Wayne Gretzky's new book 99 Stories of the Game, written with Kirstie McLellan Day, is now out and is already on the best sellers lists. It likely will remain there throughout the Christmas shopping season.
And rightfully so, this book is fantastic. (Full disclosure: I worked on this book as a research consultant).
"Greatness is not captured in statistics. It's captured in stories," says Gretzky. It's so true. The fancy stats guys might disagree, but I think Mr. Gretzky knows more about hockey than all of them combined.
"Behind every big play, there's a guy who grew up dreaming of making that big play. He's got a story, and he was inspired by someone else's," Gretzky introduces his readers to his book.
I absolutely love those lines. Gretzky tells the story of the NHL's history, but not through the same old dry facts and figures like most books do, but through the stories he's either heard and collected since he was kid to the first hand experience he's had in rewriting that NHL history.
He shares his memories of the NHL's all time greats, like Jean Beliveau and Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux. But he tells you from his vantage point, perhaps as a kid growing up, or as a teammate or opponent on the bench.
He talks about the game's greatest moments, as he sees it. He covers all 99 seasons in NHL history. The best insights, of course, come in the games he participated. The big Stanley Cup games, or the Canada Cups or the Olympics. In the 1987 Canada Cup, for example, he compares Soviet and Canadian historical coaching theories,
Gretzky also fills the book with some neat stories of his own, such as the time during the 1987 Canada Cup when he invited Igor Larionov over to Walter Gretzky's house and how he had to sneak him into the memorabilia filled basement to sneak Igor a beer without his three KGB accompaniments noticing.
Gretzky's unique vantage point makes this book intriguing. But what really makes this book work is McLellan Day's gift of finding her subject's voice. She's the best in the business at this. We've all heard a million sound clips of Wayne Gretzky over the years, and we kind of know what to expect how he will hold himself in conversation. While reading this book I could completely "hear" Gretzky speaking. McLellan Day is unparalleled in hockey literature in this regard.
Be sure to check out Gretzky's new book 99 Stories of the Game today. It will likely be the top hockey book of 2016.