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Open Ice: Reflections and Confessions of a Hockey Lifer Hardcover – August 25, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Jack Falla’s Previous Collection of Essays, Home Ice

“literary hot chocolate that will warm your heart.”

The New York Times

“While Home Ice may be a book about hockey and the charm of backyard rinks, it is more than that, too. It is a book about relationships—between fathers and sons, husbands and wives—and how the game can bridge the gaps that commonly occur between generations in a family... It’s a treasure and one that readers will be happy they searched out. Possibly the best hockey book since Ken Dryden’s The Game.”

The Globe & Mail

“Hockey’s foremost writer poses the essential question: ‘Have you ever been unhappy skating?’ That question could be answered with another question: ‘Have you ever been unhappy reading Jack Falla?’ Never. If Falla and his fellow rink-makers belong to the ‘lunatic fringe,’ then count me in. Never has lunacy been so much fun to read about.”

The Hockey News

“What a wonderful shock to open a book and for a fantastical moment think that the writer had you in mind when he created it... I read Home Ice and saw my life come alive on the page...”

Bostonia Magazine

“... a collection of essays that are a mix of the celestial (the poignant family moments) and the terrestrial (the how-to grunt work of actual rink building.)”

Boston Globe

“Falla’s rink (and this book) enlivens the darkness and cold and pays homage to the New England cultural heritage.”

Christian Science Monitor

“A gentle and powerful book.”

Dave Bidini, Author of Tropic of Hockey and The Best Game You Can Name

Praise for Jack Falla’s Hockey Novel, Saved

“Sportswriter Falla knows a lot about hockey, and this novel is a hilarious look at how players, coaches and owners get through a grueling season in their quest for the trophy…. Falla’s graphic portrayal of a violent sport (and its colorful players) and his insider’s view of how hockey is played, coached and officiated is exciting, surefire entertainment.”

From the Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“Falla covered the NHL for Sports Illustrated for many years, and he clearly understands the league, its players, and its idiosyncracies. He also loves hockey. The flashbacks of kids playing on natural ice during frozen New England winters are heartfelt and genuine. Most novels with a sports backdrop seem forced; seldom do the authors get the ‘sports’ part right. To borrow a hockey term, Falla records a hat trick: he scores on character, plot, and setting. This reads as realistically as if it were a memoir.”

From the Booklist Review

From the Inside Flap

A new collection of heartwarming essays from one of North America’s foremost hockey writers.

Jack Falla follows up his gem of a book, Home Ice, with this exquisitely crafted collection of essays on hockey as he has seen and experienced it for fifty years. Funny, poignant, joyful, and occasionally melancholy, Open Ice is one man’s witness to fifty years of the game he loves.

Reflections on hockey, its personalities and arenas, and twenty-five years of dedication to his own backyard rink are woven into family memories and other fond remembrances. From the death of Rocket Richard, to skating on the Rideau Canal, contemplating his fantasy hockey team while sitting in the Sistine Chapel, memories of being in all Original Six arenas, and more, Open Ice is a reflective and fond look at hockey for people to whom the sport is more than just a game.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470153059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470153055
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,336,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Being the hockey fan I am, I was drawn to Open Ice: Reflections and Confessions of a Hockey Lifer by Jack Falla mainly by the title. Born and raised on the west coast, I knew nothing of Falla's history as a sportswriter, but I can understand the mindset of someone for whom hockey is a definition of their life. This turned out to be an excellent, thoughtful read, made even more poignant when I learned that Falla passed away in September, a month after the book was written...

A Death in Montreal; Short Shifting in Fantasy Land; Skating the Rideau Canal; New Skates; Passing the Torch; "Excuse me, Mr. Delvecchio..."; Back to the Barns; Requiem for the Cucumber; Much of What I Know about Life I Learned Tending Goal; The Rink Rat; Unknockable; Searching for Hobey Baker; Goodbye to the Backyard Rink?; Acknowledgments; About the Author

Falla wrote and covered hockey for Sports Illustrated in the 1980's, but his attachment to hockey goes far deeper. Like many of that time, he grew up following and idolizing the Orrs, Richards, and Beliveaus, the names that made hockey what it is today. But even deeper than that, the game became part of his being, from visiting the ice rinks of the "original six" to building his own backyard outdoor rink every winter. Open Ice is a series of his stories and thoughts about his attachment to the game, and what he's done to uncover the stories of the legends. In some cases, it's attending the funeral of Maurice Richard in Montreal, even though he had to travel halfway across the country to do so, just because it seemed like the right thing to do. Other stories revolve around his quests to discover the deeper personal stories behind old-timers like Hobey Baker and Georges Vezina.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful collection of hockey essays (13, I think). I'd say it's probably the best hockey book I've read in many a year. In fact, for me, this was a library book but I'm thinking of buying my own copy, which I rarely do after I've borrowed a copy.

Falla has a knack of tying his hockey observations to life and vice versa, such as his "Life Lessons Learned from Tending Goal." Many of his hockey essays focus on the Original Six teams, which is music to my ears as I'm an old school kind of fan.

One essay addressed, for instance, Maurice "Rocket" Richard's funeral and what he meant to French Quebec. Another talked about fantasy hockey (I'm an avid fantasy league sports participant so I enjoyed that one.)

Other favorites included an essay about skating the Rideau Canal in Ottawa and another about the rinks the Original Six played in. I loved the Chicago Stadium so it was interesting to hear someone else's observations about it.

Very interesting and informative, both where I knew quite a bit about the topic, such as the late 50s/early 60s Montreal Canadiens, and also where I knew very little, such as about Hobey Baker.

Absolutely terrific!!
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Format: Hardcover
I will preface this by saying I have only read a chapter of this book. I am one of the people that helped him buy his new skates. He was a pleasure to talk with. Though I am not a hockey fan, I did enjoy listening to his stories. He was in the store for probably about an hour, maybe a little more just talking and trying on skates, but it was an hour that I still talk about to this day. I was saddened to hear of his passing and my sympathies go to his family.
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Format: Hardcover
The word that comes to mind at times when reading Jack Falla's "Open Ice" is spooky. And not for Stephen King's reasons, either.

Falla compiled this book of essays about hockey. Shortly after the book reached print, Falla died. It's difficult not to think about that when reading the book, perhaps because the author refers to his own mortality in a few places.

For example, Falla writes about getting medication to lower his very high blood pressure. After a short time, he decided to throw the medicine in the sock drawer because taking it would be giving in to the onset of old age. He did lose some weight and lowered his blood pressure a bit, but it's easy to wonder about how his attitude affected his chances of living to a much more ripe old age.

Falla also talks with his wife about what should be on his gravestone after his death while they are visiting a Quebec cemetery. His idea was "Game over," while his wife requests "Game misconduct." Knowing what we know now, it's a little tough to take.

Obviously, a book should be judged on its own merits, and "Open Ice" is a good one. There's a certain charming subculture to hockey that's tough to describe to outsiders. It can be a matter of applying hockey's lessons to life ("Afraid to do something? Sometimes you just have to shoot the puck and hope something good happens. You'll never score unless you shoot.") It can be the serenity and beauty of a clean sheet of ice, with a puck, stick and an endless amount of time to enjoy it. The cover picture captures that feeling beautifully.

Falla takes the reader on some adventures, such as the funeral of Rocket Richard, a visit to Georges Vezina, and the pond where Hobey Baker skated.
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