Last month I had the pleasure of seeing Dave Hill perform in person at Wordfest. I vaguely remembered him from an earlier appearance in Calgary a few years ago, but for whatever reason, this most recent show of his really impressed me; he was absolutely hilarious. I couldn’t stop laughing, and when he spoke as part of a panel, his comments were always the most entertaining. Right after his show I immediately bought his newest book The Awesome Game, One Man’s Incredible, Globe-Crushing Hockey Odyssey which wasn’t as as good as seeing him in person, but a close second.
Dave Hill loves hockey, and he’s American. He doesn’t understand why hockey isn’t more popular in his own country, so he goes in search of this answer by travelling to different parts of the world to participate in hockey games as other countries play them. He goes to Finland, Poland, Canada (obviously), even Kenya, to answer his own self-defined question of ‘why is hockey so awesome?’, and the reader is along for the ride. In this non-fiction book, he not only jumps across the globe, he also jumps back and forth through time, landing on certain points in his childhood where hockey played a pivotal role, including joining his high school team, seeing a game of hockey in person for the time, even meeting an NHL player by standing on his front lawn and simply waiting for him to emerge from his house. This isn’t a serious book that’s meant to give an in-depth view of the sport, instead it’s meant to entertain, and it absolutely does. Hill is extremely laid-back, happy to talk to anyone, and always eager for an adventure, so he finds himself in unique situations that an average person wouldn’t likely have access to. For the purposes of this book he’s able to interview some impressive hockey personalities, but he also travels overseas to meet and watch a distant relative play hockey, so there’s a mix of exclusivity and simple enthusiasm that makes this book work so well.
I believe I’ve written about this topic before on here, but for the record, I hate hockey. In fact all professional sports interest me very little – the idea of sitting in front of a tv, or at an arena, and having to watch a full game of something makes me cringe. The only way I could survive it is if I had a book in my hand. Now knowing how much I hate hockey, and the fact that I picked up a book about hockey, is a real testament to the power of the author himself. I just knew it would be funny, so was willing to overlook the topic in favour of reading one of his books. And it paid off! No knowledge or interest in hockey is required to enjoy this book. Although Hill’s adventures revolved around the game, his stories of careening through the streets of Kenya, or trying to order a pizza in Poland make up enough of the book that I didn’t mind when he settled into a game of hockey – his observations about the game itself are also hilarious, especially when he talks about one of his favourite parts of the game – the jerseys.
I’m not sure how one would classify the humour Dave Hill uses, but I recognized it from onstage, and it translated well into his writing, although I suspect that understanding his humour in person goes a long way in making his books funnier. His enthusiasm for the game also makes this book so funny, because he admits he’s not a very good player himself, and doesn’t seem to be surrounded by too many friends who share the same affinity, so the book reads as a good-natured guy just wandering around looking for like-minded people to talk about hockey with, which simply translates into good wholesome fun.
Am I partial to this book because Hill has a deep love and respect for Canadians, and just seems like he wishes he was one? Of course, that always helps! But the entertainment factor is so high with this author he could write about anything and I would read it, so I’m likely going to search out his earlier books too. I’m also going to keep an eye out for his future performances here in Calgary because I’m always in need of a good laugh.