Friday, December 19, 2008

Rink rat tales

Jack Falla, who died earlier this year at the age of 64, was one of the last of a breed — a very good hockey writer who never became burned out or cynical. He covered hockey for Sports Illustrated in the ’80s, the great Gretzky years, and then turned to teaching and writing books about hockey. He even wrote a hockey novel, “Saved,” which is easily the best goalie novel ever (in truth, there aren’t very many) and in the tiny pantheon of hockey novels stands not that far from “Amazons,” written by Don DeLillo under the pseudonym Cleo Birdwell, and has the additional virtue of being actually obtainable. (After DeLillio disowned “Amazons,” it became so scarce that you can’t find a copy for love or money.)

Falla was not the prose equivalent of his idol Jean Béliveau; he was less a stylish, mesmerizing writer than a straightforward, unassuming one, and he hated flourishes and pretension. He used to tell his students: dependability beats talent if talent isn’t dependable.

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