In BEAUTIES, author and sportscaster James Duthie sits down with (well, in the era of COVID, takes phone calls from) a wide variety of folks asking of them just one thing, “tell me a great hockey story”. A fairly simple request that leads to some truly excellent stories, but to label the whole book as containing hockey’s “greatest untold stories” may be a bit much.
This isn’t a knock at the book, don’t get me wrong. While I didn’t exactly dislike any of the over four dozen tales in there, many were quickly forgotten the second I finished them. That shouldn’t totally dissuade you from picking it up however, as there were some truly memorable ones.
Ken Hitchcock’s story about “fixing” Team Canada’s dressing room at the 2002 Winter Olympics and checking into a motel early in his career where you had to put down a ten dollar deposit for light bulbs.
The story of Laila Anderson, the young St. Louis Blues super fan who battled a rare disease as her team chased the cup in 2019.
The story of Chris Beaudry, the assistant coach of the Humbolt Broncos and his life-long battle with substance abuse that nearly ended after the horrific bus accident in 2018.
And the story of Gord Miller covering the biggest trade in the history of the NHL in 1988 when Wayne Gretzky himself came to Gord’s rescue.
Without a doubt, the best story in the whole book belongs to John Ronan. He led a career that is a real life version of the Paul Newman movie, Slap Shot. Playing seven years in the minors, Ronan has a whole hockey bag full of great stories – one of the best being that after complaining about his old beat-up skates, his flat-broke team decides to trade a player for a pair of new skates for John. If John Ronan’s is the best, Jim McKenzie’s is a close second. His story about training under a terrible coach (with the nickname Cupcake) in his junior years alongside Mike Keane had me laughing out loud. Really great stuff.
While certainly not the best hockey book I’ve read, BEAUTIES is the perfect type of book to read during the holidays when life slows down and you just want something light.