Whether you’re a hockey fanatic, a fair-weather fan or simply a person who likes to read, you can join in on the Seattle Kraken’s debut fanfare from the comfort of your own home with this list of books for hockey fans and nonfans alike. Below you will find a few nonfiction selections for the hockey die-hards (as well as anyone who likes a gripping story), along with some unexpected picks, like hockey-themed romance books set in Seattle. (Yes, you read that right.) So grab your hockey jersey (or “sweater”), light the lamp and dig your chiclets into these electrifying reads.
“When It Mattered Most: The Forgotten Story of America’s First Stanley Cup, and the War to End All Wars” by Kevin Ticen (Clyde Hill Publishing, $17). The Kraken’s NHL debut is a fitting time to remember a historic moment in Seattle’s hockey history that is often forgotten: the Seattle Metropolitans’ 1917 Stanley Cup win against the Montreal Canadiens. This remarkable win happened before the NHL was established as the single professional hockey league, and the Metropolitans were the first American team to win the coveted hockey trophy. As a backdrop, the United States was entering World War I. In a 2019 article about “When It Mattered Most,” Seattle Times Kraken reporter Geoff Baker wrote, “That the Metropolitans were once ingrained in the city’s sports psyche provides evidence for the incoming NHL team that Seattle just may have been a hockey town all along. A hockey town perhaps merely needing a reminder of its storied past.”
“Beartown” by Fredrik Backman (Atria Books, $28). Now a limited series available to stream on HBO, “Beartown” is, on the surface, the story of a small Scandinavian town where life revolves around its local junior ice hockey team. But when an act of violence causes a fracture in the community, “Beartown” evolves into a tale of friendships, secrets, speaking up, and the effects of what we teach to our children. The novel is a bit slow to start but worth the patience. And while it may center on hockey, being a sports fan isn’t required to enjoy Backman’s beautiful writing. If you want more after this book, “Us Against You,” the sequel to “Beartown,” is available, too.
“Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador, and the Future of Hockey” by Ken Dryden (Signal, $22). Along with violent, high-impact sports like football, hockey has a history of traumatic head injuries, including several that have led to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and premature deaths in players. Hall of Fame Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden’s “Game Change” examines the NHL’s relation with and response to this major health problem in the sport by telling the story of Steve Montador. The Canadian NHLer was diagnosed with CTE after his death in 2015; Montador was only 35. Like “Beartown,” this nonfiction book isn’t just for hockey fans. With dynamic storytelling, “Game Change” examines the intersection between science and sport, but is predominantly a tribute to Montador and his too-short life.
“Seattle Sockeyes” series by Jami Davenport (Cedrona Enterprises). Is it getting steamy in here? Nope, it’s just the hockey-themed “Seattle Sockeyes” books. This sultry romance series follows a fictional team called the Seattle Sockeyes (which was actually a popular name option before Kraken was chosen, in part due to Davenport’s trademark). Will Ethan Parker, the billionaire that made Seattle Sockeyes possible, and Lauren Schneider, the team’s assistant director of player personnel, be able to come to terms with their passions for the team, and each other? Will the Seattle team captain Cooper Black win professional party crasher Izzy Maxwell back after the big mistake he made? One thing’s for sure; the whole process is going to be sexy as hell. Hopefully, all that steam doesn’t melt the ice! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist. In fact, “Melting Ice” is the third in the nine-book series, which opens with “Skating on Thin Ice.”)
“Playing with Fire” by Theo Fleury (Triumph Books). This book comes with a trigger warning. “Playing with Fire” is an autobiography from former longtime NHLer Theo Fleury; the Canadian hockey player grew up in a chaotic, poor household and was sexually assaulted as a child by his youth hockey coach. His story is one full of drinking, drugs, gambling and more, which eventually led to the demise of his career — one that was on track for the Hockey Hall of Fame. Besides the hockey theme as a whole, “Playing with Fire” is a relevant read amid the Chicago Blackhawks’ investigation of sexual assault against players in their organization committed by a coach.