The more you read sports books, the more you to understand their utility.
Some are truly great, and when you finish reading them you wonder how you watched the sport before picking it up. A good sports book can change everything about how you watch, and for the better.
In fact if you ask me, there are three different types of sports books. The first is the masterpiece; books like Ken Dryden’s “The Game” or Stephen Brunt’s “Searching for Bobby Orr“. The second are the awful books that amount to little more than cash grabs. Think about all the books that came out just after the Red Sox won a World Series back in 2004 and you have a good idea of what I mean. (Trust me, even I read a few of those…)
And then there’s that middle ground, the books that are just good enough to warrant purchase. That’s where “Between the Lines” rests, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It provided plenty of stories to quench the thirst of a hockey fan (especially in the dry season that is summer), but it lacked the groundbreaking writing and content reserved for the higher tier.
That said, the story of Ray Scapinello truly is an interesting one. For a linesman to never miss a game is a pretty remarkable feat, and he clearly had plenty of stories to tell in over 260 pages. In fact many of those tales involved quite a few games in Buffalo, which makes it readable simply for that fact.
One of the things I gained from reading the book is a good perspective on just how difficult it is to be a linesman. It’s not often a fan sympathizes with an on-ice official, but the job they have really is quite difficult. Actually, being an NHL official just might be the hardest officiating job in sports, if only for the speed of the game and playing surface. How Ray avoided major injuries in all those games he played is pretty amazing, and was a big part of what made him so popular.
So while the writing isn’t the best and the book may drag a bit, it’s a worthwhile read if you get the chance. We’re still a ways away from real hockey, and if you’ve already read the greats, this one is sure to pass the time.