Stephen Smith (Greystone, 2014)
This is a book wholly about hockey, and then mostly about hockey books. Of these books: it is a coarse and quirky canon (our canon, author Stephen Smith would say, and one he clearly relishes defending), and if to him a little meager on cultural meditations --no C.L.R. James here, no Beyond a Boundary--one that nonetheless contains the kernel of our Canadianness.
To be a leftist and a hockey fan is to swim in a sort of purgatory, caught in the contradictions of the sport's elegance and casual brutality, its emotional weight and breezy jingoism (Olympic face paint and odes to the Afghanistan crusade at intermission). Smith's prose dances around frenetically, themes tackled in short bursts and then packed away. The book reads at times like a travelogue, all lonely ponds and spit and peeling paint. But Smith finds his real joy in the sound and vocabulary of the game --words to capture that feeling on the ice that tell us more about ourselves and our country than we may know.