changes everything. “When I talk to old friends who earn a thirty-year-old’s average wage, they seem uncomfortable, or I do. For me, money, which seemed always a by-product, distant, even unrelated to the game, has taken on new importance. A cause of great bitterness and division, it brought me to retire for a year; a cold-eyed standard against which I judge my relationship with the team, and against which I am now judged. It is the other side of the Faustian bargain” (p. 155).
Other pleasures of Dryden’s The Game include his tough-minded analysis of fighting as a part of hockey. He feels that the NHL’s laissez-faire attitude toward fighting in hockey is drawn, whether NHL executives realize it or not, from “ Freud’s ‘drive-discharge’ theory of human aggression” – in effect, the belief that letting the players let off a little bit of steam through fighting keeps them from bottling up that aggression and releasing it in more severe and damaging ways.
Yet Dryden contrasts that “let ’em fight” mentality – the kind of thing that one might hear from hockey commentators like Don Cherry – with the research-based perspectives of anthropologists Desmond Morris and Richard Sipes, both of whom believe that violence is more likely to provoke more violence – indeed, to teach people that violence is a way to solve their problems. I have never liked the fighting in hockey, and I agree wholeheartedly with Dryden’s statement that “fighting degrades…bringing into question hockey’s very legitimacy, confining it forever to the fringes of sports respectability” (pp. 189-90).
And then there is Dryden’s sheer power of observation. I liked his description of Guy Lafleur, the fast-skating right wing for those great Canadiens teams of the 1970’s, as a Muhammad Ali-like figure who used speed, skill, and smarts to outwit and defeat bigger, heavier opponents. And any resident of or visitor to Toronto will appreciate Dryden’s description of that lovely, tidy, relentlessly orderly city as a place where everyone crosses only with the green light, and only at the crosswalk – where, if the city puts up a POST NO BILLS sign on a wall, people actually post no bills.
It should be no surprise that The Game was named one of the 100 best English Canadian books of the 20th century. Dryden played in goal, rather than on offence, but The Game hits every goal at which this gifted author aims.
This book by former Montréal Canadiens Goalie Ken Dryden is nothing short of brilliant. It is certainly the best sports related biography I have ever read to this point in my life. As much as I enjoy Baseball biographies of former players of years gone by; this book by far outdoes them all. As a young lad growing up in Ontario Canada and prior to moving as a kid to Southern California – Ken Dryden was for me at the time a person I liked to despise – this of course due to my allegiance to the Toronto Maple Leafs. I have of course grown softer with age and with life experiences that have brought a reality of “not so tough” mentality; I have over the recent decade and a half followed the Montréal Canadiens as I do occasionally the NY Yankees and Boston Red Sox (even though my MLB teams are the Anaheim Angels and Washington Nationals). A game of tradition, history, a rich past it is apparent the 1967 expansion changed the game forever. Bob Dylan once said “Reality Has Many Heads” – so no wonder I came to see in print within this book the same feelings I held but didn’t want to accept that the “Maple Leaf/Canadiens rivalry is dead….has been since the late 1960’s” There goes my childhood (LOL) even though I became a Los Angeles Kings fan and later Anaheim Ducks fan in Southern California. The Gretzky years in Los Angeles were both fun and invigorating – the loss of the 1993 Stanley Cup to Les Habitant de Montréal was the result of a game changer when Marty McSorley was tossed from a game by a referee for having too large a curve on his Hockey stick. I was at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles the night Wayne Gretzky scored goal number “802”.
Mr. Dryden is first and foremost not a boaster of his sports accomplishments; he prefers to draw attention in his book to those around him who played positively with a work ethic incumbent upon any profession. He isn’t a “snob” either in that he references periodically through his books other great sports stars in a personal occasional comparison of the NBA, MLB, NFL and there is quite an interesting passage as well that reflects the personality of a goalie. He uses this reference of reflection in the same manner that he considers a Soccer star from Europe – it is apparent that “good” goalies have rather introverted tendencies – the last line of defense in both Soccer and Hockey. I have a personal opinion that Hockey Goalies in North America are more acutely in tune with their MLB Catchers counterpart – the bending is more frequent in Hockey than soccer and the position requires a tighter space to operate within (about the same space a catcher deals with only a bit higher and wider than the strike box). Home plate or a Hockey net require control and precise ability. Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings was drafted by both the NHL and MLB for his abilities as a player on both the Hockey and Baseball Collegiate teams he played for while attending the University of Massachusetts. Mr. Dryden won 5 Stanley Cups, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983 and took a year off of his NHL career to finish his law degree at McGill University in Toronto; but, he earned a B.A. in History at Cornell University – he later became a Canadian Politician elected to office in the Liberal Party – the Party that currently holds the Prime Minister’s Office of Canada. He won 76 of 81 collegiate starts while playing goalie for Cornell Big Red; in 1967 he helped the team win what we call today the “Frozen Four” for a Collegiate Championship.
Mr. Dryden doesn’t brag about any of these personal accomplishments – he is most humble and is careful as to how he approaches his personal awards – his interest lay within the confines of his home and his family. Was great to read a sports book where there was no wife beating, no alcohol or steroid abuse, no arrests, and no need for intervention of any form at any part of his life. A brilliant Sports Biography – plain and simple. This is the 30th anniversary edition of the first edition printed in 1983; reprinted with an added chapter in 2013.
Boy, I don’t get it. I really don’t. I’m sure I’ll take some criticism for saying this, but I just don’t understand why Ken Dryden’s The Game is considered by most to be the best hockey book ever written and by Sports Illustrated to be one of the greatest sports books ever written. Hell, I hardly read anything about sports in it! Geez, it’s about Dryden’s family, law school, desire and efforts to pass his bar exams, his disillusionment and boredom with hockey and intense desire to retire after a measly eight seasons when truly great players like Jaromir Jagr play through age 44 and beyond, or the great Gordie Howe until age 52. Dryden is so uninspiring a player and so uninspiring and dull a person that I have no idea how he accomplished the few, puny things he accomplished in his pathetically few years in the league. Most of my favorite players have played 10, 12, 15, 18 years in the league. Eight years? And he’s considered one of the best ever? By whom? What the hell did he do that was so damn great??? I know he helped Montreal win five Stanley Cups in eight years. While impressive, that’s a team accomplishment and by his own admission, he was surrounded by all stars, superstars even, so I don’t know how much he contributed. He did win at least three Vezina Trophies for best goalie, which says something, but even then, he levels criticisms at himself in this book that make you wonder how the hell he won the damn things. He apparently split time with another goalie. He got lit up repeatedly by opposing players. Was he really a money player? Hard to tell from this book. I don’t know. I do know that he didn’t seem to have much of a passion for the game, something he basically admits from the beginning. Hardly cared at all for it. Oh sure, like every Canadian kid, he said he liked to play every day growing up, but unlike every other Canadian kid, he didn’t even grow up playing ICE hockey! He played TENNIS BALL hockey in his back yard! Excuse me, but WTF? Seriously? And this guy didn’t go into the juniors. Instead, he went to an American college, which was highly unusual at the time. Why? I don’t know why. And this is the reason. I didn’t even make it a full 100 pages into the book before I became so disgusted with this wimp of a man, this pathetic excuse for an athlete and a human being that I gave up on this autobiography and am left wondering why this has a 4.09 rating on Goodreads and why I have read all of these five star reviews. Who are these reviewers? Why are they so impressed with this book? I don’t get it. I mean, who plays eight years when they are allegedly at the top of their game and part of a dynasty. He writes that he could see the wheels coming off the Montreal dynasty his last year, so basically he bailed on the team rather than sail through rough waters. Like a real champ. What a winner. Would definitely want him in my foxhole. Like hell, I would! This book was boring, there are hardly anything at all about his games or specific games or anything very sports-specific (although there was insightful analysis of his old coach, Scotty Bowman, that was actually good), it was depressing, it was cold, it felt dead, and I hated it with a passion, perhaps as much as I’ve hated any bio I’ve ever read. I can’t tell you how putrid I think this book is and how unimpressed I am with Ken Dryden the man. Dryden, the player, was a few years before my time, so I can’t say anything about him in that respect. If you want to be impressed with a book’s good reputation, I suppose you could invest in this, but I sure wouldn’t waste my time. Most definitely not recommended under any circumstances!
There are hockey books.. and then there is Ken Dryden’s The Game.
The Game is former NHL goaltender Ken Dryden’s memoir of his final season playing for the Montreal Canadiens in their quest for a fourth straight Stanley Cup.
I’ve read my fair share of hockey books over my long reading career. While many have been just OK, few have been exceptional - Ken Dryden’s The Game is one of those exceptional reads. Most of the hockey books I’ve read are either more of a play-by-play recounting of the subject’s career or filled with whacky and over-the-top stories. I tend to lean toward the ones with unbelievable stories rather than the few that read like Arnold Schwarzenegger's abysmal Total Recall commentary track. I believe that is truly what sets this apart from other sports books. Dryden is more concerned with who his teammates are as people first - what drives them and sets them apart from any other Joe Schmoe holding a stick and flying across the rink.
Dryden digs into his own psyche and explains how everything happening both on and off the ice would effect him mentally. He discusses his fears and insecurities and even a crisis of identity in believing that his teammates are just so good that his role in a win or loss feels largely irrelevant at times. This is of course painfully modest considering he backstopped the Habs to six cups in eight years while collecting five Vezina trophies in the process. This isn’t uncommon though. You would be surprised to see how little faith people often have in themselves or their performance.
He discusses his controversial decision to retire at only 31 - an age where most goalies are only just hitting their prime. Still feeling good and on the top of his game, Dryden decides to go out before everything falls apart. This seems to be a sticking point for many people when discussing his legacy. I don’t get that, honestly. Look at all he accomplished in just eight seasons! What left is there to prove? Dryden is far from egotistical. He speaks honestly about losing his drive to continue on as well as his fear of being traded. It’s not like he didn’t have other options in terms of finding a career after hanging up his pads (Dryden would go on to become a hockey executive as well as a member of parliament).
If you ever wanted to truly get into the mind of an athlete - warts and all - I would struggle to think of a more honest and introspective read than Ken Dryden’s The Game The fact that it was shortlisted in 2012 for CBC’s Canada Reads debates should tell you something about how revered it is.
FYI - I read the 30th Anniversary Edition. There are two post scripts - one written in 2003 for the 20th anniversary and one written in 2013 for the 30th. Neither really offer up that much and feel tacked on to sell copies.
Published in '83, this book assumes that I will have been part of the 70s, part of the 2 channel television world, part of the hockey world. That is a fine assumption at the time. However, as I picked this up as a book that nearly won Canada Reads, that's not good enough. That assumption lay thickly between me and the words of the book. So many passages are just words - names, descriptions, references I don't get.
I wanted to like this book. I wanted to learn to like hockey better. I liked Ken Dryden better, instead. When he was talking about hockey, I was lost for the most part. It just drifted past me. When he talked about The Game, ie, about teams and sports and being an athlete and fans and owners and aging and life, then I was with him.
pg 218 on violence in hockey
"The NHL is wrong....Anger and frustration can be released within the rules, by skating faster, by shooting harder, by doing relentless, dogged violence on an opponent's mind, as Bjorn Borg, Pete Rose, and Bob Gainey do. If Freud was right and anger released is anger spent, then a right hook given is a body-check missed, and by permitting fighting, the NHL discourages determined, inspired play as retaliation."
Any hockey fan owes it to themselves to pick this one up. Heck, sports fans in general will find a lot to love here. Dryden has an innate ability to turn the mundane into something beautiful and impactful. While most sports memoirs are able to capture the essence of what it means to play their respective game, few manage to do so with the level of eloquence seen in The Game.
I originally read this years ago but I feel I got far more from the experience upon coming back to it. Now that I’m older and have a changed perspective on the game of hockey - one that has brought me closer to the childhood astonishment and amazement I once had - I’ve become more drawn to Dryden’s poetic prose. There is an articulation to his words and his stories unmatched by virtually all of his contemporaries.
The Game is phenomenal and it will continue to stand the test of time, remaining at the top of the pantheon of books about sports - transcending beyond just the realm of the ice.
In one of the greatest sports memoirs across any sport, culture, or generation, legendary goaltender Ken Dryden of the 1970s-era Montreal Canadians takes the reader on a fantastic journey through the life and thinking of a hockey player - especially one as educated and well-versed as Dryden is - in the hit 1983 book “The Game.”
As much as “Ball Four” transformed the world of baseball in fascinating tell-all fashion following its publishing in 1970, so does “The Game” shed light on the realm of professional hockey. Though some parts of the book are slow and bogged down by details rather than one entertaining story after another - as well as highlighting a 1970s hockey team that few modern day readers are even vaguely familiar with - the insight is to die for. From featuring normal locker room banter involving bygone stars of the NHL to sharing his own feelings and motivations in playing hockey for a living, Dryden holds nothing back in exposing the world of our sporting heroes. Whether you were part of a team sport when you were younger or not, I am sure the reader will find several eye-opening narratives in this book, as well as creating a new line of thinking of how to view professional athletes (at least of the pre-free agency era). With more educated and opinionated autobiographies such as Drydens' on the market, society is now better able to appreciate, understand, and relate to the men and women who entertain us in the world of sports.
"A time capsule buried at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931 and revealed on Thursday (January 26, 2012) contains an NHL rule book, a municipal code, financial information on the team and a tiny carved ivory elephant of mysterious origin."(1)
Hockey in all its forms, in all its lore, never fails to captivate many Canadians. But do we listen carefully to those voices from the distant (1931 NHL rule book ...) and more recent past?
The Game by Ken Dryden, first published in 1983, offers enduring contributions to sport literature, non-fiction and Canadian literature. Considering it comes straight from one of the most accomplished players of the sport (written by him, not mediated through an interviewer or ghost writer), the book intrigues and challenges because it's not entirely a celebration of the sport of hockey, but a reverential and at times very troubled examination of it. The Game is neither a light nor quick read, but it's an absorbing and thoughtful reflection on the game of hockey and the experience of being part of a team. The book will fascinate fans and students of the sport as well as those interested in the history, psychology and national resonances and significance of this particular sport.
In the times when former sports athletes write or have a ghost writer write their memories of faded glory on the epic field of sport with the singular possessive 'i' being used some many times that one wonders if the autobiography of said sports athlete is pumped up with hot air to match their inflated egos.
Along comes a shocker of a sports autobiography written in a narrative style by not only a athlete but a hockey goalie. Such a drastic change from the bombastic attitude of the other athlete autobiography. This one feels rreal. It is written to show what being a not only a sports athlete entails but one that just happens to be on a team that is the most respected and most veried hockey francisies ever. How the game, ownership, even stadiums have changed. Ken Dryden shows how an athlete lives by the schedule and how he struggles with married life as well as his own struggles with the team and management. I saw a documentary on the Esposito brothers. Phil Esposito was married and divorced twice during his playing days. This is no index to show what awards Ken Dryden won nor how many games he played or things that puff oneself up.
This book should be given out to young people who mistaken believe that being a sports athlete is all glamour. Unfortunately the young people are pumped up like the other sports autobiography.
Dryden's writing is not without its cynicism, but for the most part what he writes comes across as genuine and that cynicism is just a part of how Dryden viewed the game (and much of what surrounded it).
When Dryden is writing about his teammates (and other players) it is raw, often harsh, and wonderful. Their character and charisma leap off the page and you get a great sense of what this team was in the 70s and what the game meant to them. However, it isn't quite the same with Dryden regarding himself. Maybe he's holding back, maybe it's deliberate, or maybe he just isn't as interested in himself as he is in others. He writes about his actions and feelings, but something seems missing at times, a slight disconnect.
And then there's the game itself. This snapshot of hockey is more than just that, it's a lens into life on the road, into the lifestyle of sports fame, the change of sport from pastime into business, of impostor syndrome creeping in, and of making big career decisions. It's of the shake up caused by a trade, the pre-game nerves, the comradery (and hazing) of the dressing room, of what it means to be a Canadian, of what it means to be a Canadien, and in general a time machine into an exceptional, important era of hockey.
It’s hard to explain exactly why I believe this to be the greatest book on sport ever written. Maybe it’s due to how it effortlessly stretches beyond the regular bounds of its genre without losing sight of its central focus. Maybe it’s how Dryden’s insights, and writing, stand up through the decades. Maybe it’s something else entirely. A truly unique book by an unique human being.
This book was released almost forty years ago. I remember the interviews that Ken Dryden did on TV when it came out. I suppose it’s a bit of an omission that I haven’t read it till now, though I do date myself with the statement. Oh well, time moves relentlessly on.
What can you say about Ken Dryden? He may be the most articulate, well-spoken, and capable writer to ever play in the NHL. This is an extremely thoughtful meditation on the game of hockey and the state of the National Hockey League, both at the time it was written and twenty years later when the 20th-anniversary edition came out.
He really does take you into the dressing room and give you a feel for what it’s like to play the game at the highest levels. Not just to play the game, but to live the life. Then he has lots of very interesting and insightful things to say about it.
I wonder if there’ll be a 40th-anniversary edition. I might consider it. I’d be interested to hear his thoughts on the last twenty years.
For me, books where sports legends talk about their legacy in said sport (particularly in hockey and in some occasions baseball) is very much on the level of comfort food reading. I’m pretty well invested when it comes to discussing the game of hockey, and The Game handles it very well. I’m not sure I’d call it the greatest hockey book of all time, as the cover suggested (Gretzky/Mclellan’s 99: Stories of the game still holds a very special place in my heart). It’s a little shaggy at times, some parts don’t hold up as well as others. Admittedly part of this could be when I got into hockey, Montreal wasn’t really the presence it was in Dryden’s era. I was more familiar, growing up, of Gretzky’s Oilers era, which may be a reason I lean more towards 99 than The Game. All that being said, I enjoyed this book, learning about one of the greatest dynasty in the league. I definitely recommend it for the hockey enthusiasts, it’s well worth your time.
For me a tough read as I am not really a sports fan. But I have met Ken Dryden a few times and we have a mutual friend who died last year of cancer and I wanted to read this book for Jim. I found certain chapters easier to read than others. Saturday was great. Ken writes about his peers and always finds ways to compliment them while still giving the straight story, or so it seems. He is an eloquent writer and describes events so clearly, often with strong emotions. My friend was so proud that he grew up with Ken Dryden and proudly talked about his friendship. No name dropping. Just fond memories of childhood. Thanks for a great sports read. I started out on my iPad. Big mistake as I hate reading on it. But had downloaded the book years ago when I gave it to my nephew. I eventually got the 30th anniversary book out of the library. It helped a bit and I also had the benefit of a few extra chapters including 2013 - The Game Goes On. Thanks for helping me to understand "The Game".
States on the cover, "The Best Hockey Book Ever Written", and lives up to that - easily one of the better books about all sports. The author was a goalie and law student, and his ideas come across quite clearly. The original subtitle was "a thoughtful and provocative look at a life in hockey", and it is that. Recommended, and for a hockey fan highly recommended.
I picked this up last year in a used book shop in B.C. Having read a fair amount of sports books, mostly baseball related, I was eager to check the claim on the cover.
Ideas and reflections are loosely slotted into chapters. These cover the activities of a week in a season of the later career of Ken Dryden, goalie for the Montreal Canadiens. By the second chapter, he is already philosophical, and that is where the real gems emerge.
He examines playing in the years after being an outstanding team (playing against their own record and the expectations of the fans/media/owners far more than playing the rest of the league), how the game has changed for kids (less play time), violence, superstars, and strategy changes through time. Along the way he also introduces his past, his teammates, trainers and coaches. The terminology when he talks about teammates may prove unfamiliar to non-hockey fans, but the rest of the book is quite accessible.
I read the 20th anniversary edition, which contains an additional chapter covering the end of his last year and a little reflection on how the game changed with Gretzky. Even that additional chapter is now 15 years old. Looking forward to reading more by this author!
The Game was a good read about all things in life and not just about hockey. It is interesting that it talked about everything the game is from players and teams to strategy and even the economics of it. What struck me the most is the author's reflections about life choices and is best expressed in a Henri Richard quote near the end of the book, "It was a dream, and everything I dreamed came true. Now my dream is finished. That's a new life for me. Because what I do now, what I keep on doing is something I never dreamed of."
This should have been required reading for me when I started covering hockey full time more than a decade ago, but I fucked up. It’s a 40-year old book but Ken Dryden writes about hockey better than any actual hockey journalist I’ve ever read. Guess it helps to be a former player and also a Cornell graduate. But seriously. The “Saturday” chapter that describes a Red Wings/Canadiens game in its entirety is some of the best sports writing in history. Not sure what else to say about this one other than if you have any interest in hockey whatsoever you absolutely should have read this already.
Sensational! I still can't believe this book exists and that an athlete/writer/thinker/lawyer/man like Dryden exists. An extraordinary treatment of sport from the inside. If there's something to be said about every single element within a sport, this book has it. Plus, Dryden is an exquisite observer with a poet's attention to detail, attunement, and environment.
This masterpiece will stay with me for a long time.
My son and husband are big Habs fans, so this book helped me develop a better understanding of some of the big names they like to throw around. I've also developed enormous respect for Mr. Dryden. He's intelligent and educated, articulate, and of course, an incredible athlete.
I'm interested in hockey but I don't know a lot about it. This book is described as, "the best hockey book ever written" which makes me feel so bad that I found it to be very boring, meandering, and only occasionally engaging.
Ken Dryden is a great writer and amazing athlete. This book really gives you a glimpse into all aspects of Hockey. A must read for any sports fan and if you’re a hockey fan you’ll really understand the game better afterwards. The whole book really holds up well to the test of time as well.
Ken Dryden goes into detail about his time on the Canadiens while in law school, how the game has changed, and providing a Canadian flair to my parents' generation of hockey. A must read for hockey fans!
Few athletes had a career as celebrated, successful and as self-truncated—at least for sports—as Ken Dryden. As a college goalie, he led the Cornell Big Red to an NCAA championship. Acquired by the Montreal Canadiens in a draft swap, he made his NHL debut late in the 1970-1971 regular season, playing only six games and then leading the Habs to a Stanley Cup title, defeating the heavily favored Chicago Black Hawks. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs, but wasn’t even eligible for Rookie of the Year honors until the following year because he had played in so few regular season games. He then won that too. Dryden’s name became synonymous with the Canadian dynasty that dominated the decade. He also split goaltending duties with Tony Esposito in the famous Summit Series meeting between NHL stars and the Soviet Union’s Red Army Team in 1972.* He was in goal for the famous win in game 8; that was first time North American pros had played the USSR, and the outcome—shockingly for North Americans—was in doubt until the final goal. Dryden went on to anchor the net for the Montreal Canadiens during Stanley Cup victories in 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979 before abruptly retiring at the height of his career and athletic abilities. There are only a couple of players on any sports franchise in the last two decades to come near to matching this level of dominance.
Why relate all this? A list of athletic achievements, in hindsight, is rather dull. Fine for fans of an era, but a big yawn for everyone else. Perhaps Dryden’s biggest legacies involve his labor stance and no-bluff attitude that hockey wasn’t the be all end all meaning to life. In an era when, in all sports, players were virtually owned by their teams, Dryden chose to sit out the 1973-1974 season due to a contract dispute. He was more than happy to clerk in a Toronto law firm and prepare for a new career. Astute readers of this synopsis will note that the 1973-1974 Canadiens did not win the Stanley Cup and were eliminated in the first playoff round by the NY Rangers; of all indignities! Dryden’s early activism and his aptitude for careers outside of hockey make him unique among jocks. Then there was that fabulous book he wrote a couple of years after his retirement, “The Game,” (1983) which frankly—more so than any athlete had ever done—relates the trials and tribulations of a hockey professional.
“The Game” is more than a mere sports biography. It is the ruminations of a very talented intellectual out of place in a predominantly blue-collar locker room. It is the story of a labor activist. It is the story of an English-speaking Ontario native living in the spotlight in French speaking Montreal at the height of nationalist, linguistic tensions between provinces; his French is competent, but not outstanding or native, a blemish that would later taint his political ambition. Not only was he isolated in the locker room due to his intelligence, but also due his native English.
Dryden, from his lonely perch in the nets in front of one of the most dominant teams of any era, had more than enough time to ruminate on what was wrong with the game. The Philadelphia Flyers, a.k.a. the Broad Street Bullies had a short-lived two-year Championship run in the mid-70’s, changing the sport for the worse. It was decades before teams could reduce the number of enforcers on any squad; for over a decade, the NHL could resemble the movie “Slapshot” on any given night. “The Game” includes suggestions for improving the sport, many of them adapted in the 2000’s (e.g. the elimination of the two-line pass offsides). Dryden career briefly overlapped with Wayne Gretzky’s. The goalie’s insight into the rookie’s artistry foreshadow the way hockey was changing.
“The Game” also recounts delicious locker room banter, particularly a whole gamut of Quebecois profanity beginning with the rather harmless, “estie” or “stie” (from Hostie). Almost all Quebec slang comes from a bastardization of Roman Catholic rites.**
Most relevant for any sports fan interested in dynasties, is a frightfully honest narration of the fear that permeated the Canadian locker room of no longer being the dominant franchise during the 1978-1979 season. This fear humanizes the players. Games against lesser teams, pretenders if you will, are markedly different from games against upstarts, like the NY Islanders. Dryden exposes the regular season as exhibition and theater.
Ken Dryden went on to a successful career in politics as a leader of the Liberal Party; he was a one-time Cabinet Member, albeit for a brief term. He is also a hockey commentator, educator and barrister.
The photographed book is the first American edition from 1983. The first Canadian edition has Dryden in the home jersey. The pose (in both editions) is an iconic shot from the 70’s. The Montreal Canadians were so dominant that Dryden was—for a large part of many games—reduced to the role of spectator while the ice seemed to tilt away from him, and Guy LaFleur and Bob Gainey worked their magic. At 6’4,” Dryden was able to strike that bored pose of nonchalance, chin on the butt end of his goalie stick. Younger hockey fans should note his relative lack of body armor, primitive mask, and the boards free of advertising clutter.
*The thuggery of the Broad Street Bullies leads me to still view the franchise with animosity. They are the one team in any sport whose childhood and teenage aversion I simply cannot overcome.
**I reread “The Game” a couple of years ago and then passed it on to my good friend and downstairs neighbor, a retired English to Quebecois translator. He was impressed at the sociological, nationalistic and linguistic observations. I have since received a lesson in the hierarchy of French Canadian profanity and talking smack, especially while engaged in weekly billiard games.
Personal Notes: --Addicted to hockey and the NY Rangers for well over a decade, I bought “The Game” upon release, after school from a Brentano’s on 8th street and 6th avenue. It is one of the first hardcovers I ever purchased. While I’ve since learned to regard my teenage hockey fanaticism and sports obsession as folly, this book will always be on my shelf. These days I still try to watch Stanley Cup playoffs, but am increasingly disgusted by most sports and America’s obsession with them. I have adapted the Ken Dryden attitude of caring more about the business of sports, more likely to voice an opinion of a Seattle arena not being funded by tax payer money than an opinion on a given team. I rarely pay for a pro sports event (but can be seen at a WHL Thunderbirds game now and again). Any sport that does not adequately address TBI’s is regarded with suspicion.
--I no longer read books by athletes, though in my youth, I was a sucker for hockey books. Once in while a book on baseball’s Dead Ball era will grab my attention. The biography of Jackie Robinson by Arnold Rampersad remains on my to-read pile; he did a wonderful biography of Ralph Ellison that was a National Book Award finalist a couple of years back. Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four,” was ahead of its time.
--I only saw Ken Dryden “play” in person once. It was the rubber game of the 1979 Challenge Cup at Madison Square Garden. The Russian Red Army smoked the NHL All-Stars and caused much soul searching in the hockey community. Gerry Cheevers, the Bruin goalie, was given the nod as starter that game. Ken Dryden was the back-up. Photo of that ticket stub is in first comment below. I stumbled across it while clearing out drawers in my father’s apartment recently. AARP crowd should note the antiquated ticket price. Back then, a minimum wage job at Baskin & Robbins could pay for season Ranger tickets.
--There is a riveting documentary on the Red Army hockey team that was released a couple of years back. I was also at the warm-up game between the 1980 “Miracle” Olympic team against the Russians at MSG one week before the 1980 Olympics; the Red Army squad annihilated the USA team, 10-3, before losing to the USA amateurs less than 2 weeks later.
Liked this book more than I expected I would. It had 2.5 strikes against it in advance:
1. It's about hockey, and I am a huge sports fan in general but not particularly into hockey. 2. The author went to Cornell. Nothing against Cornell in particular, but I'm always suspicious when sports writing by Ivy League graduates is praised to high heaven -- raises the risk of George Will/Phil Jackson--style "the game is actually a metaphor for life/politics/community......." essays that get old fast. 2.5 Not the author's fault, as it came out in 1983 originally (version I read adds a 20-year follow-up chapter at the end), but the behind-the-scenes-of-a-pro-team diary form, mastered by Jim Bouton in Ball Four, is no longer especially novel or shocking. We know they talk about women, bust each other's chops, have lots of free time to kill........
Nevertheless, I decided to give it a try after reading Bill Simmons' argument [on grantland.com] that it's one of the best sports books ever. And it was well worth the time. His descriptions of pre-game anxiety, warmup routines, what it's like to be recognized by people you don't know, pressures of defending a title, changes in the style of hockey once the Soviets got good, effects on Canadian national pride of no longer being completely dominant internationally, the frenemy-like relationship with his team's backup goalie, retiring from the only thing you ever wanted to do at a young age, etc. etc. etc. are all terrific. Much more interesting to me than actual game recaps, of which there are not that many.
I especially enjoyed his discussion of how much he loved to play against other great teams like the Boston Bruins in the Orr/Esposito era, how top-notch opponents bring out the best in you.
He doesn't put it quite this way, but my children might recognize the spirit of this passage as coming from Proverbs 27:17 "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another"
Good job, Ken Dryden. I hope your post-hockey days have gone well.
For fans of hockey (ice variety), this book is a great read. For fans of the Montreal Canadiens from back in their golden years of the 1970s, this book is a must. I don't follow the game anymore but I did back then and Montreal was "my" team. Ken Dryden was the star goalie for the team that won the league championship for most of the years in the 1970s. They were almost unbeatable. They won the Stanley Cup 6 between 1971 and 1979 and it was a great time to be a hockey fan.
Ken Dryden has written a very thoughtful book about hockey, not just his personal experience, but the game in general. He touches on the history of the rules, the business of the game both in the 70s and now and how it's changed, how it feels to play, win, lose, be a part of a team, practices, celebrity, he goes into how things changed when the Soviet and Eastern Bloc teams nudged their way onto the international platform. He doesn't brag but he knows he played for the best team in the league. He explains the psychology of playing, with descriptions of all the players you as a fan will remember. It brought back many memories for me, reading all those names I used to follow on the sports pages for statistics, listen for on the Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts as I watched.
The coach, the trainers, the road trips, the hotels. Horsing around on the bus and the excess adrenaline being burned off in the bar after a game. Hockey or any sport to those who play it is "the game", and "The Game" is The Game is "something that had to do with an intense shared experience of parents and backyards, teammates and friends, winning and losing, dressing rooms, road trips, fans, dreams, money, and celebrity."
It's a fascinating look at behind the scenes of the sport, the Montreal Canadiens, and of the man that played goal.
Ken Dryden's The Game has been hailed as the best hockey book ever written and included in Sports Illustrated's list of the top 100 best sports books of all time. While an interesting and insightful look at NHL hockey, its age may now hamper those accolades.[return][return]For those unfamiliar with him, Dryden played goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, a true hockey dynasty. During Dryden's eight seasons with the Canadiens in the 1970s, the team won the Stanley Cup six times. Dryden does not fit the stereotype of a hockey player. He "retired" for one season to finish his law degree. He is currently a member of the Canadian Parliament. As that background would suggest, The Game is both thoughtful and articulate.[return][return]The problem lies in its age. Last year, the paperback edition of the 20th anniversary edition of the book was released. With the original book having been published in 1983, timeframes can be confusing. Written in a type of diary format covering one week, Dryden covers so much ground it's often difficult to figure out exactly what year he is talking about. His references to recent Stanley Cup victories, players and games makes it that much more difficult. At the time The Game was initially published, these events would be relatively fresh in the minds of hockey fans. Some 20 years later, though, it is more difficult to keep the times straight.[return][return]Balance of review at http://prairieprogressive.com/?p=738
Canadiens de Montreal, said to be the best NHL franchise, with 24 Stanely Cup Championships, they lead the legue. But why, why have they been so good, was it due to a one man band, or a band of brothers? Both.The goaltender is the hardest and may even be argued as the most important roll in hockey, and when crafting a winning team it's important to have a good, no, great goaltender. And that's precisely what the Montreal Canadiens had. Ken Dryden, an Ontario native, may very well be the best goalie the Canadiens had ever seen and will ever see, when considering the most number of wins in a season, tied with Jacques Plante with 42 wins, he could very well be the best goaltender that they had ever seen. The Game, may refer to that big game, whether it be game seven of the Stanely Cup finals, or the game retirement, The Game symbolizes that big moment. Ken Dryden himself, the goaltender that had 42 wins, five Vezina trophies ( trophies give to the best goaltender of the year) and five Stanely Cup Championships, he wrote this book, The Game, an award winning goalie, wrote a book, and it actually good, no , it's great. It was a huge commercial and critical success, it was even nominated for a Governors General's Award. But you don't need to know what the Governors General's Award is to understand that this is a fantastic book, it s fascinating to read the life of a professional goaltender, and to understand what a hockey player goes through on a regular bases. Whether it be the relationship he shares with his family, his team, and even the tolls it takes on Ken himself. Bit no matter what, this was an all around great book. Which I highly recommend you pick up, before the drop of the puck.