Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Saving Face

Someone solves a problem and the solution to that problem provides a surface for personal expression, and people express themselves on that surface. In the case of the goalie mask in hockey, the problem was that goalies were getting hit in the face with pucks, sticks, skates, fists and just about everything else that could make its way into a hockey game. The blank surface on the outside of the masks quickly became canvases for the goalie's individual personalities and over time the goalie mask became the most expressive article of sports equipment. Saving Face by Jim Hynes and Gary Smith is a concise, entertaining history of the goalie mask from the most rudimentary masks worn in the 30s to the bulletproof masks worn today. Along the way you meet a number of fascinating people, the NHL goaltenders who are some of the most unique characters in sport, constantly walking the fine line between bravery (putting their physical health in jeopardy for the sport they love) and stupidity (putting their physical health in jeopardy for the sport they love).

The other neat thing about this book is that it provides a historic record of the development of an artifact. When archaeologists encounter an object they've never seen before, they have to deduce its function in its society from whatever information they have at hand. The story Saving Face tells is exactly the kind of story that archaeologists attempt to recreate. It's a really cool book and will be fun for hockey fans, art lovers and anyone interested in the stories objects tell.

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