Posted by: Cat | March 20, 2008

Book Review: “The Rookie: A Season with Sidney Crosby and the New NHL”

My dad likes to take me book shopping. He has a bajillion books, and raised me with the same appreciation. Since he doesn’t live close to the awesome Half-Price Books that I live across the street from, we usually end up going to Borders or Barnes and Noble. Sure, it costs more, but he never seems to mind. A couple of weeks ago, he took me shopping and he spent about $120 on books for me. I ended up getting a book on the history of modern Russia, two history books (one about the 1888 blizzard and one about the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago), and two hockey books – The Boys of Winter, which I haven’t read yet, and The Rookie.

I have a fondness for Sidney Crosby. I can’t fully explain it. He kind of freaks me out, but he seems like a good kid and he’s a great player. Also, that new Gatorade commercial had me in stitches (so dramatic!). At any rate, this was a pretty fascinating read. No, seriously.

Shawna Richer is a reporter for the Globe and Mail who spent all of Crosby’s rookie season in Pittsburgh, following the 18-year-old in the first year of the post-lockout NHL. She, too, hails from Nova Scotia. She had written about Crosby before for the Globe and Mail, covering the World Junior tournament and seeing him play as a junior for the Rimouski Oceanic.

She writes about the season as she experienced it. In newspapers, all you get are hard facts – what the score was, what the coaches and players said. In this book, she describes things in a different way. She spends time with Crosby, and there are points where he lets his guard down a bit, and Richer tells us what he’s feeling.

As a Western Conference, Pacific Division girl who didn’t get super into hockey until just last season, I didn’t watch the Pittsburgh Penguins in Crosby’s rookie year. I never get to know about the financial problems they were having, I wasn’t there for Mario Lemieux’s retirement. As such, this book had me hooked. Richer covers many games, tells us about the entire Penguins roster as well as their AHL affiliate team, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

It almost feels like you’re hearing this story from a Pittsburgh fan at a coffee shop. That’s how Shawna Richer writes. She writes with a certain familiarity that drew me in. I always wanted to know what would happen next. I wanted to know what Sidney (we’re on a first name basis now) was thinking. How did he feel when Lemieux was forced to retire with an irregular heartbeat? What about the pressure of being the “new face” of the NHL? What about that other rookie, that Russian kid, Alexander Ovechkin? Is there a bitter rivalry between the two? Are they friends? What about living with Lemieux’s family? Is that totally awkward for little Sidney?

Oh, speaking of living with Lemieux’s family. Mario’s wife, Nathalie, treated Sidney like a fifth child. In the book, Sidney tells a story about how one night, she made a certain spaghetti sauce to include in his pre-game meal. He had a four-point game that night. The next night, she had run out of spaghetti sauce, and when he got home from his morning skate, she was trying to make it from scratch, with the help of the kids. He was blown away, as you can imagine, at the motherly care that showed. I admit it, I teared up a little bit. I think it’s cute.

It’s an easy read – I think I breezed through it in, like, two days. There’s a black-and-white photo filler section (yeah, I admit it – I think Sidney Crosby’s totally adorable). All in all, it’s an excellent book that tells you what happened on the ice and gives you an idea of what went on in the head of the NHL’s new Golden Boy.



  1. Nice recap! I shall check that out. Side note: what was the title of the book on the World’s Fair? Was it Devil In The White City? That was a good book (I’m a history buff) but kind of freaky.

  2. That is basically the exact same way I felt when I read this book. I have to admit, at first I thought it was just a money grab for the new big name (I bought it from a huge table of hockey books at my Chapters in the middle of hockey ridden Ontario) but Shawna Richler drew me in too. Sid rarely lets his guard down in interviews, but she gets into his head a few times.

    Although I did get some nasty looks from Sens fans on the bus during my morning commute while I was reading it.

  3. I have read the book, and I have to admit, I got a good giggle out of certain parts of it, but other parts were interesting.

    Boys of Winter is an excellent book even though I’m a Team Canada fan all the way. My mom MADE me read it cause she told me that MN is the Team USA hotbed, so I should appreciate where I live, blah blah. Moral of the Story: I liked the book even though my mom told me to read it.

  4. Thanks for the head’s up. I’ll have to look for that one on Sid. I’m kinda surprised you found that here. Our B & N has next to nothing on hockey. I have “The Boys of Winter” and loved it. I especially liked the structure he used, following the game action to tell their stories. But I have a pretty big obsession with that team so I am totally biased!

  5. CKim – it totally was Devil in the White City. I haven’t finished reading it yet, I’m about 2/3 of the way through it.

    Dayna – See, I’m lucky enough to live in Dallas – the only looks I got were funny ones because I’m reading a hockey book.

    Kirsten – I am SO excited to read Boys of Winter! I’m going to finish Devil in the White City first, though, otherwise I might get distracted.

    Myra – don’t get me wrong, the hockey section at Borders in Mesquite is pathetic. It’s like, one tiny shelf.

  6. Haha! I knew it! Disturbing! It passed the time on the stationary bike at the gym, but I’m sure people could see the occasional disgusted look on my face.

  7. I’m going to add that one (both of them) to my wish list on Amazon. I’m trying to collect some hockey books to read over the summer and those sound like good ones.

    If you like history and bad weather, you might like Isaac’s Storm about the Galveston Hurricane.

  8. I’ve read “Isaac’s Storm” as well and really liked it too. Although, it seems weird to say I liked something written about such a horrific subject. I’ve read about the 1888 blizzard too but don’t remember what it was. I still haven’t ordered the last one you recommended–looks like I have an Amazon order to make! Thanks again.

  9. Oh I LOVED ‘Boys of Winter’. However, it kind of got me feeling sorry for the kids after reading about their lives after the Olympics…won’t spoil, but I’m curious to hear what you think.

    I’ve wanted to read this book but haven’t gotten around to buying it yet. I just bought ‘Searching for Bobby Orr’ so I need to finish that before I start another hockey book.

    Connie, “The Devil in the White City” is fantastic!!

  10. I’m reading “Cold-Cocked” by Lorna Jackson right now, I picked it up after reading your review of it, it’s taking me a while though, school keeps getting in the way.

    I’m also reading “The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments” by Bob McCown, which is interesting because I find so much on every page that I either completely love and agree with, or totally disagree with. The arguments are short though, so it’s good for a bus or waiting in line read.

    Thanks for the book reviews though, there are tons of hockey books at my local bookstores, but finding the worthwhile ones is a tricky feat.

  11. kms – I totally bought Boys of Winter today!! It’s keeping me company on the stationary bike now. After Devil in the White City, it’s a welcome change.

  12. I think Borders is calling my name. I’ve actually seen this book everywhere and never had the interest in getting it. However, it sounds interesting and I may have to get it now.

    P.S. I have a secret crush on Sidney myself… Shh.

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