25 Hockey Books All Hockey Fans Should Read
Being a self-proclaimed Hockey Fanatic means that you eat, sleep and breath hockey. When I started the Hockey Fanatic site back in 2011, I wanted to share all of the great experiences that come along with being a hockey fan. I wanted to create a site for the true hockey fan where they could go to find fun hockey lists, notable hockey stats and entertaining hockey anecdotes. It’s pretty been a one-man show. I am the author, I’m the editor, I’m the hockey fan who uses the Hockey Fanatic as a great hockey resource.
My inspiration is a simple one. I am passionate about hockey. No, I never got to play at the high level that I probably should have, but I’ve been involved in so many facets of the game. I’ve been an official, I’ve been a players, I’ve coached a little, I’ve been a spectator and my most important job I’m a hockey parent.
My collection of hockey books is impressive to say the least. I believe I have every book written about the Edmonton Oilers (save one). I enjoy the tails that former NHL players, coaches and executives tell. I especially enjoy the writings of Ken Dryden who has authored some of the greatest hockey books to have ever been published. Mr. Dryden even inspired me to write my own hockey book: Burning the Midnight Oil: The Story of a Lifelong Oilers Fan.
With the holiday season coming up, you might be in the market for a Christmas gift for that special hockey fan in your life. May I recommend a good hockey book? There are so man, but to help you decide on which hockey book to consider I present to you The Hockey Fanatics Definitive list of 25 hockey books that all hockey fans should read.
The Hockey Fanatics’ Definitive List of Hockey Books
Within our list of the top twenty-five hockey books that all hockey fans should read are books for the past 50 years. There are too many to list here but there have been some great books that have come out over the past decade that could have easily made this list as well.
Honorable Mention: Hockey Card Stories: True Tales from Your Favourite Players – Ken Reid – This is a fun book. Amazon describes the book as “Hockey Card Stories reveals what was really going on in your favourite old hockey cards through the eyes of the players depicted on them. Some of the cards are definitely worth a few bucks, some a few cents ― but every story told here is priceless. Sportsnet’s Ken Reid presents the cards you loved and the airbrushed monstrosities that made you howl, the cards that have been packed away in boxes forever, and others you can’t believe ever existed.”
#25: The Hockey Sweater – Authored by Roch Carrier (1979). An all-time classic and iconic piece of Canadian literature. Amazon’s recap of the classic short story: In the days of Roch’s childhood, winters in the village of Ste. Justine were long. Life centered around school, church, and the hockey rink, and every boy’s hero was Montreal Canadiens hockey legend Maurice Richard. Everyone wore Richard’s number 9. They laced their skates like Richard. They even wore their hair like Richard. When Roch outgrows his cherished Canadiens sweater, his mother writes away for a new one. Much to Roch’s horror, he is sent the blue and white sweater of the rival Toronto Maple Leafs, dreaded and hated foes to his beloved team. How can Roch face the other kids at the rink?
#24. The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team – Wayne Coffey – In 1980, the United States Olympic hockey team pulled off one of the greatest upsets in sports history, winning the first medal round match against the Soviet Union. Lead by the visionary coaching of Herb Brooks, whose motivational techniques have since been immortalized in the film Miracle, the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team pulled out the Miracle on Ice. If you’re a fan of Team USA you’ll love this read.
#23. Play Better Hockey: The Essential Skills for Player Development – Ron Davidson – for the hockey player in your life, “Play Better Hockey: The Essential Skills for Player Development” (second edition) of Ron Davidson’s best-selling volume has been retooled with even more individual skill advancements for the modern player. From fundamentals to high-level skills, Play Better Hockey gives players the tools they need to become the next superstars of the NHL by focusing on the development of individual hockey skills and by promoting a mastery of body positioning, skating and stick work.
#22: The Hammer: Confessions of a Hockey Enforcer – Dave Schultz – Published in 1981, The Hammer depicts the career of former Broad Street bully Dave Schultz. The Hockey Fanatic listed Dave Schultz as the second best NHL fighter of all-time. Schultz still holds the NHL record for most penalty minutes in a single season, at 472. Learn more about what it was like being an NHL tough guy during the heyday of 1970’s NHL hockey.
#21. Tretiak: The Legend – Vladislav Tretiak – Published in 1987, Tretiak: The Legend provides an enlightening look into the hockey career of one of the greatest goaltenders the world has ever seen. It provides the story of Vladik Tretiak’s personal life and his relationships with his coaches, teammates and rivals. Relive the Canada / Russia hockey battles from the lens of a Soviet player. If you are a fan of the Russia/Canadian hockey rivalry (and Cold War politics) you should like this book.
#20. A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs & The Rise of Professional Hockey – Stephen J. Harper – Published in 2013, relive the history of hockey’s first decades and the early star players of the game. A Great Game shows how much about hockey has stayed the same with string hard-nosed play, fervent hockey fan hometown loyalties, owner-player contract disputes, partisan news coverage, and how big money were issues from the get-go. Hockey is a great game and learning about some of the early history shows how the game has grown but maintained critical aspects to be the game we all love to play and watch.
#19. Unbreakable: 50 Goals in 39 Games: Wayne Gretzky and the Story of Hockey’s Greatest Record –Mike Brophy and Todd Denault – there are a few books out there about Wayne Gretzky. I included this one because this is simply one amazing record that may never be broken. This book focuses on the 1981-1982 season in which he only needed thirty-nine games to score fifty goals. The fun of this book is that you get to be on the ice during each one of these games, as Gretzky describes them. I have been waiting to read this book and cannot wait to dive in. Originally published in 2016.
#18. Crossroads: My Story of Tragedy and resilience as a Humboldt Bronco – Kaleb Dahlgren – On April 6, 2018, the Humboldt Broncos were going to a playoff game when a semi-truck struck their bus in which the collision resulted in sixteen deaths and thirteen injuries. Among the victims was Kaleb Dahlgren, who suffered a fractured skull and dislocated shoulder. Dahlgren tells his story of resilience in the face of the Broncos bus tragedy. He describes his journey from being hospitalized and in critical condition to making a full recovery and eventually returning to play for the Broncos. This is his story…
#17. Hockey Moms: The Heart of the Game – Theresa Bailey / Terry Marcotte – In the Hockey universe we can argue that there is no one more important than the Hockey Mom. Hockey moms: The Heart of the Game is a great collection of stories and celebration of the unsung heroes behind the game, including first-hand stories from moms of the NHL’s biggest stars. Hockey Moms laces together the stories of NHL hockey moms like Kelly McDavid and Ema Matthews with those of mothers who never expected their children to set foot on the ice.
#16. Over the Boards: Lessons from the Ice – Hayley Wickenheiser. The greatest women’s hockey player of all time, Hayley Wickenheiser shares the lessons that won her four Olympic gold medals, and hard-earned wisdom. Published in 2021, Hayley shares the hard-won lessons she learned on and off the ice that helped her not only have a record-breaking hockey career but craft a life filled with joy, growth, and challenges.
#15. Cujo: The Untold Story of My Life On and Off the Ice – Cutis Joseph / Kirstie McLellan Day – Published in 2019, this is a book that a number of people have recommended to me over the past couple of years. A 31 best seller, Amazon describes this book as… “in this revealing memoir, Joseph talks about his highly unusual upbringing and what led him to put on his first pair of skates. Written by Kirstie McLellan Day, the world’s top writer of hockey books, this book surprises and entertains, and shares on- and off-the-ice tales no fan has heard before: the untold story behind the legend.”
#14. Burke’s Law: A Life in Hockey – Bryan Burke / Stephen Brunt. Published in 2020, Burke’s Law is an entertaining journey through the life of an NHL executive and one of the biggest hockey personalities. Some great stories of his days as an NHL GM, junior player and advocate of the game. Want to learn how he pulled off the trade at the draft to land both Henrik and Daniel Sedin? It’s in there too. Great read.
#13. Playing with Fire – Theoren Fleury -Published in 2009 and co-written with author Kirstie McLellan Day, Theoren Fleury documents how he became a star player in junior and in the NHL, Stanley Cup champion and an Olympic gold medalist despite battling drug and alcohol addictions that ultimately ended his NHL career. A best seller, Playing with Fire sold over 80,000 copies within six weeks of its release.
#12. A Helluva Life in Hockey – Brian McFarlane – Brian McFarlane is one of the great storytellers of the game of hockey. Published in 1989, A Helluva Life in Hockey is a captivating memoir from Canada’s foremost hockey historian and a beloved NHL commentator. McFarlane has written 96 (with one in the works) books on hockey, selling over 1.3 million books.
#11. Orr: My Story – Bobby Orr – there are so many great hockey memoirs out there (as you can see on our list). Published in 2014m Bobby Orr’s “Orr My Story” is a great look into one of the games and sports most loved athletes. Many will still describe Bobby Orr as the greatest hockey player to play the game. As Chapters-Indigo describes the book: “In the end, this is not just a book about hockey. The most meaningful biographies and memoirs rise above the careers out of which they grew. Bobby Orr’s life goes far deeper than Stanley Cup rings, trophies and recognitions. His story is not only about the game, but also the age in which it was played. It’s the story of a small-town kid who came to define its highs and lows, and inevitably it is a story of the lessons he learned along the way.”
#10. Mr. Hockey: My Story – Gordie Howe – Published in 2013, Mr. Hockey: My Story is a great read about the playing career of arguably the NHL’s best all-around player Gordie Howe. Mr. Hockey shares some insights into how different the game was in the 40’s and 50s and when he was young regarding player contracts, players getting paid peanuts, and playing through horrible travel conditions. From the fields of Saskatchewan to the ice of Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Gordie Howe is Mr. Hockey.
#9. Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the N.H.L.’s First Treaty Indigenous Player – Fred Saskamoose – Published in 2021, an amazing story of how Sasakamoose was taken from his home and sent to a residential school but went on to play in the NHL and played against some of the greatest players in the history of the league. Learn about how Fred Saskamoose became the first Indigenous player to make the National Hockey League.
#8. The Russian Five: A Story of Espionage, Defection, Bribery, and Courage – Keith Gave. Published in 2018, The Russian Five is a great account of how the 1990’s Detroit Red Wings became the dominant powerhouse in the NHL largely because of the Russian Five. They is a great documentary on this as well, but the book is an amazing read of how the Detroit Red Wings went from outhouse in the eighties to penthouse in the nineties. This is the story of espionage, defection, and bribery that brought five Russian players to the Detroit Red Wings dating back to the early eighties.
#7. 99: Stories of the Game – Wayne Gretzky with Kirstie McLellan Day – Published in 2016, The Great One” shares some of his favourite stories as he recalls memories of his legendary career with an inside look at the sport of professional hockey, and the heroes and stories that inspired him.
#6. Beauties: Hockey’s Greatest Untold Stories – James Duthie – Published in 2021, Duthie has compiled a number of great stories some fun some funny. The Roberto Luongo foreward is worth the price of this book alone.
#5. The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association – Ed Willes. From Bobby Hull’ s astonishing million-dollar signing to how the Edmonton Oilers had to smuggle fugitive forward Frankie Beaton out of their dressing room in an equipment bag, The Rebel League includes a bunch of great anecdotes of the WHA. A very entertaining read. Originally published in 2005, The Rebel League is one of The Hockey Fanatic’s all-time favourite hockey books.
#4. Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador and the Future of Hockey – Ken Dryden – Ken Dryden is a Conn Smythe winning goalie and a best selling author. Published in 2107, Game Change is a powerful examination of hockey’s failure to address the growing issue of head shots and concussions in hockey. Well researched and very convincing, Dryden writes about the life of Steve Montador from his youth and his minor hockey days in Ontario to the end of his NHL career due to multiple head injuries and his untimely death at the age of 35. Dryden looks at the scientific quest to better understand the short and longtime effects of concussions and describes the history of game of hockey to illustrate how players are more vulnerable than ever to these types of head injuries.
#3. Willie: The Game-Changing Story of the N.H.L.’s First Black Player – Published in 2020, I must say that this is one of my favourite hockey books that I have ever read. Written by Willie O’Ree and Michael McKinley, the book details how O’Ree, not unlike Jackie Robinson in baseball became the for African-Canadian to play in the National Hockey League. Simply put, Willie O’Ree is an amazing man with courage, skill, ands smarts to excel at the game of hockey. Willie O’Ree was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 2018 and was a key component in the creation of the NHL Diversity program.
#2. The Game – Ken Dryden – Published in 1983, The Game by Ken Dryden is one of the greatest books written of all time. Much of the book is about Dryden’s Canadiens teammates, life on the road, and details of the life of a professional hockey player. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the Montreal Canadiens 1978-79 team that would go on to win the Stanley Cup. Gain insights about some of the games all-time great players from one of the players themselves. Ken Dryden was not like other pro hockey players, it is an amazing view of the game and the locker room from one who was within the inner sanctum. Sports Illustrated has list “The Game” as one of the greatest sports books of all time.
#1. The Game of Our Lives – Peter Gzowski – released in 1981, this was the first real hockey book I remember reading. The original cover of the book actually features Wayne Gretzky on it. The book recounts the 1980-81 season Peter Gzowski spent travelling around the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers. What makes this book so much more amazing is that it details the Oilers pre-Stanley Cup championships, describes all of those great Hall-of-Famers as they were just stating their NHL careers. You don’t have to be an Edmonton Oilers fan to appreciate this but it you are an Oilers fan you will love this book!
There you have it, The Hockey Fanatic’s Definitive list of hockey books that all hockey fans should read. Of course, there are many more hockey books that are amazing reads, but this list covers a diverse perspective of the game. Heck did you know there is even a hockey romance book category of hockey books? What’s the best hockey book ever? Well, that’s for you to decide. We’re hoping our list will whet your appetite to pick up a good hockey book and learn about some of the game’s greatest events and players that have played, coached, parented or officiated the game.
5 Great Hockey Books for Kids
You may have noticed that we included one children’s hockey book on our list. There are many great hockey books for children, so we will feature some of the best hockey books for children in an upcoming post, but for now here’s five great hockey books for kids.
#5. I Am a Zamboni Machine – Kevin Viala (2014) Younger hockey fans will love seeing this big Zamboni machine in action! Featuring simple facts and colourful illustrations, this book follows a Zamboni as it does its job to clear and resurface the rink.
#4. The Moccasin Goalie – Written by William Roy Brownridge (2016). Danny has a disability that prevents him from being able to wear skates, but that doesn’t stop him from playing the sport he loves with his friends, hockey. Only one of his friends gets picked for the town team, but later on Danny has the chance to prove that he could be a good asset to the team.
#3. Goodnight Hockey – Michael Dahl (author) / Christina E Forshay (illustrator) – 2017. Any fans of the Goodnight Moon children’s book? Goodnight Hockey is the perfect bedtime board book for every hockey fan! The rhyming text, exciting illustrations, and classic sport combination are a hat-trick of fun for the whole family.
#2. Just One Goal – Robert Munsch (author) Michael Martchenko (illustrator) – 2008. Ciara is tired of hauling her hockey gear across town to play on the rink. It makes no sense―there is a perfectly good frozen river in her own backyard! But her dad says it’s too jagged, and her mom says it’s too bumpy, and her older sisters don’t see why she can’t keep going all the way across town, just like they did. But Ciara won’t let anybody stop her. And with a little help from the neighbourhood, she knows that her team, the River Rink Rats, will finally win a game on their own brand new rink.
#1. The Hockey Sweater – Authored by Roch Carrier (1979). An all-time classic an iconic piece of Canadian literature. Amazon’s recap of the classic short story: In the days of Roch’s childhood, winters in the village of Ste. Justine were long. Life centered around school, church, and the hockey rink, and every boy’s hero was Montreal Canadiens hockey legend Maurice Richard. Everyone wore Richard’s number 9. They laced their skates like Richard. They even wore their hair like Richard. When Roch outgrows his cherished Canadiens sweater, his mother writes away for a new one. Much to Roch’s horror, he is sent the blue and white sweater of the rival Toronto Maple Leafs, dreaded and hated foes to his beloved team. How can Roch face the other kids at the rink?
Other hockey book lists that you might be interested in:
- Celebrate the NHL Centennial with the top 100 hockey books:
- 26 awesome hockey books (Today’s Parent)
- 25 Must Read Books about Hockey and the NHL:
- 30 in 30: Notable Hockey Books
- 17 Best Hockey Biography Books of All Time (Editor’s Note: We do not necessarily agree with the books featured on this list, but there are still some fine choices).