I originally wrote this book review in January 2009 for a website I belong to called Goodreads. I’ve gone back and refined it, and thought I would post it here, since I believe the primary tenets of this book very much mimic the themes I try to present on this website. Plus, Jack rules and more people need to know and read him.
Though my relationship with hockey has spanned the better part of 25 years, my connection to Jack Falla and some of the more hardcore hockey fans like him is rather new. It was less than a year ago when I decided I was going to build a rink in my backyard. I stumbled upon a Yahoo Group dedicated to the topic, and in my introduction to the group, mentioned Jack and wondered aloud if he still had his rink in Natick. To my surprise, within an hour, Jack himself responded. He was helpful, courteous, friendly. It wouldn’t take long for me to realize that this was the way Jack operated.
We exchanged a couple of e-mails, I vowed to read his books now that I had a family (and backyard rink) of my own, and I didn’t think much about it.
It startled me how much his sudden passing in the fall of 2008 affected me. A subject in one of the Yahoo group e-mails simply read: “To Jack – We’ll Miss You.” A lump in my throat formed that felt like a hockey puck was lodged in there. Never have I been so affected by the passing of a person I never met, though it soon became apparent that I was not alone. Rink builders, colleagues, students – all mourning the passing of one of the nicest people they’d ever met (or in my case – never met).
It is with this as an undertone that I began reading Open Ice on Christmas Day 2008. The book is a collection of essays that center around a number of topics – his rink, his beginnings as a hockey fan at the old Boston Garden, his grandchildren, his wife, his travels. But a common thread in each essay is the sport of hockey.
As a fellow hockey lifer, I felt like this book was written just for me. Each essay, whether it be on Rocket Richard, George Vezina, or his grandson Demetre, contained equal parts humor and humility, often intertwined with his own personal life and those lives of long-lost hockey heroes who only exist in rink folklore. He had a true love for the game, and that love has taken him to some amazing places for some very strange reasons. But it makes sense to the hockey lifer, and thus, it makes sense to me.
I am a member on another website where books can be swapped – think of it as an internet library. I put most of my books on there after reading, as I rarely read the same book twice. I will not be putting this book up for trade. Rather, I hope to entice friends and family to pick it up and give it a spin. Growing up in a hockey-centric family, I think I’ll find a few who will enjoy it. And hopefully they’ll get a glimpse into a man I wish I’d met much sooner.
If you’re interested in reading this book, fire me an e-mail at joe ‘at’ backyard-hockey.com and I’ll mail it to you. The only thing I ask is that you pay it forward when you’re done reading it. If you’d like to purchase the book, here is the link for it at Amazon.com.