You miss 100% of the shots you never take.
Poring over hundreds of photographs of Gretzky and Orr, of Mario and Gordie and the Rocket, was strange and marvelous. As he sat with designer Steven Hoffman and photo editor Cristina Scalet, looking at slides and images, SI senior editor Kostya Kennedy could feel the game come to life. He has written and edited hockey stories at the magazine since he was hired out of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism in 1994, but over the sweep of those photo sessions the speed and skill and violence of the game became even more immediate. That intimacy fills SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's The Hockey Book, which Kennedy edited. "It was as if I were rediscovering the sport," he says.
This book isn't just for hockey fans—you don't have to be what Kennedy calls "a puckhead" to see the beauty of the action. Or feel the energy. Bobby Orr in midair, Alex Ovechkin leaping in gap-toothed celebration, the collisions, the high sticks, the fights; next to hockey, as the trenchant old quote reminds us, "everything else is figure skating." Just look at the pictures. Photo spreads for the book laid out on makeup tables in the SI art department inspired pilgrimages by staffers who usually spend all their time immersed in football, baseball or basketball.
Kennedy read through nearly 56 years of SI hockey stories, reliving seminal moments (like the Miracle on Ice, or Wayne Gretzky's professional debut), and then adapted the most compelling pieces by many of the magazine's greatest writing talents. A run of bylines here: Herbert Warren Wind, E.M. Swift, Michael Farber (who also wrote the introduction), Leigh Montville, Steve Rushin, S.L. Price, George Plimpton, Mark Kram, Pete Axthelm, Mark Mulvoy, Gary Smith, Kennedy himself. And then there was William Faulkner and his An Innocent at Rinkside piece from 1955. Closing his office door to work on that one, Kennedy says, was like setting a trap for colleagues. Each time someone knocked or made a noise in the hall he would stick out his head and, just because he could, say, "Shhh! I'm editing Faulkner!"
Always the collaborator, Kennedy asked for advice and got plenty. Beyond haggling with Hoffman and Scalet over which photos to put where, he debated with his writers over the makeup of the all-era teams and which forwards deserved a place in the SI pantheon. Voices were raised. In the end only the best of the best made it.
At SI the best of the best time of the year is right now. Not only does the weather in New York City turn brisk from a sticky heat most commonly associated with, say, Cairo, but October is also the one month when baseball, football, basketball and hockey (see the NHL Preview, page 62) overlap. That The Hockey Book comes out this week reflects all of our spirits rising. Watching his first hockey game, the skeptical Faulkner was reminded at first of the "frantic darting of the weightless bugs which run on the surface of stagnant pools." But then, much like the confluence of sports in early fall, the players came together in "a pattern, a design almost beautiful ... a design which was trying to tell [the innocent] something, something urgent and important and true."
The Hockey Book is available at bookstores or at si.com/thehockeybook for $29.95 ($32.95 in Canada).