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Open Ice: A review

July 10, 2011


On the night of the Stanley Cup final, game seven, Globe beat reporter Fluto Shinzawa took to his Twitter feed before the game’s start, as he often does. But instead of remarking on that night’s line-up (which he did) or the of the atmosphere in the building (which he did), he reflected on his former BU professor, Jack Falla. Here’s the tweet. That began a back and forth among Boston reporters, including NESN’s Naoko Funayama. The exchange, just minutes before the start of the game that would lead the Bruins to the moment when Chara hoisted the Cup on high, was genuine. It was completely spontaneous, and it was genuine. It was abundantly clear at that second that this game was about so much more than game seven. And for the excellent Boston media crew, from NESN to the Globe, the Herald to CSN, the long slog of the season had brought them there. But so had some trailblazing figures.

Truth be told, I hadn’t heard of Jack Falla until that night. But when I did, I pulled open Amazon, put Open Ice in my basket, turned the computer off, and watched the game. I ordered the book a few weeks later with my parents’ anniversary gift.

And so I read it, while home in Portsmouth, NH. And I recommend whole-heartedly. The only downside was just how short it is. I ended it longing for more. I think Hockey News’s Ken Campbell’s words about the book, as written in an obituary, were most apt. It is the color of the book, the manner in which the places, the tactile sensations, the weather, all of the finer details that give life to a story, are conveyed, that set it apart. Quality hockey writing is few and far between. The writers that manage to write about hockey in a way that is at once informative and emotive, are few. The collection of Sports Illustrated articles on the topic of hockey released in a compendium form last year captured the essence of great hockey writing. The tragedy came in the fact the single volume contains the breadth of great writing, and returning to reading the standard material of Hockey News or TSN or CBC or the Hockey Writers, is simply miserable. It cannot compare.

Why can’t their be better writing out there? Has the hard and rough, fast and cutting, type writing that is ubiquitous all but taken us? What’s left? I am most familiar with Dan Shaugnessey and Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe, though they do not specialize in hockey by a stretch, their writings on the Bruins’ victory were poignant, but also lacking that magic.

The late Jack Falla had it, and so does his final work.

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