The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments
by Bob McCown and David Naylor
Given a good portion of the audience here is American, an introduction to our author might be necessary.
In Toronto, Bob McCown is the radio personality, the gruff host of the Fan 590's wildly popular Prime Time Sports program. Recently, he's been getting more and more recognition nationally, as Sportsnet broadcasts the radio show across the country an hour each day.
That's right, radio on TV.
A few months ago, McCown was even named North America's on-air talent of 2007 at the Sports Radio Conference.
In any event, whether you know his show or not, this isn't a post about McCown — and I hope it won't turn into a debate about him. Whether or not you like McCown, "the personality," won't affect whether or not you like the book because, on a basic level, it's really just an extended discussion of issues in the game.
And a lot of the arguments he takes up are pretty good ones. (There are also a number that, in McCown's words, would be known as "dogs.")
Where the book succeeds is in the volume of research put into arguing McCown's side of the story, a lot of which fell to co-author David Naylor (The Globe and Mail's Ottawa-based sportswriter) and the rest of the research team.
Here's an example I enjoyed from Argument #11: Why kids shouldn't be pushed into summer hockey in order to make the NHL. McCown and Naylor use a study of Ontario minor hockey players born in 1975 to highlight just how implausible it is that Little Johnny will ever play pro hockey, summer workouts or not:
Of those 30,000 [Ontario players], just 232 were eventually drafted by an OHL team in their mid-teens, the first major cutoff for players hoping to stream towards the NHL. Less than half of those players, 105, actually played in an OHL game. Another 42 played in the top tier of U.S. college, which is another viable route to the NHL.Ultimately, the sum total of players with more than one NHL season ends up being just 15, and only six had played 400 NHL games nine years later. Jason Allison and Todd Bertuzzi were the only names of note among the 30,000.
Overall, just 47 wound up with NHL contracts after being drafted in 1993 or 1994, or signing later as a free agent.
Summer hockey or not, McCown argues, the chances your kid makes the NHL are akin to buying a lottery ticket.
For me, it was more an informative resource than a book to settle barroom arguments, but your mileage may vary. A few other arguments I liked included that European players are just as valuable as North Americans at playoff time, regular season overtime should be longer, the league needs bigger nets to increase scoring, Canadian university hockey is of a higher quality than major junior, and that the rejected NHL transfer agreement was "downright disrespectful of Russian hockey."
The argument that fewer 18 year olds should be taken in the entry draft also rings true.
There's certainly a lot of goofy stuff in there, like calling for a four-point win (a 4-3-2-1 system), but that's probably too be expected given they're trying to push the envelope a little bit.
It was one of the more engaging hockey books I read over the holiday season, and it's been on the bestseller list here in Canada for a month now.
You can check it out here.