Ex-hockey-player Dryden's memoir/meditation begins on the day, a few years back, when he announced his definite retirement...



Ex-hockey-player Dryden's memoir/meditation begins on the day, a few years back, when he announced his definite retirement from the game--after nearly a decade with the Montreal Canadiens as semi-star goalie. He then takes us through the following week, mixing dense narration of events (on-the-road, play-by-play on the ice) with reminiscences, profiles of colleagues, introspective ponderings, and earnest musings on ""the game."" On Monday and Tuesday in Montreal, there's practice, thoughts of the future (""What is good enough for me now?""), consideration of French/English tensions, a portrait of coach Scotty Bowman (""uncompromising, unmellowing, unable to be finessed""), and a few words on Dryden's friendly rivalry with a fellow goalie. Wednesday brings a trip to Toronto, where Dryden grew up--so there are childhood recollections of backyard hockey as well as a game against the feeble Maple Leafs (""a once great institution, now shabby"") and a salute to Bob Gainey, ""the consummate team player."" On Thursday, it's Boston: a celebration of the ""Bobby Orr years""; an analysis of the paradoxical playing of teammate Larry Robinson, a big man who dislikes ""the fights and the bodychecks"" associated with the ""big man's game""; an essay on the art/fear of goaltending, ""a remarkably aphysical activity."" On Friday and Saturday, Dryden's back in Montreal, contemplating the qualities of ""a special player,"" the money and celebrity of a star-career (""We are allowed one image, one angle; everything must fit""), superstitions, referees, rough stuff on the ice: ""The NHL theory of violence is nothing more than original violence tolerated and accepted, in time turned into custom, into spectacle, into tactic, and finally into theory."" And the week's final full-scale expedition is to Philadelphia--with a stroll through ice-hockey history and style, tackling the limits of nationalism and the hopes of rising to the Soviet challenge. (""Passing is a fundamental of their game, fostered and encouraged by their leadership. . . . We need no less. We must abandon our tethered, straight-ahead style, up and down like table-hockey players."") Dryden, a law-school graduate, seems intent on displaying his intellectual/sensitive strengths here: the writing is often studied, self-consciously literary, lacking in humor and spontaneity (even when describing locker-room hijinks), with lapses into pretentious verbiage: ""I see patterns now where once I saw mostly details: in games and seasons, in several seasons, in goals, in saves, in words I hear, in others, in me, everything like something before, each new something slotted, added to the old, itself disappearing."" But, though lacking in natural vigor and personality, Dryden's thoughtful, evocative closeups will certainly appeal to hockey-fans with a literary or philosophical leaning.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1983

ISBN: 0470835842

Page Count: -

Publisher: Times Books

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1983

Close Quickview