CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 23. . . .February 19, 2010
Jacques Plante: The Man Who Changed the Face of Hockey.
Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2009.
326 pp., hardcover, $32.99.
Grades 10 and up / Ages: 15 and up.
Review by Thomas F. Chambers.
Once he was stitched up, Plante made his way back out to the ice and immediately skated towards the Canadiens dressing room for a fateful meeting with his coach. With his uniform caked in dried blood, and his nose held together by stitches and covered by a large white bandage, Plante was serenaded by Rangers fans who sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" in his honour.
The name Jacques Plante should need no introduction to Canadians, even those born long after his death in 1986 from stomach cancer. As a member of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team from 1953-1963, a legendary team that included some of the most famous names in hockey, including Rocket Richard and Jean Béliveau, Plante transformed the role of goaltender while helping the team to win six Stanley Cup championships. Jacques Plante is a thorough biography of Plante's life from his childhood to his death. It is, however, more than a book on Plante. There is a great deal about hockey generally and the life of a professional hockey player at the time.
Jacques Plante has an index, a bibliography and extensive research notes. It also has numerous functional black and white photographs grouped together in two sections. It is ideal for recreational reading.
While there are many sports books as anyone who delves into the subject will soon find out, Jacques Plante is a sports book like few others. Even those not enthusiastic about hockey will find this book hard to put down. It has the drama of a good mystery and the excitement of a thriller. It will be of considerable interest to anyone who watched Plante play. It will bring back memories of the Canadiens and their opponents when the league only had six teams. It will also be popular with younger hockey fans eager to learn how the game used to be played.
Plante was not just a talented hockey player, but he was an athlete who excelled in a variety of sports. This was not uncommon in the past. Hockey players would be involved in numerous sports just to keep in shape for hockey. As a goalie, however, Plante was different from the other goaltenders of his era (others, such as Terry Sawchuck, were also exceptional) because of his roving technique and the fact that he wore a mask. He was not the first to do so, (Clint Benedict wore one for five games in 1930), but Plante was the first to make it a part of his uniform. Plante's use of the mask eventually caught on, and now every goaltender wears one. Unlike other hockey players, Plante knitted many of his own clothes, wrote a book on goal tending and even bought a beauty parlour.
Todd Denault, author of Jacques Plante, is a freelance writer and a member of the Society for International Hockey Research. He has written many articles, but this is his first book.
Jacques Plante is an interesting book about a very interesting man, well written and informative. One flaw, though a minor one, is the overuse of superlatives to describe hockey players and those associated with hockey. Thus Dick Irvin is described as "the greatest coach the game had seen" and Terry Sawchuck "as the best goal-tender of his day." Denault also describes goal-tenders Bill Durnan as "legendary" and Johnny Bower as "extraordinary." There is, in addition, the "great" Doug Harvey" and many other "greats." Such over-enthusiastic praise lessens the achievements of these fine men. While all may have been good, only one was the best.
Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.
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