After a 16 year hiatus Tom Adrahtas has returned to the realm of hockey literature. In 2002 Adrahtas unveiled an authorized, masterful biography of goaltending legend Glenn Hall. Today, in his latest tome The 60s: Goaltending’s Greatest Generation, Tom picks up right where he left off with an examination of the NHL in 1960s through the eyes (and sometimes the face masks) of the five greatest goalies who manned the pipes during that decade: Glenn Hall, Terry Sawchuk, Gump Worsley, Jacques Plante, and Johnny Bower. Each of these men developed modern goaltending as we know it today: Hall with his butterfly style; Plante with his face mask and tactical forays from the net; Bower with his poke-check, Worsley with his acrobatic style that presaged Dominik Hasek; and Sawchuk with his gorilla crouch.
Using compact, graceful prose, Adrahtas chronicles how these men vied with one another and/or sometimes worked together (Hall and Plante were teammates with the St. Louis Blues while Sawchuk and Bower worked together at Toronto) to defend their team’s nets while winning Stanley Cups. The end result is a fitting paean to an ancient era where goalies didn’t wear face masks; seldom ventured (with the exception of Plante) far from their nets; made low salaries (and were punished or were threatened with exile in the minors if they dared ask for more); and were required to play nearly every minute of every game in the season.
While discussing the overall history of the NHL during the 1960s Tom Adrahtas covers familiar ground (although in one instance he deftly challenges historical orthodoxy when discussing a certain game in the 1967 Stanley Cup playoffs). Adrahtas’ real skill is in elucidating the fine details and subtle differences in how his Hall-of-Fame quintet handled their goal-tending chores.
Like an expert oenologist analyzing rare vintage wines Adrahtas (who was a collegiate hockey goalie and has taught goal-tending in Illinois for decades) dissects the goaltending styles of his Hall-of-Fame quintet: how they held their hands; where they held their goal-tending sticks; what padding and equipment they used (or what equipment they lacked when compared to today’s goalies); how they played the angles; their approach to practice (Hall was a poor practice goalie while Bower was a workaholic when it came to practice); their mental approach to goal-tending; and, also, the mental struggles each man went through when they defended the nets night after night. It is the latter aspect that defines these men: Glenn Hall, with his pre-game nausea; Jacques Plante, with his hypochondria that vexed teammates and coaches alike: Gump Worsley, with his fear of flying; and Terry Sawchuk coping with his alcoholism and well documented marital troubles. It is these subtle details that adds flavor to the vintage and warms the palate of the reader.
And Tom’s examination is not solely confined to his quintet, he also discusses other goalies of that era whose deeds were obscured by Adrahtas’ immortal quintet: men like Charlie Hodge, Roger Crozier, Gerry Cheevers, and Eddie Giacomin to name a few. There are also affectionate bon mots about the births of Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Grant Fuhr, and Dominik Hasek who would build upon the goaltending antecedents established by Hall, Plante, Worsley, Bower, Sawchuk and create their own magnificent and immortal styles of hockey goal-tending in the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s.
60s: Goaltending’s Greatest Generation is told with the fervor of remembered youth because as a young man growing up in Chicago Adrahtas was a living eye witness to the feats of these great men and also an avid devourer of all hockey magazines and digests (images of which are reproduced in the book) from that era. It is a love poem to an era of hockey which can never be replicated again. In the end Tom Adrahtas comes full circle when he ends his book where he began 16 years ago by writing a moving elegy to Pauline Hall, Glenn Hall’s beloved wife who died of cancer in 2009. Pauline Hall was an enormous help to Tom Adrahtas when he wrote his bio on Glenn Hall and Adrahtas repays that debt with love and affection.
As a book The 60s: Goaltending’s Greatest Generation locks down the net, makes the big save, and hoists the Cup in triumph.