10 must-read books about women’s hockey
by Lucas Aykroyd|09 APR 2019
2019 IIHF Hall of Fame inductee Hayley Wickenheiser wrote the first book in our round-up of 10 non-fiction books on women's hockey.
photo: Jeff VInnick / HHOF-IIHF Images

Above and beyond sports articles, did you know female hockey players have been featured in mass culture – movies, plays, and, yes, books – for decades?

For example, a year before Canadian actress Megan Follows rose to fame as the title character in CBC’s 1985 production of Anne of Green Gables, she played a talented goalie trying out for a boy’s hockey team in the movie Hockey Night. Her coach was portrayed by Rick Moranis (Ghostbusters, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids).

Last year, playwright Tracey Power, who lives in the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship host city of Kamloops, debuted Glory, an upbeat musical based on the unstoppable 1930’s Preston Rivulettes women’s hockey team. 

However, on balance, there are more women’s hockey books to explore.

Curious about the development of women’s hockey in Afghanistan? Check out Hockey Girls of Kabul by Zarmina Nezkai (Wintertickle Press, 2018), a hockey mom and teacher in Barrie, Ontario who fundraised to build an outdoor rink in her native land.

Prefer young-adult fiction? Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren (Amulet Books, 2019) is the fictional story of teen hockey player Holland Delviss, who is thrust into the spotlight when her Minnesota boys’ team is chosen to participate in the state’s annual HockeyFest.

In the following top-10 round-up, we’ll focus on some of the classic non-fiction works that illuminate both the origins of women’s hockey and the growth of the legendary Canada-U.S. rivalry. The quality of the writing is inspiring. At the same time, the mostly pre-2010’s publication dates indicate that there’s plenty of room for more women’s hockey history books.

Here are 10 must-read books about women’s hockey.

1) Gold Medal Diary: Inside the World’s Greatest Sports Event
By Hayley Wickenheiser
Greystone Books, 2010

What was on the mind of the all-time leading scorer in IIHF history prior to captaining Canada to gold at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver? Hayley Wickenheiser, a member of the 2019 IIHF Hall of Fame class, goes day by day, from bench-pressing 200 pounds in training to reliving her last men’s hockey game in Finland with HC Salamat under coach Matti Hagman.

2) Breaking the Ice: My Journey to Olympic Hockey, the Ivy League, and Beyond
By Angela Ruggiero
Drummond Publishing, 2006

Angela Ruggiero – one of the toughest and most talented defenders in women’s hockey history – spices up her autobiography with fun, quirky details that bring this 2017-inducted IIHF Hall of Famer’s personality out. Take her childhood. Who knew that Ruggiero and her two siblings enjoyed riding on the backs of their Great Dane dogs, Colonel and Major? Or that the future IOC member appeared at age nine in a Sports Illustrated for Kids photo shoot with Wayne Gretzky? 

3) Pink Power: The First Women’s World Hockey Champions
By Lorna Schultz Nicholson
Lorimer, 2008

The original 1990 IIHF Women’s World Championship took place in Ottawa. One player from that tournament is taking part in Espoo too: Riikka Sallinen (previously Valila, nee Nieminen), Finland’s ageless wonder. However, this book, geared for young readers, focuses on how the Canadians won gold in their famous (or infamous!) pink jerseys. Sports writer Lorna Schultz Nicholson’s other titles include Winning Gold: Canada’s Incredible 2002 Olympic Victory in Women’s Hockey and Amazing Hockey Stories: Hayley Wickenheiser. She is also married to IIHF Vice-President Bob Nicholson.

4) On the Edge: Women Making Hockey History
By Elizabeth Etue and Megan K. Williams
Second Story Press, 1996

If you want to know what the women’s game looked like in each Canadian province in the 1990’s, this 336-page book offers excellent insights. And that’s just the start. From the amount of coverage women’s sports got in Canadian daily newspapers (a shockingly low 2.8 percent of the overall sports total in 1991) to an American scouting report on Riikka Nieminen (“She’s mean, with a competitive fire”), On the Edge is deeply researched, with many original interviews.

5) Crashing the Net: The U.S. Women’s Olympic Ice Hockey Team and the Road to Gold
By Mary Turco
Harper Perennial, 1999

Written by a women’s studies instructor from Dartmouth College, this is an uplifting take on how the 1998 Olympic team that inspired Kendall Coyne Schofield and Hilary Knight made it big in Nagano. It compellingly recounts the highs and lows through the eyes of players like Sandra Whyte, who scored a goal and two assists in the final 3-1 victory over Canada. Crashing the Net also brings out the personality of head coach Ben Smith with his quirky sayings like “Hay’s in the barn!”

6) Manon: Alone in Front of the Net
By Manon Rheaume and Chantal Gilbert
HarperCollins, 1997

In this eminently readable autobiography, the pioneering Canadian netminder explores her road to two Women’s Worlds gold medals (1992, 1994), her historic exhibition stints with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, and her conscientious decision to turn down the highly-publicized offer of a $40,000 Playboy photo shoot, among other topics.

7) Proud Past, Bright Future: One Hundred Years of Canadian Women’s Hockey
By Brian MacFarlane
Stoddart Publishing, 1994

Brian MacFarlane is best-known as a Hockey Night in Canada commentator who appeared on CBC for nearly 30 years. In addition to his books about the cartoon character Peter Puck, MacFarlane, now 87, penned this historical overview, which includes brilliant photos of women playing hockey in the late 19th and early 20th century. It also has statistics for the first three IIHF Women’s World Championships (1990, 1992, 1994).

8) Angela James: The First Superstar of Canadian Women’s Hockey
By Tom Bartsiokas and Corey Long
Women’s Press Literary, 2012

Recently named to the new Female Hockey Advisory Committee of the NHL and NHLPA, Canada’s Angela James was part of the first IIHF Hall of Fame class featuring women, along with Cammi Granato and Geraldine Heaney. This biography of the relentless power forward – a four-time world champion – delves into the challenges she overcame to play minor hockey against boys in Toronto and the heartbreak of being cut by Team Canada coach Shannon Miller prior to the 1998 Olympics.

9) Too Many Men On the Ice: Women’s Hockey in North America
By Joanna Avery and Julie Stevens
Polestar Book Publishers, 1997

You might be surprised to learn from this book how women’s hockey flourished in the decades prior to World War II and how rough the game got during this era, among other things. In her review of Too Many Men on the Ice, Vancouver Sun sportswriter Wendy Long noted: “Interviews with prominent players are featured and legal and social issues that have surrounded the growth of women’s hockey are also discussed.”

10) Nos Glorieuses: Plus de Cent Ans de Hockey Feminin au Quebec
By Lynda Baril
Les Editions La Presse, 2013

Where would Canadian women’s hockey be without Quebec-born superstars like Danielle Goyette, Caroline Ouellette, and Marie-Philip Poulin? This exhaustively researched 221-page French-language.book, written by a veteran Radio-Canada contributor, stands out in terms of the more than 200 photos and other documents it includes. For instance, there’s a 1916 clipping from the Montreal Daily Star about goalie Corinne Hardmann using a mask – before Jacques Plante did so with the Montreal Canadiens in 1959 – and a handwritten note from Canadian coach Dave McMaster to star forward France St-Louis after the first unofficial world championship in Toronto in 1987.