There are a few good sports biographies but fewer great ones. This is one of the greats and from a first time author at that!
Huge points for author Todd Denault using Klein and Reif's Hockey Compendium (possibly the best hockey analysis book ever done) and their massive save percentage database stats to prove just how great Plante was in an era when they only had goals against average as the stat du jour. Denault, though, doesn't fall into the trap of just using stats nor of ignoring GAA in the context of the era. He just strikes the right balance.
To be honest, I knew a lot about Plante, his wandering, knitting, asthma and his introduction of the modern mask to netminding. What I was looking for in this book was to fill me in on the pre- and post-Habs era especially his time with the Leafs and Blues and his Hasek-like ability to play outstanding goal into his 40s.
We get that in spades here. I was surprised to learn so many things such as the fact as juniors many of the stars of the '60s did get a chance to play the Soviets which makes the early shock at the Soviets' play in the 1972 Summit Series sort of bizarre given all this prior contact on the ice at the amateur level.
Without giving any more away on the surprises you'll find about the "good ole days" of the Original Six, just be assured you'll garner great sympathy for the man Jacques Plante over and above his skills on the ice.
on August 22, 2010
I really enjoed this book as I have with almost every great goaltender biography or autobiography. Plante was clearly a professional well ahead of his time with respect to the way he approached his profession. When most did not train during the off season, did not review notes about teams played, goal-scorers and the goals they scored, there was Plante doing his thing. He was cheap and in many ways a loner but he was clearly a man who did what he felt was correct and had numerous ideas that improved the goaltending trade and the game of hockey. He saw too early an end like Vezina and Sawchuk. Add this book to your goaltending library!