Review: Ice Hockey Made Simple: A Spectator’s Guide

First written in 1993, Ice Hockey Made Simple: A Spectator’s Guide by PJ Harari and Dave Ominsky, has been reprinted and updated numerous times. Although not quite as current as one would expect.

As I started reading, I put complete trust that everything would be up to date. Why wouldn’t it be? I’ve been watching hockey since 2010 and the basic set-up of hockey hasn’t changed since then. The only thing I can think of that has evolved has been the discipline on head hits (but that’s another rant and a half).

So, when I read within the first ten pages that sometimes a hockey game ends in a tie, I’m taken aback. Ties don’t exist in hockey. I mean, not in the NHL. I’ve heard they did previous, especially when people begin to grumble about the shootout.

Maybe I misread it, but it was hard to continue reading when my trust had been shaken. I am pleased to say that I learned so much, even things that I’m sure I never, never needed to know. (a statistician hangs out at hockey games…great).

The book is set up more like a reference guide than a read from cover to cover book. The chapters are clearly marked (Penalties, The NHL Draft,), so if someone is at a loss, there are simple explanations for all the rules of ice hockey. Some things I knew innately just from watching the game, but to have it laid out for me was like, “Oh. That actually makes sense.”

I called my dad and explained backchecking the moment it was in the book. I devoured the Penalties section and really hope that when hockey starts up again, I can spot penalties as they happen (the less obvious ‘he leveled that guy’ ones).

There’s a chapter on Hockey Personalities Past and Present, which was fun. I knew a lot of the names (Jaromir Jagr for instance, but it said he played for the Caps, another annoyance. I didn’t expect it to say he was a Flyer, but that he played overseas which he’s been doing for a few years now) and got a passing knowledge of some of the greats. I studied the diagram of a hockey rink for several minutes, muttering to myself, “Oh, that’s why there’s that and that.” (Good thing I live alone).

In conclusion, a wee bit outdated, but handy. I personally think it makes a lot more sense after watching several games, but people learn differently. Some people are more cerebral and need it all explained in detail (get this book for them). Some do better with a person explaining it during a live game (harder as it’s fast and loud). But I’d recommend the book if you have a friend who’s interested but intimidated about all the ins and outs of hockey.

Ice Hockey Made Simple: A Spectator’s Guide by PJ Harari and Dave Ominsky *** (out of 5)

Highlight: When explaining who gets credited with a goal and assists, the authors used this example of the overhead announcement: “Goal scored for the Flyers, by number 10 John LeClair, with assists from number 8, Mark Recchi and number 97, Jeremy Roenick,” (28) This made my day.