CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 7 . . . . November 30, 2001
Of the initial dozen titles in the Quest Library series of biographies for high school students, Jacques Plante is the first to deal with a sports figure, the legendary goaltender whose name is synonymous with the Stanley Cup winning glory days of the N.H.L.'s Montreal Canadiens. Like most biographies, this one utilizes an essentially chronological approach to its subject although Raymond Plante's skill as a fiction writer shows through as he utilizes an in media res opening which finds Jacques Plante being suddenly thrust into playing goal in the critical sixth game of the 1953 Stanley Cup semifinal series between the Black Hawks and the Canadiens. Throughout the book's first section, author Plante keeps returning to this game which will be pivotal in goaltender Plante's career.
In keeping with the sport's time structure, the book's 12 chapters are divided into three equal "Periods" with an additional "Overtime" thirteenth chapter. Well, that division appears on the "Contents" page, but readers will find that Chapter 9, "The Masked Wonder," which should be the opening part of the "Third Period: 'Un Canadien Errant,'" actually is the concluding section of the "Second Period: A Masked Knight in the Kingdom of Hockey."
Like the other subjects in the Quest Library series, Jacques Plante was a type of "pioneer." Though his name in hockey history will most probably always be associated with introducing the goalie mask to the game, author Plante notes that player Plante, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, also pioneered the "wandering" style of goaltending in which he left the crease to play the puck behind the net, a style adopted by many of today's goalies. The subtitle, although perhaps not of the author's creation, suggests that readers are going to see the "real" man behind the mask. To some extent, author Plante does give glimpses of the person, Jacques Plante, but these peeks are almost always within the context of hockey, especially in terms of his relationship with teammates and management. Passing references are made to a marriage breakup and a family tragedy, but Plante's private life remains largely concealed, perhaps because author Plante utilized only secondary sources for his information, and the sports reporting newspapers and magazines of Jacques Plante's day, unlike those of the present, maintained a clear separation between sports figures' public and private lives. In the game of hockey, overtime usually signals players involved in intense, high drama, but Plante's "Overtime" chapter was a "floater."
While the copyright page notes that this work is a translation, it does not reveal that the original French version was published in 1996. Had that information been available, ardent hockey fans, especially those who follow the exploits of goaltender Dominek Hasek, would have immediately understood the reason for author Plante's "incorrect" statement that "Since then , no goalie has won it [the Hart Trophy]." Someone with a hockey background also needed to check Dunton's translation: Jean Beliveau was not "named most useful player" (p. 62), but, in fact, received the Hart Trophy for being the most "valuable" player; and Bobby Orr did not score "120 goals" (p. 165) in a year, but 120 points!
A baker's dozen full-page black and white photos are scattered throughout the text while a table of career statistics and the"Chronology of Jacques Plante" which juxtaposes two timelines, "Plante and the World of Sports" and "Canada and the World," complete the work.
Given that Jacques Plante died before most of the book's intended audience were even born and that the study of hockey is not part of the core curriculum in schools, the audience for Jacques Plante may be limited to die-hard adolescent hockey fans.
Jenkinson, who teaches YA literature courses in the Faculty of Education,
University of Manitoba, fondly recalls watching Jacques Plante play
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.