CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 20. . . .February 25th, 2011.
Sidney Crosby: The Story of a Champion.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2010.
84 pp., pbk., $17.95.
Crosby, Sidney, 1987-
Cole Harbour (N.S.)-Biography.
Grades 3 and up / Ages 8 and up.
Review by Jonine Bergen.
*** / 4
He is not a king, nor does he wear a crown, but Sidney Crosby does hold a high station in the NHL. He’s the star of his generation, the one everyone wants to watch, meet and interview – and Crosby does not carry the burden of celebrity like it’s an unbearable burden. Rather, he does it with elegance, dignity, and above all, respect. A product of a terrific family, a celebrated member of a proud community, and the recipient of some incredible hockey genes, Sidney Crosby is arguably the most famous and most accomplished hockey player in the world, and he’s only twenty-three years old.
In hockey-hungry Canada, hockey players take on a celebrity status early. In Crosby’s case, before he entered his teens, he had already garnered the attention of the hockey world and predictions were being made about how far he would go in the NHL. In Sidney Crosby, the reader follows Sidney’s trip from a three-year-old playing hockey with his dad in his basement, through his time in the Quebec Junior Hockey League, to his current success in the National Hockey League.
The layout of Sidney Crosby: The Story of a Champion is slick and visually appealing to the younger audience with all the glossy action-packed pictures and sidebars bordered in eye-catching red. Background graphics of a puck and hockey stick that are featured on each two page spread, along with the visual of a puck entering a net which borders the bottom of each page, draw the eye across the page while adding a sense of cohesive unity. The sidebars are interesting on their own while also adding an extra dimension of depth to the statistics-laden text.
Paul Hollingsworth, a celebrated award-winning sports announcer, brings his enthusiasm and distinctive voice to this narrative of Canada’s hockey sensation. Indeed, Hollingsworth admits in his acknowledgements that his “one true gift is the ability to engage in overstatement” and that he has “a propensity for hyperbole. ”As a Nova Scotia native, Hollingsworth is particularly familiar with the hockey scene in the Maritimes; this is both a positive and a negative. His love of hockey and deep respect for his boyhood home bring extra colour and sentimentality to the vignettes he shares of Crosby’s childhood. However, he drops names and acronyms that only a native Maritimer or a hockey aficionado will intuitively know. The depth of Hollingsworth’s knowledge is impressive and extensive, but he does, at times, forget who his audience is. He regularly dwells too much on the details of an event that may interest the older reader who remembers the game, but may not interest the younger, less experienced fan. For example, he spends over a page lamenting Don Cherry’s opinion of a goal Crosby made in a 2003 game.
Although Hollingsworth’s prose is fast-paced and interesting partnered with an exceptional layout, I found this biography lacking in two fundamental ways. First, the choice to exclude an index and bibliography is akin to playing the game without defence; one cannot be on the offensive all the time, as sometimes the hockey dabbler or the fan wants to look up a quick fact or read a about a particular incident. Secondly, Hollingsworth played only his first line by limiting his story to Crosby’s hockey journey. Additional information about who Crosby is off the ice would have developed a more fully rounded human who plays hockey instead of one-dimensional, albeit great, hockey player. Like the hero in this statistics-laden biography, Sidney Crosby received a lot of ice time with interested fans/readers, but unlike Crosby, it scored with only the hockey die-hards between the ages of 11 to 55 who picked up it up. So, here is a litmus test for the uninitiated: if your reader knows what the QMJHL and Metallurg Magnitogorsk are, or dents the family’s dryer in the pursuit of the perfect shot, this book will be inhaled. If not, your reader may enjoy a looking at the pictures and reading the first chapter, but will, perhaps, remain a bystander.
Jonine Bergen is a librarian in Winnipeg, MB, who enjoys watching the occasional hockey game, but admits she fails the litmus test.
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