Book Review: “My First Goal”

It’s been described as an exhiliarating moment, or to some, the monkey off their backs. When a player scores his first goal in the NHL, it’s one that he remembers forever (except for Gordie Howe, apparently). Hockey writer Mike Brophy’s “My First Goal,” released today, features interviews with current and former NHL players. I was interested to read the stories, but even more so when I saw that the foreward was written by Glen Hanlon. If anyone knows anything about first goals, it’s Hanlon- since he gave up Wayne Gretzky’s. Hanlon notes that while it obviously wasn’t a big deal at the time, he had to relive that moment again when Gretzky was nearing Gordie Howe’s goal-scoring record. “I must have had 50 messages from reporters.” Poor guy.

The book tells the stories of 50 players and their first NHL goals. Some of the players featured include Ron Hextall, Bobby Clarke, Bobby Orr, Jonathan Toews, Brendan Shanahan, Jean Beliveau, Colin and Gregory Campbell, Brett Hull, and Phil Esposito.

I’m not a huge Phil Esposito fan, but the part about his first goal was entertaining. Among other great anecdotes, Esposito said: “My first shift, I had to take the faceoff against Jean Beliveau, and I nearly crapped my pants. It was like, ‘Wow, Jean Beliveau!’ He was an idol of mine.”

My favorite part of the book was about Dave “Tiger” Williams. He’s a natural storyteller, and his tales are hilarious. When he scored his first NHL goal, it was against Montreal.

“It was a Saturday night game, and I’ll never forget after the game, getting on the pay phone that was outside the dressing room in the old Montreal Forum and calling an old friend, Bernie Jordan, who was a die-hard Montreal fan and who used to let me come over to his house and watch Saturday-night hockey on his colour TV, and I said, ‘How do you like your Habs now?'”

Seriously, the whole section on Williams is terrific- he also tells a great story about him and Bob Probert sneaking the Stanley Cup away from Mike Bolt, the Cup keeper, and taking photos with it.

If there’s one thing I didn’t like about the book, it was the section on Sidney Crosby. It wasn’t that it was about Crosby- it was the inevitable comparison with Ovechkin that was unnecessary:

Crosby finished his rookie season with spectacular numbers- 39 goals and 102 points in 81 games- but was not named the league’s top rookie. The Calder Trophy instead went to Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, while Crosby was named runner-up…There are a couple of things Crosby achieved, however, that Ovechkin is still aiming for: winning a Stanley Cup (Crosby led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2008-09) and an Olympic medal…

Other than that, I really enjoyed the book. Because it’s broken up into 50 short sections, it’s easy to read a few pages at a time- perfect for riding the Metro or waiting at the doctor’s office; no big time commitment needed. The stories were entertaining to read and I learned quite a bit; for example, I never knew that Gregory Campbell was the last person to wear the equipment that Wayne Gretzky wore in his final game. I would recommend the book for someone who loves hockey and history and who wants a fun, quick read.

Disclaimer: Random House provided a copy of the book to OFB for review.

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2 Responses to Book Review: “My First Goal”

  1. K.S.Brooks says:

    Nice review. Sounds like a fun read. I agree with your opinion on the Ovechkin comparison – it doesn’t sound like it really “fits” with the storytelling theme and seems unnecessary to mention Ovechkin at all.

  2. I second the seemingly-gratuitous Ovechkin mention… then again, the book is very obviously (and understandably, given its target audience) 99% focused on Canadian players. Still, it has some good stories.

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