Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Hockey Abstract cover

The most well-known book about advanced statistics in baseball is Moneyball, which is odd, as it isn’t, strictly-speaking, about advanced statistics. Instead, Moneyball is a book about economics and finding market inefficiencies. It just so happens that in baseball, those market inefficiencies are generally found through the use of statistical analysis. In many ways, that analysis has its roots in the work of Bill James and his annual Baseball Abstract that was published from 1977 to 1988.

As advanced statistics in hockey grow in prominence, there appears to be a market inefficiency of sorts: there is no equivalent to the Baseball Abstract for hockey. While plenty of material has been published online developing statistics like Corsi and Fenwick and tracking things like zone exits and entries, no one has published a book covering these statistical developments in a way accessible to those unfamiliar with the work done online.

Rob Vollman has attempted to to fill the gap with his new book, Hockey Abstract, available in PDF format or in print from Amazon. While it falls short in some areas, it’s a fantastic resource for those new to advanced statistics in hockey and an engaging and enlightening read for those already familiar with them.

Read the rest of this entry »

As the editor of Backhand Shelf, I receive a good number of hockey books to review. I try to get to them all, and most certainly, I try to share the good ones I come across. Today I returned back from Thanksgiving to find Liam Maguire’s “Next Goal Wins! – The ultimate NHL historian’s one-of-a-kind collection of hockey trivia” on my desk, and man, is it a beauty. I got lost in it for hours.

Chapters include “Defunct team trivia,” “Stanley Cup ancecdotes,” “Firsts and lasts,” “Best of the best” and a handful of others. The following five questions (and answers) are from his 50-part section “My top questions” at the end of the book.

You can buy the book for under $20 here if you’re into the history of hockey. It’s a pretty cool read. You can also check out his website here, and follow him on Twitter here.


Before you read the questions, feel free to see if you can answer any on your own. These are all excerpts directly from the book, and were largely new to me. Be warned: I chose a few Gretzky-centric ones.

How many goaltenders did Wayne Gretzky score against in his NHL career? Read the rest of this entry »

This morning I thought I’d pass along a cool book for you hockey fans interested in how the NHL took it’s shape – intoducing Breakaway: From Behind the Iron Curtain to the NHL: The Untold Story of Hockey’s Great Escapes.

It can be difficult for some players to leave their home country to play in the NHL now – decades ago, it was damn near impossible for a handful of them. They simply weren’t allowed to up and leave.

Below is an except from the third chapter “The Beginning of the Czech-sodus,” which tells the story of how Petr Klima worked his way out of Czechoslovakia, and onto the Detroit Red Wings roster. If you’re interested, you can grab a copy for about $18 on Amazon. Read the rest of this entry »