If you are a New York hockey fan of a certain age, or a student of hockey history, you know the names of Gump Worsley and Terry Sawchuck: Ranger netminders of a long-ago era when even Mark Messier was still trying on his first pair of skates before bringing a Stanley Cup home to Gotham.
If you are of another generation you know less about the Rangers goalies and more about those who spoiled spring every year for New York, from the Islanders’ Billy Smith to Montreal’s Ken Dryden, Philly’s Ron Hextall and Bernie Parent and even the Devils’ Marty Brodeur.
But if you just like hockey, and want to learn more about those who tended goal from a variety of eras then a new book, Between The Pipes, written by Randi Druzin, takes hockey fans on a great voyage into the lives and psyche’s of the men who have manned the goal across North America for over a half century. From the stonefaced tactician turned front office czar Patrick Roy to the quirky Ed Belfour to the Blackhawks’ legendary Tony Esposito, there is something in here for you as these master tacticians talk about their lives away from the ice as much as on it. From scholars like the Cornell-educated Dryden to the master chess player Dominik Hasek, Druzin teaches us more about what it takes to be a top level keeper from Vancouver to Long Island.
“I have found goalies to be the most interesting players, as a journalist, with the most interesting quotes and perspective, and generally the most colorful characters,” explained Druzin. “The criteria was goalies who were not just great in terms of accolades, but who had compelling personalities.”
While New York fans might be a bit disappointed that there is not more about local heroes like John Davidson, Chico Resch and Mike Richter, a good portion of the book is devoted to the Devils’ future Hall of Famer Brodeur and how he became the poster child for stability in a franchise that was long known for its rockiness before Lou Lamoriello brought the master netminder to the Meadowlands.
“There is the mental toughness [in Brodeur] that all great goalies have, the confidence, being unflappable,” said Druzin, a lifelong hockey fan and journalist who has covered the sport across the world. “The physical side, though, one of the reasons he’s been around so long is because of his hybrid playing style, butterfly and standup.”
There are also great anecdotes from the Rangers long ago who patrolled the ice and the pubs around the Old MSG, as well as more than a few looks at some of the greatest, and most heartbreaking moments achieved by any number of the goalie adversaries of the Broadway Blues.
The book is particularly appealing this time of year as we wrap the respite of the Winter Olympic break and marvel in the glory of the country vs. country play now going on in Sochi, as several of those featured in the book have ties to Olympic glory for their home countries. Goalkeepers have always been an unusual lot, and Druzin gives us a great cross-sampling of what makes them unique.